Friday, April 29, 2016
Rick and Morty and Philosophy: Part 2
First Post: http://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2016/04/rick-and-morty-and-philosophy-part-1.html
In my previous post, I examined how the Adult Swim cartoon Rick and Morty plays with the open interpretation of God or a creator, while mentioning Aquinas' First Cause Argument and Nietzsche's "God is dead" quote. This post will focus around Nietzsche's nihilism and how it equates to Rick's character and a main plot device of the show.
Nietzsche was of the belief that after the scientific revolution, God was not relevant to human life anymore, this is where "God is dead" really means. After the death of God in philosophy, the idea was that all that remains was nihilism, the belief that life is devoid of meaning, and the universe could care less about the ambitions, struggles, and achievements of humans or any other being. The show, and more specifically Rick, throws different nihilist ideas out there with not much interpretation, leaving the audience to do it themselves. Nietzsche would classify Rick as an active nihilist, one that seeks to destroy old values based on Godly and other such beliefs. There are so many instances of this throughout different episodes. Rick uses his genius to detect, measure, and reverse evil affects created by a character who embodies the Devil. He explains to Morty how love is just a series of chemical reactions to motivate humans to mate. He takes the time to explain scientifically how Morty and his sister Summer are both "pieces of sh**." He tells Morty's father Jerry that "traditions are an idiot thing." He even creates a sentient robot and makes its only purpose to pass butter, to which the robot reacts, "Oh my god." The biggest example of the show's nihilism, however, occurs at the very end of the episode Rick Potion No. 9.
In this episode, after hearing Rick's explanation of "love," Morty wants Rick to make a love potion to get Jessica, Morty's crush, to like him. Rick's potion goes horribly wrong, and spreads because the potion attaches itself to the flu virus during flu season. Rick and Morty end up turning the entirety of the human race into genetic disaster creatures that they call "Cronenbergs." These creatures also all have an insatiable attraction to Morty. As they sit on the roof of a building, contemplating their options, Rick tell Morty that he has a solution that will fix everything. This solution is a bit dark. Rick's weapon of choice throughout the series is a portal gun that can transport him anywhere in the universe, and into any universe he chooses. Meaning that the show implies a belief in the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which there are an infinite amount of universes in which every possible reality has occurred. Using his portal gun, Rick finds a universe in which not only do Rick and Morty cure the world of Rick’s potion, but where they also die at the exact moment before the Rick and Morty that the audience follows (I’ll call them “our” Rick and Morty) travels to that universe. They then will take the place of the dead Rick and Morty in the new reality. Our Rick and Morty end up in Ricks garage lab looking at their own dead bodies splattered across the walls. Morty, of course, freaks out, but Rick says they have to bury their bodies before anyone sees them. When Morty asks about the other reality Rick just says, “What about the reality where Hitler cured cancer? The answer is don’t think about it.” After burying their bodies, Morty goes about the rest of his day with a thousand-yard stare on his face as the show goes to the credits.
If that visual terrified you, it should have. This episode destroyed my very soul the first time I saw it, and made me question everything I thought I knew about this “reality” that I live in. It probably killed what little innocence I had left. This episode alone would scare the hell out of anybody. Nihilism at face value seems depressing, because the idea that everything is meaningless seems like life isn’t worth living. I found a light at the end of the tunnel though. In a later episode, Morty has to convince Summer not to run away from home, and he does this by telling her about his body in the backyard. He ends his monologue by saying, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die; come watch TV?” Another heavy though huh? Well this statement works. In fact, summer actually seems happy at the end of the episode, and it took me until recently to figure out why.
When you believe in nihilism, there is no meaning in this reality, or any other reality that may or may not exist. This is okay though, because it gives you a blank slate to live your life by, and infinitely blank canvas to create your own meanings, wills, morals, values, and ambitions. Nothing can or should hold you down, because ultimately, you are the one who gives your personal reality meaning. Do not seek out meaning, create it. This became the basis for all of the other branches in my philosophy. I can create beliefs from scratch, and question hard, traditional ones. I can motivate myself because my ambitions are mine and mine alone, and I believe that as long as you aren’t hurting anybody, your motivations are entirely valid. Nietzsche’s Nihilism seemed too dark and depressing to me at first, but Rick and Morty’s shenanigans taught me that nihilism can be quite beautiful and empowering.