Rick and Morty is one of TV's most popular series overall, but it's no secret that many people despise the show. In some cases, detractors of the series are as outspoken as its fans, associating it with all the wrong themes, messages and types of fans. As Season 5 draws near, the Rick and Morty haters are only becoming more insistent.
Rick and Morty is known for having an intense, die-hard fandom, who love its casual sci-fi hijinks and its general air of nihilism. In some cases, this is precisely why its detractors dislike the show, though that is not the only reason. Some revile the show for its associations outside of the episodes themselves — from the infamous Szechuan sauce incident to the now-classic "high IQ" meme. The show also has a few aesthetic qualities that simply aren't for everyone, from the over-the-top voice acting to the graphic imagery pervading its sci-fi landscapes.
Some of Rick and Morty's controversies have been highly publicized, including the intense rush for McDonald's Szechuan sauce, for example. In some cases, these have galvanized the show critics against it.
In other cases, Rick and Morty is simply not for everyone. Scroll down for a summary of why many people are criticizing Rick and Morty more and more vocally.
Rick and Morty may be the most popular show ever to get hit with the generalized label "toxic fans." In a report for The Telegraph, writer Chris Stokel-Walker went so far as to say that the show had given rise to "a hate movement." He cited large-scale harassment campaigns against women scriptwriters on the show, as well as the McDonald's servers who famously suffered real violence at fans' hands.
The former issue began in Season 3 when fans began to grumble online that they felt the show had taken a qualitative dive when it finally added women to its writers' room. Across platforms like Reddit and Twitter, they decried the "female SJW writers" for "ruining" the show and unleashed threats and harassment against them personally. Some writers were even doxxed.
Ironically, the men who wrote the first two seasons were some of the loudest opponents of this message. Co-creator Dan Harmon told Entertainment Weekly at the time: "these knobs... want to protect the content they think they own — and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender."prevnext
The second of the issues mentioned above was the infamous Szechuan sauce scramble of 2017. Rick and Morty Season 3, Episode 1 made an obscure joke out of a promotional McDonald's condiment from the 1990s, and McDonald's got in on the joke by promising to revive the sauce temporarily. However, they underestimated the fan response and paid dearly for it. According to The Telegraph, fans camped out outside of participating McDonald's, then fought each other and employees to get their hands on it. Police got involved in several cases.prevnext
Other critics condemn the show for its nihilistic philosophy. Rick and Morty does not offer many happy endings or reasons to be hopeful, and for die-hard fans, this is a big draw. For critics, it's not just a personal deterrent — it raises concerns about what the show is awakening in viewers.
"It's a never-ending fart joke wrapped around a studied look into nihilism," wrote Kayla Cobb for Decider. Harmon has agreed with this take, but stressed the show's metatextual narrative of finding meaning in relationships, no matter how contrived. In a 2017 behind-the-scenes segment, he said: "the knowledge that nothing matters — while accurate — gets you nowhere. The planet is dying, the sun is exploding, the universe is cooling, nothing's gonna matter. The further back you pull, the more that truth will endure. But, when you zoom in on Earth, when you zoom in on a family, when you zoom in to a human brain, and a childhood, and an experience, you see all these things that matter."prevnext
One of Rick and Morty's other high-profile controversies was the casting of the Smith family therapist, Dr. Wong — voiced by Susan Sarandon. Screenwriter Jessica Gao introduced Wong and said on the Whiting Wongs podcast that she intentionally gave her an Asian name in the hopes of securing a role for an Asian actress. She was angry when the role went instead to a white woman.
The controversy led to Gao and Harmon creating the Whiting Wongs podcast together, in order to discuss race and representation in media. In the time since that episode aired, many cartoons have reckoned with their non-white characters being voiced by white actors. For Rick and Morty, Dr. Wong remains an open issue.prevnext
To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer's head. There's also Rick's nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into pic.twitter.com/3dXCNxjUzJ— crash bandicooch (@toefurchris1) September 20, 2020
Rick and Morty fans often turn newcomers away with fandom "gatekeeping" — the process of testing another fan and casting doubt on their commitment to a hobby. In this case, the gatekeeping spawned a now-infamous meme thanks to a 2017 Reddit post of unknown origin.
It reads: "To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer's head. There's also Rick's nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into his characterisation- his personal philosophy draws heavily from Narodnaya Volya literature, for instance. The fans understand this stuff; they have the intellectual capacity to truly appreciate the depths of these jokes, to realise that they're not just funny- they say something deep about LIFE. As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Morty truly ARE idiots- of course they wouldn't appreciate, for instance, the humour in Rick's existential catchphrase 'Wubba Lubba Dub Dub,' which itself is a cryptic reference to Turgenev's Russian epic Fathers and Sons. I'm smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scratching their heads in confusion as Dan Harmon's genius wit unfolds itself on their television screens. What fools.. how I pity them."prevnext
Both Harmon and Roiland are unusually famous on a personal level for cartoon creators, and some critics take issue with them specifically. Both have eccentric creative pasts, including some NSFW sketches and videos still circulating online. These have earned them retrospective scrutiny even recently and turned some viewers off from the show.prevnext
Finally, it's worth noting that some viewers are simply turned off by the animation style and imagery of Rick and Morty. The show is not shy when using phallic or scatological references in its sci-fi creations, and fans take notice. If this kind of unspoken visual gag is too much for you, you won't last long with Rick and Morty.
Rick and Morty is now finding its footing between overly-excited fans and intense critics, just in time for the new season to begin. Season 5 premieres on Sunday, June 20 at 11 p.m. ET on Adult Swim.prev