So, there’s this thing in the Rick and Morty fandom where they talk about show creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmond like they’re mavericks who discard basic storytelling just to troll their audience. If that sounds like it would result in terrible stories, you’re right. A show that runs on the principle of upsetting its viewers would be awful. Because obviously it would be, that is its goal.
Rick and Morty isn’t actually like that at all, though. It’s just that the fans are the kinds of people who produce this image:
So it shouldn’t be surprising that they’ll also try to build up the show’s creators as master trolls while lacking the knowledge of basic storytelling needed to realize that the narrative they’re building paints Justin Roiland and Dan Harmond as incompetent jackasses (which, by the way, they are not).
What brings this up in particular for me is season 3, episode 7, Tales From the Citadel. The one where the Rick Citadel is being rebuilt and a Morty is running for president, with a bunch of other stories woven in around it that provide various perspectives on the policy issues Candidate Morty is talking about. Oh, by the way, that there isn’t much of a spoiler, it’s just the premise, but we will be getting into spoilers eventually. You’ve been warned. See, an early theory after episode 1, in which both the Rick Citadel and the entire Galactic Federation were destroyed, is that Roiland and Harmond were deliberately setting their own worldbuilding on fire as a middle finger to fans who were hoping that it might lead up to something big. And, y’know, after the Federation-related cliffhanger ending of season 2, obviously fans were wondering about that. That’s what cliffhangers are for. For Roiland and Harmond to actually want to set their own worldbuilding on fire immediately after giving fans every reason to care about it wouldn’t be Roiland and Harmond trolling their audience for their flaws, but trolling them for having human reactions at all.
Like, there’s a theory that the Red Grin Grumble gag from season 2, in which Rick makes a reference to a character he made up on the spot and mocks Summer and Morty for pretending to get it, that’s the kind of thing that might actually be aimed at some of the show’s more pretentious fans. The worst part of Rick and Morty is the audience that thinks that it’s a smart show for smart people because it references multiverse theory and has a nihilist as one of the protagonists. Communicating one new idea isn’t that unusual for a show, especially not one with 28 episodes and counting, and Rick is cast in the Holmes/House mold of someone whose philosophy the audience is expected to disagree with anyway. It makes sense that Roiland and Harmond would drop in a gag that takes a shot at those kind of people, both because it’s just one gag rather than defining the entire direction of the show, and because that kind of behavior can actually make the show less fun to watch.
The idea that season 3 episode 1 was all a giant troll, though, suggests that Roiland and Harmond are taking shots at their audience for liking the show. It’s not impossible for show creators to be that interminably hipster, but it’s a completely different tack from the Red Grin Grumble joke.
Episode 7 of season 3 is pretty thoroughly disproving the idea, though. The creators are bringing back the Citadel, and they’re bringing back (spoilers) Evil Morty. So, clearly the “fuck your theorycrafting” theory has been fucked. And that’s a good thing, because “fuck you for having a strong interest in my work” is about the most pretentious bullshit a creator can get up to. It’s hard to have a stronger signal that the creator isn’t actually putting any effort or passion into their work and despises anyone who who does. So, y’know, it’s a good thing that Roiland and Harmond do not appear to be doing that. It’s just the dumber elements of the fanbase being idiots again.