Considering the animated world of Rick and Morty is full of vibrant, peculiar galaxies and an assortment of fascinating creatures, you'd be forgiven for thinking it looks like the perfect backdrop to a kid's TV show. But make no mistake: the cult cartoon created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon is far, far away from being child-friendly.
Based around the dysfunctional but ultimately tender relationship between Rick (a mad-cap scientist, raging alcoholic and habitual belcher) and his grandson Morty (a socially awkward 14-year-old and hesitant sidekick), the show deals with both the metaphysical and the mundane in perfect synchrony.
The narrative centers around Rick and Morty and their adventures, led by Rick's crazy interdimensional travels and oddball creations. This essentially gives Roiland and Harmon a blank canvas to let their creative synapses go wild, with equally hilarious and controversial results.
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Such controversy has encouraged entertainment rating website Common Sense Media to rate the show suitable for those aged 16+, and it'd be hard to disagree. Let's look at some of the most outrageous moments from the first two seasons to put the show into context.
1. The Biggest Controversy
From the offset, profanity, sex and violence runs through the core of Rick and Morty. While it's general approached in a jocular, off-the-cuff manner, "Meeseeks and Destroy" (Season 1, Episode 5) takes things to a much darker, shocking place.
Having complained their adventures are too dangerous, Rick allows Morty to take control. This leads the plucky protagonists to the Thirty Steps Tavern, where Morty encounters King Jellybean, an anthropomorphic version of the popular candy (obviously, duh!). Seemingly friendly on the outside, King Jellybean approaches Morty in the Tavern and attempts to rape him, before Morty fights him off and escapes, clearly traumatized.
Although shocking, Roiland and Harmon treat the assault with the seriousness it deserves, using the scene as a device that serves the plot and not glorifying the incident. It also illustrates how the show doesn't shy away from taking on dark themes.
2. On To Violence, And Lots Of It
As mentioned above, violence is a common theme throughout the show. Species from all kinds of galaxies are often maimed and killed in a graphic nature. A good example of the extremes the cartoon violence can escalate to occurs in "Look Who's Purging Now," a parody on the 2013 horror movie, The Purge.
See our Rick and Morty / Purge mashup trailer below:
Rick and Morty arrive on a planet that celebrates an annual purge, where all crime — including murder — is legalized for a set period of time. In its satirical take on the themes of the movie, the episode unleashes obscene amounts of gratuitous violence, including one particular scene where the planet's elite are slaughtered by Rick and one of the planet's inhabitants, before they both jubilantly dance through the bloody mess.
3. Strong Sexual Themes (See: Sex Robots)
The subject of sex features heavily throughout the show, to varying degrees of absurdity. Like most topics, Roiland and Harmon balance the mundane (such as Morty being caught masterbating by his parents or being in the midst of hormonal lust for his classmate, Jessica) and the bizarre (Morty falling in love with a special sex robot he finds in a souvenir shop in another galaxy — yeah, really).
4. As Well As Some Intergalactic Drug Taking
There's no denying Rick is a bit of a party animal who still manages to find time during his galaxy hopping misadventures to fit in a couple of (extra) drinks or even drugs.
In "Ricksy Business" (Season 1, Episode 11), while in another universe, Rick sends Morty on a mission to find Kalaxian Crystals, claiming they are of significant importance but not telling him for what reason. When Morty returns, Rick then cuts up the crystals and snorts them, instigating a powerful drug trip.
5. And Then There's The Simply Disturbing
Working in the realm of animation with a concept that is really unlimited in its scope allows for all sorts of messed up storylines that aren't for kids. A prime example of the deranged improvization occurs during a commercial for Strawberry Smiggles, shown during "Rixty Minutes" (Season 1, Episode 8). Without giving anything away, check out the commercial below:
Not to mention "Rick Potion #9" (Season 1, Episode 6) where Rick and Morty find an alternate universe where identical versions of themselves die, so they can replace them and assume their places. They even have to bury their own bodies. Yikes.
Rick and Morty definitely isn't for kids, but it's still one of the smartest animations created in recent years. While there is an abundance of profanity, violence and sexual content, the show generally handles such themes with a wink to the viewer, rarely relying on them purely for cheap laughs. For those slightly older, make sure you watch it. It's unlike anything you would've seen before.
At what age do you think it is appropriate to watch Rick and Morty?
(Source: Common Sense Media)