'I loathe these people': Rick and Morty and the brilliant backlash against TV's bad fans
The Back to the Future-parodying animation has ushered in an awful new age of TV trolls – and, in a remarkable move, its creators are finally fighting back
Themes around abusive relationships and toxic masculinity have been a recurring presence since Rick and Morty’s very first episode, but this season they’ve gone supernova, infecting every aspect of the show, from Rick turning himself into an actual pickle to avoid family counselling to his daughter Beth’s dangerous idolising of her selfish, neglectful father. It’s these raw personal family dynamics that elevate Rick and Morty (and the equally thoughtful Bojack Horseman) above the rest of the adolescently minded animation pack. Without them, it would just be a gleeful gross-out comedy, full of extreme violence, inside baseball genre riffs and fart jokes. But with them it becomes something deeper.
The problem is that Rick and Morty’s bad fans – like the Walter White worshippers before them – are tuning in for the gnarly stuff, and missing the fact that the show is actually an implicit commentary on them. After all, it’s not exactly a stretch to notice the similarities between Rick – cynical, cruel, endlessly expecting the world to accommodate his every whim – and the many stripes of entitled white males seeking to dominate the internet, from the gamergate mob to the alt right.
This is a really good article that has applications to a number of other fandoms (e.g. Always Sunny, Archer, etc)
However, one of the things that is most interesting to me about this is where this kind of critique sits in the evolution of the “bad fan” discourse.
In ye olden days, the ‘bad fan’ was usually conceptualized as problematically rabid/obsessed, someone who needed to “get a life.”
In more recent years, transformative fans have often been cast as the ‘bad fans,’ defying the precious original intent of the author(s) and undermining/disrespecting the sacredness of the canon text.
Now, we’re moving into ‘bad fans’ as people who take away the wrong message from a piece of media – often misunderstanding or ignoring the critique it contains – and valorizing its worst components.
It’s just interesting to see how the idea of the “bad fan” continues to evolve.