We see another Rick awoken from stasis, due to the death of Rick (C-137?). This has to do with operation “Phoenix,” Phoenixes of course rise from the ashes, I think I saw someone say this is a R&M reference. The awakened Rick is confused, saying “I axed this protocol.” Hence the origin of this system of regenerating Ricks is mysterious. Following from the plot/brand armor discussion, we know some new Rick will always appear because this is Rick & Morty. It would be truly avant-garde to have an episode with no Rick, which I don’t think has been done. But would they do it? Would it still be Rick and Morty? No. So, ‘till now, there’s always some way Rick is still in the picture.
Another Rick shows up demanding to know what’s going on. Rick says that he cancelled his regeneration process “two seasons” ago, so he thinks his backup got rerouted into this universe. This is how the fascist multiverse begins. Is it that in all other worlds Rick has long since been a fascist? It’s also a classic “mumbo jumbo” science explanation for what was always going to happen anyway (see above), and it’s also a fourth-wall break where Rick refers to the time as two seasons ago. Rick is basically Deadpool at this point.
The other Rick says “it’s annoying to have to ask, but you are down with fascist dystopias, right?” This is an odd question. First, the other Rick says “it’s annoying to have to ask,” as though most people would agree fascist dystopias are good, but a small yet persistent minority refuses to see it. This is obviously counter to our world, where (apparently) most people are not cool with fascist dystopias. Yet in a way we already live in a fascist dystopia, and people defend our current system all the time. So, in a way, this scene is a commentary on the fact that we consider our own point of view “common sense,” even if we are a fascist or some other “radical.” Yet the same bias exists for the “centrist,” the “moderate” whose opinion is taken as given to be the bedrock of the acceptable. How is the center molded? By bureaucracies analogous to a fascist or collectivist dictatorship! Therefore, in a way we are all little Eichmanns, ready to allow others to die and be ridiculed forever, and viewing it as a neutral opinion.
Next, in the statement, the other Rick calls it a fascist dystopia. Why would he call it a dystopia if he thinks it is a good thing, that we should be “down” with? This is an odd phrasing, since dystopias have a negative connotation. Perhaps this has something to do with the knowing taking up of the mantle of Evil. Why does the Dark Side call itself the Dark Side? Why does the Injustice League call itself that? This links up with Baudrillard’s point that power simply assumes the critique of itself, the Bank ad “I’m interested in your money!” epitomizing this phenomenon. By stealing critique, power leaves nothing to its former critics, and as Debord says it is impossible to show that you are laughing at power, since all mockery of power is accounted for and turned inward into raw material for the production of misery. In context, it could also imply that this Rick more recently turned into a fascist, since he is calling a fascist dystopia by what he might have called it before.
Cut to a picture of Rick with a black guy with the caption “Thanks for sterilizing China!” and it looks like it may be signed by Mitt Romney. In this timeline, did Mitt Romney become black? Rick is also wearing Nazi-type regalia, showing that race purity and domination have made a full comeback (along with, you know, sterilizing billions of people. This is also a reference to the new conflict between the West and China, which is starting to frame all political discussion; it acknowledges that the West has committed atrocities against China in the past and is an aggressive operator, as opposed to the “West = Democratic, China = Authoritarian” propaganda which is incessantly shoved down our throats. The idea of Mitt Romney becoming black inside of a world where America embraces Nazism underscores the possibility of a multicultural fascism, an eventuality which is undertheorized in political discourse. Things like “political correctness” can easily be appropriated for fascist activity, which seems for the moment like the 2nd worst eventuality, though in practice the center-right fascism of Trump and the center-left fascism of the establishment democrats are simply moving toward each other. Most “progressive” and “populist” discourses feed into this narrative as well, as fundamental things like the constitution and private property are not questioned hard enough, fast enough to prevent the sweeping pincer movement of physical force and subtle indoctrination.
Other Rick says Rick’s yes was pretty liberal with a Y. Does this mean lyberal? Libyral? It also shows that such totalitarian ideologies require not only compliance, but enthusiasm, and punish lack of enthusiasm. In reality, the logic is always that the subject is not loyal enough, and that power can punish and bully us around because we are always already guilty. That is why we must challenge the logic of the law. Fascist Morty comes in, and Rick tries to convince his that he is the real fascist, and that other Rick is a socialist imposter. Does this imply Rick is a socialist, or was that just the group he went to for fascist Morty to hate? Fascist Morty kills other Rick, saying that he was “too political” and that he wants to have classic Rick and Morty adventures.
This shows the simple desire for entertainment without bothering with politics. Yet politics is involved in the groundwork for any simple ludic activity, such as going on adventures. It’s clear that there is some kind of interdimensional government which keeps track of things, and without which all of Morty’s families might be killed, or something like that. This is how in our world, many people don’t like politics, but it’s clear that someone has to do something because things like climate change are coming. This just goes to show that we have to make politics more fun and fun more political. The wealthy are already doing this: shooting games being used for Army marketing, propaganda at football games, etc. All AV media entertainment is straight propaganda for the system most of the time.
