“Everybody’s gonna die”: Why Rick and Morty is the voice of our generation

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Still from Rick and Morty Season 3 trailer, courtesy of Adult Swim via YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeAw6aXHzcY]

Many people are quick to write off animated shows (especially those on Adult Swim) as low-brow and meaningless, funny at best but nothing more. Live action sitcoms seem to purport more cultural significance and certainly more critical acclaim, but the cult followings of TV shows like Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty suggest that there may be something to these morbid, satirical animated sitcoms that fly just under the radar of the general masses.

With the third season premiering on July 30th, fans are guaranteed an even darker and more nihilistic set of adventures starring Rick, a disgraced, alcoholic mad scientist, and Morty, his perpetually anxious 14-year-old grandson. The show is obviously ridiculous, but its existence as an animated series, and one that primarily chronicles crazy unrealistic sci-fi exploits, makes it unexpectedly well-poised to explore nihilism and the futility of our human existence.

Animated shows in general have a much easier time dealing with the surreal, the other-wordly, and the impossible; the medium simply affords show creators more leeway when crafting storylines and adventures. It’s a cartoon- there are hardly any boundaries, both with the writing as its own entity and the plot content.

Shows like Southpark have demonstrated that animated series can truly get away with far more than live action sitcoms can. Without a real human face to the characters, there is less liability, and less to “take seriously”; however, this is also exactly why Rick and Morty can reveal to audiences bits of cold, hard truth about our lives and what they mean in the grand scheme of things.

Rick is essentially the chaotic god of the show’s universe – he easily jumps through time, transforms into various creatures and objects, and travels the multi-verse, all the time dragging his poor timid grandson through the confusion. In the season three trailer, a characteristically drunk, foaming-out-the-mouth Rick grabs Morty by the shoulders and warns “welcome to the darkest year of our adventures yet.” With his extensive scientific knowledge and wherewithal, Rick might seem to be this complicated, messed up world’s only hope – but each terrible, inhumane thing he has seen in his journeys has made him completely numb to everything. He doesn’t care – it seems that even if he did, he has no control.

Having seen nearly every broadcast episode of Rick and Morty thus far, I can confirm that it has been grim enough for the average viewer. On top of the violence and existential crises that the two title characters muddle through, there are family issues, substance abuse tales, and the typical trials and tribulations that all 14 year olds face (other than, say, stumbling upon the dead corpse of a you from another dimension and having to bury yourself in your backyard in a different dimension). Morty eventually adopts a version of Rick’s fatalistic mindset, clearly seen when he tells his sister Summer “nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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Still from Rick and Morty, “Rick Potion No. 9” (Season 1, Episode 6, 2014.)

This blend of unsettling sci-fi adventures and hard-to-watch yet close-to-home real life scenarios offers the audience, especially a Millennial audience, a revealing look at how little control any of us really have over our own lives, and frankly how insignificant our actions really are. Yet, paradoxically, Rick and Morty does seem to give some fans a newfound appreciation for the little things like having friends or a family to turn to when times get tough – or, at the very least, something to talk about on a blog.

 

-Alyssa McAuliffe

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What is FA-MI-LY? I Got All My Friends and Me!

When I was watching The Big Bang Theory yesterday, I noticed that it is similar to The Mary Tyler Show, because they both represent a friend group setting rather than that of a family, which was previously shown on television sitcoms.

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As we read in our text a couple of weeks ago, “biological family no longer offered the security of 1950s sitcoms because, for many prized boomer viewers, family is not a stable institution.” Because this sharp change in sitcoms has not returned to its original form of familial settings, it makes me wonder whether or not the lack of family-homes and stability still survives today.

In The Big Bang Theory, the audience never even meets any of the family members of the main characters really mention their outside relations either. Like Mary Tyler in The Mary Tyler Show, the characters of Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard all met one another at their jobs and created friendships from a work setting.

Living together is one of the biggest aspects of being family with someone. As Mary Richards’s created her new “family” with her coworkers to replace her biological family by spending copious amounts of time with their company, Leonard and Sheldon began living with one another after meeting at their occupations.

Before the 1950s, most scenes in sitcoms were set in the household rather than apartments like in Friends or bars like in Cheers. This is due to the increasing rate of young adults moving away from their families and into locations with friends in replacement of their families. There were no longer nuclear families but instead diverse variations of families. I think this variation of different types of families still lives today as young people leave home after school to make a life for themselves.

This connection between The Big Bang Theory and The Mary Tyler Moore Show made me notice that the concept of a family as being a group of friends still exists in sitcoms today. So what exactly does it mean to be a family in 2017? These sitcoms, as well as many more, indicate that a family is a group of people that spend extensive time together, no matter their biological relationship.

 

 

By Emma Cooley

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Ted Mosby: the Nice Guy, Who Isn’t Really that Nice

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Still from How I Met Your Mother, “Spoiler Alert” (Season 3, Episode 8, 2007.)

