I recently finished season one of Rock and Morty
Trigger warning: rape.
The fact that I decided to put that trigger warning above is evidence of how conflicted I am about this show. I had heard Dan Harmon of Community fame was behind this, but I kind of forgot about it until Fastcast’s recent episode on the show (https://www.patreon.com/posts/episode-21-rick-3455889). I started consuming the episodes on Hulu and have quickly torn through season one.
What’s conflicting for me is that I think the show is really brilliant, but dear merciful Zeus is it dark. This is a bleak, bleak universe that’s being depicted; nihilistic, traumatic, and most often utterly uncaring. It may be one of the darkest ongoing animated series I’ve ever seen. I honestly can’t even say that I laugh much when watching.
E.g., I think that rape, particularly male-on-male rape, has come up in almost every single episode. We watch two different characters fight off rapists in at least two separate episodes (possibly three and three, depending on how one interprets some visuals), and it’s intimated that one character might have been raped at one point in the past.
The show is also very male, something I thought was also true for he masterful Venture Bros. And by male I don’t necessarily mean misogynistic, though I feel like there are some scenes that tread close. More that the perspective of the show as a whole is very much a male perspective, with all the positives and negatives that entails.
Yet, I find the show as a whole truly brilliant. The science-fiction elements are well-developed and thoughtful. The dialogue and voice-acting is great. And the observations on the human condition, while pessimistic, are insightful and entertaining. There’s definitely a large amount of “shock factor” to the show’s humor, but it’s usually in service to a larger theme or overall commentary.
Really, the show feels unbridled to me, which, while far more common now in an era when media gatekeepers are easier to circumvent, is something I find very refreshing. This is seemingly unfiltered comedy coming from a very dark place.
That said, I sometimes feel a bit ashamed for liking it. It’s a show I know my wife would hate, and it’s show that I can’t imagine ever watching with my son — not at least until he’s college-age. Some episodes honestly freak me out, as if I’m experiencing a bit of the trauma to which Morty is constantly subjected. Seriously, there is some really fucked-up shit on this show that leave me in a bit of a daze.
Yet, I can’t stop watching.