Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wrestle Not with Monsters Lest Ye Become One: An Analysis of Rick and Morty Season 1, Episode 1

The pilot of Rick and Morty reminded me of a Friedrich Nietzsche quote that I used to have posted up above the doorway out of my classroom:
"Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Or maybe that is a bad translation, but it was something like that. And in this episode Morty is confronted by a bunch of monsters. Let's start with the most obvious...

After the opening credits, Rick takes Morty into another dimension so they can harvest some mega seeds--Dimension 35C to be exact. Rick states that the seeds are incredibly powerful and that he needs these mega seeds for his research. While in Dimension 35C Rick and Morty are confronted by all types of monsters. Morty says that this new dimension is causing him to work up some real anxiety, and why shouldn't it. Two minutes into arriving in this new dimension Rick and Morty are being chased by a monster with several rows of fangs, a dozen eyes, and long spindly legs. An ugly, frightening monster. They continue to see several other creatures as they travel in this dimension. Monsters with lots of eyes, crazy legs, blobs of goo. Rick even states that one of the monsters defies all logic. And I believe that a casual viewer could stop right there. There are the monsters! Case closed. But we aren't casual viewers. We need to go deeper.

Mr. Goldenfold is Morty's math teacher. At the top of the episode Rick discusses his theories on public education by stating, "But I'll tell you how I feel about school, it's a waste of time. Bunch of people running around bumping into each other, got guy up front that say 2 + 2 and the people in the back say 4, then the bell rings and they give you a carton of milk and a piece of paper that says you can go take a dump or something," (Pilot). Rick obviously doesn't like school. But then Morty goes to school and we are faced with this exact situation. The teacher, Mr. Goldenfold is monstrous. He yells at his students, his teaching is rote memorization, and there is a lack of discipline in his classroom. Mr. Goldenfold uses fear to keep his students in line and that is why he has discipline problems in his classroom. He treats his students like idiots and lectures incessantly. He even says that some of his students are getting dumber when he passes out a quiz. There is no passion in Mr. Goldenfold and that is probably the most monstrous thing about him. A teacher without passion is a crime. But enough preaching from the high school English teacher. At the end of the classroom scene, Morty is dreaming about a girl in the class (Mr. Golden fold has problems with students falling asleep in his class, but who can blame Morty, his grandfather kept him up all night) and touching Mr. Goldenfold, but Goldenfold does nothing to stop it. He says he is going to do something, but never does. So, Mr. Goldenfold is one of these monsters that have invaded Morty's life.

Morty's parents are also monstrous. Jerry and Beth Smith are bad parents. Bad people really. Morty's parents do not have a healthy marriage, they are constantly bickering and name-calling in front of their children. They air their dirty laundry for their kids to deal with. Not to mention that they have no idea how their son is doing in school. The principal has to call Beth and Jerry to say that Morty is going to fail all of his classes because he has been present at school a total of seven hours the entire semester. Parents should know how their children are doing at school. They should know what their children are doing when they are young. These two do not parent. In many cases, throughout the season, Morty is more responsible than his parents are. Jerry wants to put Rick into a nursing home and tries to convince his wife to agree to it. Beth only agrees to this plan after she finds out that her son is failing school because Rick excuses him all the time to go on adventures. At the end of the episode, they don't even stick with this decision to send Rick to a nursing home because Morty's grandfather is able to convincingly lie to them. But Mr. Goldenfold and Morty's parents aren't even the worst monster in this episode. That prize is awarded to Morty's companion, his mentor, the shows other namesake: Rick.

Rick Sanchez is Morty's grandfather and what a monstrous man he is. Let's level the case against this crackpot. At the beginning of the episode, Rick tears Morty from his bed, because he has a "surprise" for him. The surprise turns out to be that Rick is drunk, he had built a neutrino bomb that he plans to use to destroy the world and "start fresh," and that they are going to pick up Jessica (the girl Morty has a crush on) so Morty and Jessica can start the world over like a new Adam and Eve. First, Rick is drunk. Not the best example to be setting for your grandson. He is also driving a spaceship. Maybe there are different rules for drinking and driving an intergalactic vessel, but there shouldn't be. I know a lot of people enjoy drinking alcohol and that is their choice, but I do not think that anyone should be this drunk in front of children. It is scary. Morty is frightened. But Rick doesn't care. 