 

How I Met Your Mother, or as devoted fans call the show “HIMYM”, aired from 2005 until 2014. The show follows a group of five best friends living in New York City, narrated by central character, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), and the plot revolves around his search for love. Although the show has been acclaimed for its dynamic cast which includes some truly great characters, Ted is not one of them, and he should be considered one of the most insufferable characters on television.

I’ll admit, in the beginning of the series, I found myself rooting for Ted. I was even willing to look past the fact that he told his future best friend Robin (Cobie Smulders) he loved her on their first date (which the show attempted to be cute but it actually was creepy). But after a while, the little charm that Ted had in the beginning wears off, and what is left is his sexist behavior and constant complaints.

It seems like in every episode, Ted just objectifies women. In “Little Boys”, Ted and Barney settle an argument by making a bet to see who can sleep with a woman first. In “The Drunk Train” Ted pursues a women, who tells him she is not interested in him romantically, but wishes to be friends instead. After her confession, Ted is shown to have completely vanished, uninterested in having a relationship with this women that’s not sexual.

Just when your expectations for Ted’s morality are at a low-point, they sink even lower. Ted’s sexist attitude isn’t just towards strangers he encounters at the bar, it’s towards his best friends too, like in “Spoiler Alert” when his friends discover that Ted constantly corrects people. The reason they discover this, is because only moments before, he lectured Robin on misusing the word “literally”.

Perhaps the thing that bothers me about Ted most is that even with all his faults, the show still tries to cast him as the victim: he is never the problem, it’s always someone else. It’s hard for me to have sympathy for someone who has found something wrong with a total of 38 women he has dated, yet still complains because he hasn’t found “the one” (it’s worth noting that this extensive list is still shorter than the list of frustrating things about Ted).

I’m sick of watching characters like Ted using the “nice guy looking for love” trope as an excuse to project their insecurities and bitterness for nine seasons. But I’m even more sick of television networks giving an outlet to these frustrated white men, who constantly criticize women. It’s not “nice” to constantly correct people. It’s not “nice” to talk to a woman just so you can sleep with her. It isn’t “nice” to always need to be right, and mansplaining isn’t “nice” either.

The danger of characters like Ted is they legitimize the ridiculous standards women are held to, and resonate with audiences because they seemingly have good intentions, because they use the stereotype of “the nice guy”. Ultimately, even if these “nice guys” don’t instill negative stereotypes, they are at best, annoying.

–Delaney Broderick

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It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The Modern Seinfeld

There is no denying that Seinfeld has been one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. Beginning in 1989, Seinfeld chronicled the lives of four thirty-somethings in New York City, each of them despicable in their own ways. They are notorious for their lack of growth throughout their nine seasons on air, as they all continue to make selfish decisions through the finale.

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Still from Seinfeld, “The Outing” (Season 4, Episode 17, 1993)

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Predicting the Future While Being in the Future: How Futurama Boldly Predicted Race and Gender roles in 1999

In 1989, Matt Groening devised his cartoon masterpiece The Simpsons. The Simpsons was (and still is) a groundbreaking animated sitcom that targeted not only children but adults as well. The show’s purpose was to satirically portray working class families in suburbia; in The Simpson’s case fictional Springfield, a town is meant to be anywhere USA. All the characters within the show have extremely stereotypical roles that conform with the culture of the time. Homer, the father in the show is the breadwinner for the family, but would rather go to the bar rather than associate with his wife and troublesome kids. Marge is a stay at home mother who cooks, cleans, and prepares the kids for school. And the Clerk at the convenience store is Indian and talks with a heavy accent, trying to sell year old items for a quick dollar. These traditional roles resonate with the audience and have led to the show’s popularity and longevity. The show has been on the air for 28 seasons and does not show signs of ending anytime soon.

In 1999, ten years after the conception of The Simpsons, Groening created Futurama, a show that enabled him to be more expressive than in his previous show. Futurama touches on topics that include women’s rights, environmental advocacy, disabilities, and racial prejudices.  Set in the year 3000, Futurama follows a motley crew of misfits. There is Phillip Fry, a delivery boy who had been cryogenically frozen for 1000 years, Leela, a mutant who captains the company’s ship, Bender, a rude, womanizing robot, and Zoidberg, the ship’s physician. Matt Groening has never been afraid to voice his liberal agenda. In recent years, Groening has created a series of shorts directly insulting Donald Trump and his surprising rise to becoming President of the United States. Setting Futurama in the future enabled Groening to break from the stereotyping that that has brought The Simpsons such acclaim and notoriety

Groening put Leela, a powerful woman in a high-ranking position (Space Captain); back in 1999, an unconventional move for that time. Leela often finds herself in situations where she must use quick thinking, and dominant fighting moves to escape from near death situations.

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His bold heroine Leela also has a disability seeing that she only has one eye. Leela is a female, Cyclopes, mutant. By making her the leader, Groening took a proactive stance on equality using race, gender, and disability. Although Futurama was canceled in 2013, the show remains one of the most proactive and forward-thinking sitcoms of all time.

