Rick and Morty: Father-Son Relationships

By: Cal Parsons

After just finishing Season 2 of Rick and Morty, I have been impatiently waiting for a Season 3 release, but in the meantime, I’ve had time to rewatch some episodes of the show and dwell on what the show touches on. The show is extremely funny, but is also full of complex themes like identity, discrimination, subordination, and the dangers of science. I’m going to look at a theme that I’ve recently picked up on from the show, which is the theme of father-son relationships. The relationships between Rick and Jerry and between Jerry and Morty, specifically, are ones that play on the more toxic and uninvolved roles a father plays in their sons’ lives.

The father-in-law-son-in-law relationship between Rick and Jerry is a toxic and hateful relationship. Rick takes every chance he gets to put Jerry down emotionally and sometimes extremely physically, going lengths to mutilate his body or even send him to a daycare full of Jerry’s from multiple dimensions (this show goes all out in the science department, and I mean ALL OUT). Rick detests Jerry, and Jerry despises Rick. Rick hates that Jerry is married to his daughter, because Jerry is a boring dad and lives the most stereotypical suburban dad life possible. Rick is even quoted as saying that Jerry is just a sheep that has no original thought in his brain. Jerry hates that Rick takes Morty out on all these ridiculous adventures and risking their lives and ruining their house all the time. And Jerry is constantly being bullied by Rick, so I guess that’s another reason to have toxic thoughts towards him.

Jerry and Morty’s relationship depicts another type of “bad parenting” stereotype: the uninvolved, uninspiring dad that tries to help his son but is constantly put back either due to annoyance or complete ignorance. Jerry tries, sometimes, to be a good parent to his kids, Morty and Summer, but he ends up failing due to his incompetence and the kids’ toxic behavior towards him.Summer and Morty barely give Jerry the time of day and act like they don’t have time to worry about dealing with Jerry’s meandering about the house. One episode, Jerry attempts to help Morty with a science project even though Rick would give him the easiest A possible only because he was adamant about helping Morty with something and being that stereotypical dad that helps his son with a science project. He ends up insisting that Pluto is a planet, and, due to this ignorance, gets them caught up in a celebrity stunt in Pluto.


Jerry helping Morty with a science project – Source

The shortcomings of Jerry as a father show in most of Morty’s character, since Morty is a sympathetic, unintelligent boy that doesn’t seem to get the big picture about his and Rick’s situations sometimes, even when their lives are at stake. Morty is merely a shield used by Rick when they travel through space and time since his lack of intelligence somehow masks Rick’s genius from Galactic Confederations that are hunting Rick down. Sometimes Morty, just like Jerry, will have shining moments that allow them to carry the rest of the story onward by pulling miraculous stunts to save themselves and their family, mostly from a crazy amount of luck.

The hate-hate relationship between Rick and Jerry is one that will never cease to entertain audiences but it could also be seen as an interesting take on the kind of toxic behavior father-in-laws have towards their son-in-laws, and vice versa. And when Beth, Jerry’s wife and Rick’s daughter, starts to interfere, it seems to only make things worse between them. Jerry and Morty’s relationship is just as interesting, showing how an incompetent and unwise father can have serious consequences on how his children develop themselves, making them seem less in control of themselves and their environment and more susceptible to peer pressure and outsider opinions.

Here’s an interesting review of the finale of season two and how the main characters have developed over the season.

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10 Responses to Rick and Morty: Father-Son Relationships

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I love this post! I’ve seen snippets of Rick & Morty, and never thought much deeper into it as more than just a silly, mind-numbing adult cartoon. Your post, however, delves into the complexity behind the 2D characters and their relationships. This is fabulous – I think it’s important to realize such meaning in seemingly meaningless programs.

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I have never seen nor heard of the show but your post makes me feel as if i need to watch it. I like that you can take something that seems very far off and relate it back to our daily lives. Seems like one of those animated shows that will make you think a little versus the ones that you laugh at because the context is just so far off the only thing you can do is laugh.


  3. I’ve never seen this, but you really hit home a strong analysis of the character relationships. It sounds like the writer for this show did a great job of mirroring many of the relationship problems in the real world, particularly father-son-in-law. It’s funny because I can picture this rather vividly since it is such a common dynamic across cinema and in the lives of many people. One thing I find most amazing is how this effects the way a child develops. Sounds like poor Moorty is a bit of a dimwit because of his father’s toxicity.


  4. mediaphiles says:

    While I’ve never seen this show, you bring up a really unique argument that I think could spur an interesting conversation about father/son and man-to-man relationships in animated series, specifically. Because we are more detached from the experiences and relationships of cartoon characters, I think these types of shows can get away with a lot more. It’s interesting to question, however, how little (or how much) do shows like this that thrive on toxic relationships perpetuate certain stereotypes about men’s relationships?

    -Lydia Geisel

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I love this show and you bring up some very good points. Something that I always wondered about this show was Rick’s origin story. We still don’t know! I’m hoping that season three alludes to some part of his background, so that we can start piecing some things together. Also, I, most definitely, agree with your description about Jerry’s bad parenting style. His lack of confidence and ambition seems to reflect onto Morty, who is not the most spirited of people. He is always worried about the consequences, which is very similar to his father’s personality. Ricky and Morty always seems to introduce complex ideas that leave you thinking after every episode. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for season three.

    -Shelby Halliman

  6. mediaphiles says:

    Cal! Thank you so much for writing about “Rick and Morty!” I have seen clips here and there but have never watched the show more in-depth. Your article has absolutely intrigued me to follow up and watch more episodes. I also am a huge fan of Archer and love Chris Parnell, so I will definitely be taking the time to watch a bit of “Rick and Morty”. I would love to ask, if you find that the show brings light to serious issues while including humor? Thank you!

    Luke Dellorso

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I love Rick and Morty! Your analysis of the show is a lot deeper than I had ever thought about this show. All your points are really great though and you do a great job analyzing the characters and their relationship issues. I also can’t wait for the next season to come out!

    -Walker Rise

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I’ll have to admit I find myself watching at least a few episodes of this show. I had no idea the name of it, I just remember the characters from your picture in the blog. The only reason I watched the episodes that i did watch is because my favorite show, ‘Family Guy’ was about to come on TV and I did not feel like getting up to change the channel so I sat there and watched Rick and Morty. It is not a show I’d put on the TV, but it was a pretty decent show from the few episodes I seen.

    – John Armstrong

  9. mediaphiles says:

    Rick and Morty is the smartest animated television show on air right now. I love your analysis of the father son relationships. I myself find that the relationship between Beth and Jerry is even more interesting. Their marriage is failing from the beginning of season 1. We’re shown their terrible relationship and laugh at how disgusting and toxic they are to each other. Pretty much every episode their “love”, if you can even call it that, is tested and strained. But they always end up back together. The funny thing about this show is it doesn’t present that as a good thing. You laugh and find yourself frustrated because literally they should just get a divorce. The kids think so, Rick thinks so, but it’s funny whenever they get back together. Maybe I’ll write something about their toxicity haha

    Russell Lawrence

  10. mediaphiles says:

    I think its really cool that even with a goofy, animated show you have been able to notice such real and significant themes and ideas within it.

    -Max Lissette

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