Rick and Morty isn’t just a show for sci-fi fans; fans of science will love it, too. Attention Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I’ve found your new favorite show.
I’m not sure if Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon (creator of another bastion of geek humor, Community, whose next season I’m really looking forward to) meant to do it this way, if it’s what they had in mind, but they really captured the spirit of science here. No kidding.
I mean, first and foremost, the show’s one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in a while. Its humor is so sharp and unexpected. Imagine a Doc Brown-Hunter S Thompson hybrid in your life dragging you through alternate dimensions and dreams and theme parks made out of organs. Imagine if he had the tech to make a west highland terrier smart enough to demand its balls back.
The jokes rely on knowledge and subtle ideas though too, which makes Rick and Morty a natural cousin to Futurama (“Oh, they changed the outcome by measuring it!”). There’s a lot of sci-fi homages: Jurassic Park, Fantastic Voyage and Inception. The show began as a completely NSFW reimagining of Back to the Future, in fact.
The situations are as outrageous and bizarre as Adventure Time (or string theory), and it’s best to just let loose and take the ride on this one. Rick’s advice from the pilot: don’t think about it.
As truly insane as it gets however, there’s a charming heart of intellectualism running through it. If it were a children’s show, it’d have the same Beakman’s World/Bill Nye message of “science is cool.”
Which is true these days, you know: science IS cool. Our dear Mr. Tyson, a damn astrophysicist of all things, is a celebrity, and hot. I F**king Love Science is a Facebook giant. Carl Sagan has a hit about whales. There’s a whole lot of people out there who value science and what it’s all about.
And so does Rick.
In the first episode, Rick justifies taking Morty on his adventures, which causes Morty to fail in school, by saying that school is bad for Morty (“School is stupid. It’s not how you learn things”).
Rick believes Morty can grow up and do “great science stuff,” if only he learns the right way. Which isn’t about authority and tradition and dogma, but open-minded exploration. That sets up an entire series of adventures through science.
It’s Rick’s open mind (however drunk) that leads him to enjoy the smells of entirely different evolutionary timelines, and embrace the majestic vision of a giant, rolling, sharp-toothed vagina. It makes him want to grab people by the shoulders and peel back their eyelids and shout, “Look at all the crazy crap surrounding us!” I think a lot of people feel that way about the universe.
School isn’t really the enemy, but in the show, it stands for rigid thinking, which, as Mr. Einstein once pointed out, doesn’t lead to true education. It steals away the wonder and wide-eyed fascination I see in the person excited for the new Cosmos series beginning in March or that friend who always shares IFLS’s posts. You know that person.
But here’s where I’m stuck: did Roiland and Harmon try to appeal to those people? To the ones who crack up at Adventure Time, and then read a post about an exploding nebula?
Hell, maybe it’s best I take my own advice: stop thinking about it and just laugh. There’s more of that than anything. Thinking is what’s left after one has forgotten how to enjoy. It’s probably best I do that from now on. Still, and even if it was by accident, it’s cool to have a show that appeals to the scientist in me.