Are Rick and Morty Fans Toxic?

To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer’s head. There’s also Rick’s nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into his characterisation- his personal philosophy draws heavily from Narodnaya Volya literature, for instance. The fans understand this stuff; they have the intellectual capacity to truly appreciate the depths of these jokes, to realise that they’re not just funny- they say something deep about LIFE. As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Morty truly ARE idiots- of course they wouldn’t appreciate, for instance, the humour in Rick’s existential catchphrase “Wubba Lubba Dub Dub,” which itself is a cryptic reference to Turgenev’s Russian epic Fathers and Sons. I’m smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scratching their heads in confusion as Dan Harmon’s genius wit unfolds itself on their television screens. What fools.. how I pity them. 😂

And yes, by the way, i DO have a Rick & Morty tattoo. And no, you cannot see it. It’s for the ladies’ eyes only- and even then they have to demonstrate that they’re within 5 IQ points of my own (preferably lower) beforehand. Nothin personnel kid 😎
– Reddit user Niekisch

Doesn’t Rick and Morty have a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole?
– Common response

Mainstream media, as it tends to do when something it doesn’t understand becomes wildly popular, has relentlessly bashed Rick and Morty and its fans on accusations of fan toxicity. But even though these articles by The Telegraph and Newsweek may be (ARE) biased, the existence of fan toxicity can’t be denied. All fandoms with more than 100 members have some level of toxicity. But does Rick and Morty stand out as particularly toxic or are the show and its fans just the latest victims of mainstream media’s fear of anything new and popular?

The Evidence of Toxicity

The Szechuan Sauce Rebellion of 2017 shined a spotlight onto the ugly side of the fandom. After a deluge of phone calls from fans wanting Szechuan sauce for their Mcnuggets, McDonalds announced they would provide Szechuan Sauce. This was only done for one day at select locations. Employees in most McDonalds locations had no idea about the promotion and the ones that did were provided with only 20 packets of the sauce.

Videos surfaced of mobs of sauce-seekers reacting as if their local drug dealer ran out of meth. Fans berated employees, crowded the stores chanting, and one fan jumped up and down on the desk before rolling around on the floor with his shirt up over his head screaming “I’m Pickle Rick!”

Even the creator of the show, Dan Harmon, threw his own fans under the bus and said he wouldn’t wish his show’s fans on any restaurant.

Many fans have also targeted the female writers on the show. For the third season of Rick and Morty, two female writers joined the previously all-male writing team. One of these new writers, Jessica Gao, wrote the Pickle Rick episode, which is likely the most beloved episode of the series so far.

Even so, fans have harassed the female writers and even posted their personal information online. Harmon said he took a Twitter sabbatical after this harassment campaign. He also said he knew going into season 3 that trolls often targeted female creators and writers. He also slammed the “knobs” who “think they own” his work. He said he makes no secret of the fact that he despises the people who, he says, believe they are protecting his work by harassing women.

Harmon’s full response can be found here.

Counter Points from Rick and Morty Apologists

In a poll posted to The Southern Nerd’s Facebook page, the most common response from Rick and Morty fan apologists was “Name one fan base that doesn’t have toxic members.”

Steven Universe is often accused of having a toxic fanbase. This fandom, at least section of the fandom on Tumblr, drew negative attention to its self for a much darker reason than Rick and Morty’s Szechuan Sauce Rebellion.

In 2015 a Steven Universe fan and cosplayer named Zamii070 announced she’d recently attempted suicide after a harassment campaign from Steven Universe fans. Zamii070, a thin person, enjoyed cosplaying as Rose Quartz and often drew fan art of a skinny Rose Quartz. This incited a mob frenzy of fans accusing her of “fat shaming.”

After Zamii070’s attempted suicide, most who took part in the harassment campaign retreated in shame. This incident caused a cultural cringe which is still felt in the SU fan community today; it is not uncommon to see fans in Facebook groups claiming that their own fan base is toxic (Though, it should be said, this incident took place in 2015 and on Tumblr, a social media platform infamous for spawning similar social media wars over comments or material its members deem offensive.)

The issue of trolls harassing women (or minorities) is also certainly not unique to Rick and Morty, as all of America saw during the infamous GamerGate scandal. These issues continue today with detractors of the #MeToo movement harassing and threatening women online.

More recently Anna Diop, who plays Starfire in the upcoming live action show, Titans, called out a section of DC’s fanbase over racist comments directed at her after fan backlash over set photos. While most DC fans, even those who hated the costumes, made a special effort to be clear that their feelings over the costume had nothing to do with Diop’s race, there were still several who posted racial slurs online.

So Why All the Hate for Rick and Morty Fans?

Not long ago, Rick and Morty’s ratings made this show the most watched comedy on TV. History shows that popular media often draws a hostile response from those outside of the fanbase. Older fans remember when the government held congressional hearings on music and video games, action sparked by crusades from parents groups and religious groups. This behavior continued with WWE and, although it never got to the point of sparking a congressional investigation, Harry Potter.

Perceptions can also be twisted by personal experiences, which may differ across different sorts of social media. Harmon, an outspoken critic of his own fanbase, is active on Twitter (Update: Harmon has since deleted his Twitter account), the social media platform most infamous for its out of control troll problem. The experience with a creator on Twitter, considering that the majority of trolls in a fanbase will typically harass the same group of creators, may differ wildly from a fan sharing memes with other fans on a Facebook group.

And fans interacting on any form of social media have seen that some level of toxicity will always exist from fans who believe they have the right to pressure their creators to do things a certain way or who feel that they need to protect a franchise from outside interference.

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