Secondly, Rick thinks himself a god. He is so smart that he can do whatever he wants without consequence. He is tired of the world so he gets to decide to blow the whole thing up? Where does this guy get off. To further prove this point, Rick states that he is going to make Morty and Jessica into an Adam and Eve. And if Morty is to be Adam, and Jessica is to be Even, then that makes Rick god because he would be putting them together. Not to mention how embarrassing it would be for Morty to stop at Jessica's house and watch as his grandfather grabs his crush and throws her into the ship. How embarrassing it would be to be forced into a romantic (not to mention, sexual) situation with a girl that you are afraid to even speak to. What a blow to this impressionable teens ego. 

Later in the episode, Rick goes to Morty's school to take him out on an adventure and freezes the bully that is bothering Morty. Rick doesn't do this to help Morty, mind you, but just to stop the bully long enough so Rick can grab Morty and achieve his goal. That boy, Frank, later falls down and dies. He is crushed into a million pieces and this event scars Ricks granddaughter, Morty's sister, Summer. She cannot deal with the loss of this boy. But Rick doesn't even care later on when Summer comes in to tell everyone that Frank died at school. 

Then we finally get to the part of the episode where Rick and Morty travel to Dimension 35C.  Morty gets anxious and Rick gives his grandson this nice little pep talk about overcoming our challenges in life. It is a great moment, but then a huge, scary, slobbering monster shows up and Rick ignores his own advice and turns tail to run. It is done for a comedic reason, but still. Rick is a hypocrite in this respect. He doesn't follow his own advice. He takes the easy road out of things. Then, Rick is showing Morty how crazy, strange, and amazing this dimension is and Morty makes the comment that spawned the ideas behind this blog post. He says, "Yeah, Rick, I get it. We're surrounded by monsters. That's kinda the reason I want to leave," (Pilot). Morty isn't just talking about the crazy creatures of Dimension 35C, he is talking about his grandfather. This man that is supposed to love him, but just uses him. This man that has no regard for feelings, human life, or his grandson's safety, just his own selfish goals. Rick is the monster. Morty then confirms this after he falls down a mountain and breaks both of his legs. Rick isn't concerned about the fact that his grandson just broke both of his legs due to Rick's negligence, he is worried about whether Morty will still be able to harvest his Mega Seeds. Morty replies with, "Are you kidding me? That's it, Rick! That's the last straw! I can't believe this. I'm sitting here with both of my legs broken and your still asking me about getting those seeds. Ohhhh, owww owww! You're a monster! You're like Hitler, but even Hitler cared about Germany or something," (Pilot). Morty confirms it. Rick is a monster, the monster that is torturing his grandson and ruining his future. Out of all of the monsters included in this episode, heck all of the monster in this season, Rick Sanchez is the worst.

But then we can come back to the Nietzsche quote from the beginning. If Rick is the worst monster of the entire series, then Morty will inevitably become a monster too. He cannot stare for that long into the void and not have some of it rub off on his soul. It is unfortunate and we will see the beginnings of this transformation later in the first season of Rick and Morty.

Work Cited

Roiland, Justin, and Dan Harmon. "Pilot." Rick and Morty. Dir. Justin Roiland. Cartoon 
          Network. Atlanta, Georgia, 2 Dec. 2013. Hulu. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.

Footnote: I just can't stop. One final point. As they are running from the insect like police force at the inter-dimensional customs, Rick tells Morty to grab a laser gun and shoot the insects that are following them. Morty doesn't want to, but Rick insists, telling Morty that they are robots. That it is okay to shoot them because they are robots. Morty shoots one right away and finds out that they are not robots, but living creatures. The insects shout that someone needs to inform the dead insects family. So, as another point that Rick Sanchez is a monster, he is forcing his grandson to kill living creatures. Beings with wives and children. And Rick does this to save his own bacon. He doesn't want to go to jail because they are illegally trying to take those stinking Mega Seeds out of Dimension 35C.

No comments: