If there's one thing you can't accuse Justin Roiland and #DanHarmon of being, it's conservative. #RickAndMorty — their little animated show that could — has never been one to shy away from the controversial, the macabre, or the downright weird.
From aliens modeled on testicles, to depression and suicide, planet-wide orgies and screaming suns, the fact that we're never quite sure what we're going to get out of a Rick and Morty episode is one of the things we love about the show.
With all they've done so far — and looking back at the ball-licking Back to the Future parody that Rick and Morty was born from — you'd think there's little that Roiland and Harmon would shy away from. You'd be wrong.
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Speaking to Collider earlier this year, Roiland and Harmon discussed how much of an impact the Broadcast Standards and Practices have upon Rick and Morty. As you might expect from a show hosted on #AdultSwim, intervention in this regard is minimal, but it does still happen.
In the case of Rick and Morty, the changes are usually minor and cosmetic. Harmon gives the example of showing an episode in which an #alien gets "his brain blown out," when they were asked to change the color of the brain matter from pink to green, in order to not draw allusions to "real brains."
Taking two steps away from reality seemingly allows much more freedom when it comes to violence, just like Morty shooting the "robots" (that totally weren't robots) in the pilot episode. But, as is usually the case with mainstream #TV, it's not portraying violence that is the problem. Rather it comes down to what Roiland describes as "the shit and the sex stuff."
"The shit and the sex stuff. That tends to be the thing they put their foot down on. Violence seems to be less and less an issue. Obviously gratuitous violence can be a problem but the sex stuff is real touchy. I think that’s just our country. It’s just the way things are. It’s stupid."
Rick and Morty tends to handle the "sex stuff" in a similar way to how it approaches violence — by keeping it surreal enough that there's plenty of wiggle room. Remember the "plumbus," and King Jellybean?
Take for example the episode "Auto Erotic Assimilation," which ostensibly featured a planet-wide orgy featuring a hang glider, a crotchless Uncle Sam costume, naked redheads and men resembling Rick's father. We never saw anything explicit in the episode, rather we heard a list of Rick's outlandish requests, such as asking Unity if she could assimilate a giraffe.
Too fantastical to be true, Rick and Morty attempts to avoid the censoring problem by going all the way. Go big or go home. The exception to this is the Season 1 Raising Arizona parody episode "Raising Gazorpazorp," in which Morty convinces Rick to purchase him a "sex robot" — Gwendoline — who turns out to be an incubator unit capable of producing an alien child.
According to Roiland, this is the episode that they had the most trouble pushing through to production:
"The big one that I can recall and cite specifically is the sex robot episode with Morty. And that was just more of a fundamental issue. Are we ok with a 14 year old character basically fucking a robot sex doll? [Mike] Lazzo had to push and fight for that for us to get that. That would have been a structural, fundamental… if they wouldn’t have agreed to let us do that, that episode could not have been written or at least that story."
Again nothing explicit is shown, and the sex doll only features minimally in the episode. It's used as a plot device to usher in the core of the episode's narrative: Morty attempting to raise a half-Gazorpazorp child with murderous tendencies.
According to Harmon, the main issue with "Raising Gazorpazorp" was establishing that the sex doll was just that: An inanimate piece of equipment, not a flesh and blood partner. Apparently, portraying teenagers on TV as having sex is a big no-no, while you can get away with using an alien sex robot as it falls under the umbrella of non-explicit masturbation.
As Harmon and Roiland said:
Harmon: "I just think it’s a matter of just making sure this robot is a sex doll, is the equivalent of masturbation. Which if anybody wants to convince us that 14 year old boys aren’t masturbating…"
Roiland: "I’ll see you in court."
Which is your favorite Rick and Morty episode? Sound off in the comments below!