Finding Meaning in the Rickstaverse
Rick and Morty is undeniably one of the best shows currently on television, and that’s with only two seasons under its belt as of this post. Part of what makes it so successful is how well it resonates with audiences, particularly millennials. Our generation has largely become disillusioned with the world, having grown up in a time full of horrors such as economic collapse and terrorism. Rick and Morty’s bleak, Nihilistic view of the universe seems like a breath of fresh air; a healthy dose of realism in a time where most of the cinematic world wants us to believe that we are somehow special, chosen ones. That being said, those who think Rick and Morty shows the meaninglessness of life and the lack of order or a higher power are completely, utterly wrong.
It would be impossible to aptly describe the show to someone who isn’t familiar with it, but I will try to summarize it. Rick and Morty revolves around the misadventures of the perpetually drunk Rick Sanchez and his naïve and nervous grandson Morty Smith as they travel throughout the multiverse, sometimes bringing Morty’s bickering parents Jerry and Beth and his sister Summer. The problems they encounter are sometimes wacky, sometimes serious, and always hilarious.
It is these more dark and serious problems that I want to address, as these are from where many of the viewers see the show’s Nihilism originating from. For example, in the episode Rick Potion #9, Morty enlists the help of Rick in making a love potion to help him woo his crush. Long story short, the plan goes horribly wrong and everyone on the entire planet save Rick, Morty, and the family get turned into horrible monsters. To solve this problem, Rick simply brings Morty with him to a new universe in which the Rick and Morty of that universe both fixed the problem and died seconds before the arrival of the Rick and Morty who we as viewers follow. What follows is one of the most emotional scenes in television history, as Rick and Morty burry their own bodies, then walk through the house to see their new family, a family that for all intents and purposes is the same as their old one. Nothing matters, there is no meaning to life, so on and so forth.
Only, this episode actually shows quite the opposite. As a whole, the show has a way of showing the vast, incomprehensibleness of the universe, then immediately qualifying it and making it seem smaller and more sensible. Upon arriving at the new universe, Rick explains how there are an infinite number of universes. However, his very next statement is to say that in only a few dozen of them were Rick and Morty able to avert disaster, and immediately after saying this, he explains that he and Morty only get three or four chances to start over like this. It starts by making it seem like nothing matters, and then narrows it until their decisions matter again. If they can only start over a few times, it means their choices do in fact matter. Moreover, after the credits, an extra scene shows that both the family they left behind was able to find true happiness and solve their marriage issues, and a monstrous version of Rick and Morty were able to move in to this universe after they had evidentially accidentally turned everyone on their world into normal people. It almost seems like everything that happened needed to happen, and in fact it seems to have worked out for the greater good.
There are several other instances where the show presents hopeless situations, then injects them with hope. Jerry and Beth discover that in realities where they didn’t have their daughter Summer, each of them was rich, famous, and had achieved their dreams. However, by the end they realize that in those realities, they regretted not getting married and having a daughter, showing that what seemed like a meaningless marriage was actually meaningful. Perhaps there is a higher power in the multiverse of the show. If Satan is a real character in the show, why can’t God also be? Even when Rick tries to kill himself, his drunkenness causes him to pass out, thus saving his life.
The show seems to show that even if there are infinite versions of you, you are still special. To quote Rick, “I’m the rickest Rick there is, and it makes sense that the rickest Rick has the mortiest Morty.” Nobody else is exactly like you, and your decisions do matter. It’s not a bad message to come from the same show that brought us Ball Fondlers.