 

 

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I’ll Be There For You

I’ll Be There For You

            After finishing the first episode of Friends, I was immediately addicted and obsessed with the show. I binge watched the entire series and was so taken by the commodore and friendship of the characters. The show was so relatable and had an ability to make you feel like a member of the gang. The characters were flawed, they had problems, and they had ups and downs just like everyone else.

But through it all, they have each other’s backs. What I liked most about the show, besides Phoebe’s renditions of “Smelly Cat,” was the true friendship between the characters and how the show made you feel like you were their friend. When I finished the last episode I was so sad; it was the end of an era and it really did feel like I was saying good-bye to my good friends.

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I think it is safe to say that I was not alone when I mourned the end of Friends. It is, to this day, one of the most popular sitcoms ever created and people fell in love with it. So when the sitcom ended, it was almost like a death. And that passion and love for the show has not faded over the years. Audiences and people everywhere still talk about the show and binge watch re-runs.

The success, the long-lasting impression it has left on the comedy world, its ability to connect with people of all different age groups etc. is what makes Friends so unique and what makes its so successful. What I find so intriguing about this situational comedy in particular is its longevity and popularity so long after its end.

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(Still from Friends season 10, episode 17 “The Last One: Part 1 & Part 2”)

The last episode, in particular, amassed huge media buzz, ratings, and viewings. “The Friends finale was an extended ritual of farewell as fans watched the characters say goodbye to each other and the viewers for weeks. Indeed, the finale was a major event of the television season: nearly 53 million viewers watched according to Nielson Ratings.” (“Saying Goodbye to Friends: Fan Culture as Lived Experience”).

In many ways, viewers realized that this was the end of an era. The final episode concluded a show that captivated audiences from the very beginning. The amount of people who tuned in to watch the finale proved just how popular and prominent the show had become. But that really wasn’t the end. From that point on, Friends became a permanent household name. Unlike other sitcoms, it has lived far beyond the final goodbyes. To me, that is what makes this show so special. That and the coffee at Central Perk.

Link to interview with show creators: http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/david-crane-and-marta-kauffman

– By Isabelle Jeffrey

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Relationship Advice for the Politically Correct Culture and Police – From, South Park

South Park, the series notorious for making fun of everything and anything, took the show in a completely different direction in the nineteenth season, previous to the most recent. In having a legitimate story line and consistent theme, for the first time, it relentlessly satirized the cultural wave that has risen in our country in recent years known as “Political Correctness.”

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Still from South Park, “Naughty Ninjas” (Season 19, Episode 7, 2015)

This was hysterical to some and outraged others as our country is polarized into those who are outraged by the PC culture, claiming it to be unnecessary and absurd, and those whom believe we must make serious changes to see equality and respect for all Americans, in particular minority groups. Although it makes the movement to be a complete joke, it reveals a lesson that everyone can take note of in building a more peaceful society on the current issue we see in regard to instances of police brutality and showing respect to those serving our communities.

There has been an open debate by those who hate the PC culture claiming there is a war on cops, but those on the other side claim they simply want justice for and end of people falling victim to police killings. South Park’s season 19 episode “Naughty Ninjas” addresses just that. Officer Barbrady is released from the force for his incidental shooting of a minority student; uproar and the decision that the police officers are no longer needed in South Park is the result. The town claims institutional racism has led them to marginalizing and harming innocent minorities, therefore, there is no place for them in serving their newly gentrified town.

As the lack of trust grows for police officers because of these instances of brutality and deaths the episode takes a shot, at what Dan Caffery in his piece reviewing the episode would call false empathy. The show is making a stand that people a part of the politically correct culture only care when it suits them to do so, harming anyone in their path. The more important lesson, however, to take from this episode is that there is a middle ground we can reach if we acknowledge it in situations like such.

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“You protected this town back before anybody else ever did… We need you to do that again.”

Officer Barbrady is not a bad person, just like a majority of police officers are not, and the shooting is an accident in this episode to reveal the many controversial deaths seen in our society recently. When something is a clear crime committed by authorities then people have the right to seek justice, however, what is not right is to blame the entirety of cops as the same because of the actions of some. Our society could not function in security and peace without our law enforcement, and failing to show them the gratitude the institution as a whole deserves is sad. Without them working around the clock, every day, rain or shine, we would have civil unrest. At the end of the episode when there is nobody to keep the daily peace of the town they must turn to their police officers, which with pride answered the call to serve.

I will never understand fully the way certain minority groups who protest feel in regard to this, however, I respect them. The one thing I want for society, which this episode does a great job of addressing, is that we must continue to combat the injustices we see, but no matter how poorly they are treated there are more officers who have sworn to protect our lives and communities we live in, working for the greater good than those who have marginalized individuals; those are the men and women who deserve to be respected, rather than generalized with the others, because they will always be there and act in our best interest.

–  Anthony Duran

 

 

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