Does R&M fall into this category? It flirts with the distinction, with Rick’s highest sage moments coming in times of indifference. Perhaps fun is necessary for the law just as the law is necessary for fun. Rick is fine with the plan, but fascist Morty points the gun and says “you will go where I want you to go!” Again, Rick is trapped by an inferior mind, and fascist Morty, while considering other Rick “too political,” is himself hungry for power and domination, which we recall is a sign of the lack of intelligence, from Baudrillard’s Agony of Power. Rick never dominates for domination’s sake, but for an instrumental purpose which is connected with some higher function, even if that higher function is just pleasing his hedonism, since he is the great Rick so his pleasure is “worth it.” Like a Buddhist enlightened person, he gathers no karma so he can do whatever. Fascist Morty is an idiot in comparison, since he is constraining a more intelligent being for a simplistic and childish purpose.
Cut to Morty at school, where many iteration of holographic Rick are protesting him as he walks to class, chanting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, not cloning your grandpa has got to go.” This is again parodying “social justice warriors” and those who protest against things perceived as morally unacceptable. For one, it is striking how this one chant form is always used. As someone who has been in protests, it’s remarkable how uncreative the chants can be. Perhaps this is a tactic seeded in by “leaders” who are trying to derail the movements? The signs have wordplay similar to slogans from our world. “We see through you,” is an appropriation of a slight which holographic people may receive, or a difference between them and “real” people. An analogue might be “we see you” directed toward intelligence agencies, which “see us” all by soaking up our online data. Also: “We’re here, we’re sheer” is a clear twist on “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” which was obviously used by queer demonstrators to try to normalize queerness in society.
Holographic Rick associates Morty not doing what he wants with injustice against him, which is entitled, since Morty doesn’t disparage the hologram or use derogatory language, but instead doesn’t want to clone Rick because he is oriented toward his fantasy of death. Morty doesn’t have a good reason not to clone Rick, but that doesn’t make it unjust not to listen to holographic Rick. Thus, it’s a comment on how those protesting for social justice may just be weaponizing those concepts in order to get their way. On the other hand, it’s not like holographic Rick is derailing some actually good plan. Morty is obsessed with death. Similarly, people who argue on the basis of justice, even if in bad faith, are arguing with a society which is obsessed with death, obsessed with knowing how it will all turn out. Perhaps we just dream of painlessly merging into the machine. Whatever it is, it shows that the normal world is pathological as well, and that thoughts of sex and death are always right below the surface.
The pot smoking holographic Rick takes a while to snap back into holographic Rick. Obligatory pot joke. Why is pot so ubiquitous? Why is it so even when it is federally illegal?
Morty reveals that he’s going for a death with Jessica, but when she approaches it becomes less certain. So, Morty runs away. This goes to show that feelings about the future can bring us great comfort, but when we go to implement them, everything goes haywire. Therefore, we sit back, and our aspirations are mere compensatory fantasies which help keep us locked in a programmed state. Holographic Rick tells him to throw the stone away, stop thinking of death, and talk to whoever he wants. This also shows a lack of self-awareness on Rick’s part.
First, telling someone to stop thinking about something is impossible, showing that Rick deals with his problems through repression, which is also unwise. This is outlined in ironic process theory. Next, he says to simply do what “you want,” which is not a simple thing. It is not easy to know what one wants, and confusing mere impulses with deep desires can lead one astray. It seems Rick follows his impulses and represses deeper metacognition, yet he is so intelligent that he functions well, working around his repressed trauma through distracting schemes.
Morty says holographic Rick sounds like real Rick, to which holographic Rick responds “you’re better than that language.” This is another way of seeming to be benevolent, telling people that they have a higher status than they think, but in order to control. Rick responds “I’m not better than shit, Jack,” which shows that Morty feels reduced at the moment, which is why he’s obsessed with the Crystal, but also that moralistic argument is easily defeated by a simple dismissal of the value system attached to it. Values are arbitrary in a way, so any moralistic emotional coercion can simply be dealt with by machine guns or such.
Cut to Phoenix Rick and Fascist Morty in a spaceship with that gear guy who Rick messed up last season (gears still in mouth), and fascist Morty tells Rick not to do meta-commentary, but to simply enjoy the “classic adventure.” Fascist Morty is in indeed fascist by wanting things to be like ideal of the past. In reality, we know Rick has always done such meta-commentary. In addition, Fascist Morty is himself doing metacommentary. This is just how fascists often have commitments outside their “official positions,” as does everyone. We have contradictory values, and often egocentric ones. Fascist Morty doesn’t want Rick to do meta-commentary, but he wants to do his own in order to impose his desire for a simple adventure.
Phoenix Rick has a good line, which it “it would help to say anything except what you don’t want,” which shows the challenge to people who are so negative or reactionary: whether that means viewing “cultural Marxism” or the “multicultural communist left” as the fundamental evil, or else “racist sexist white supremacist cis patriarchy” or some such agglomeration. We each feel entitled to getting our own way, even though this means strong-arming others who then do not get their way.
Fascist Morty says he like Meseeks, so Rick has Mr. Meseekses come out and kill Fascist Morty, who fires his gun to defend himself, leading to everyone being sucked out and Phoenix Rick dying. Rick says “kill this Nazi prick,” so we know that Rick doesn’t like Nazism. Perhaps more because it is dumb than because of moral reasons? I think this could be important. Rick could also just reflect US political values, in which case anti-Nazism is simply a façade to act like the US is not also a totalitarian dystopia.
Another Rick is regenerated as a shrimp of some kind. It seems that there are other worlds where a Rick evolved from a shrimp or something? Yet it still evolved toward “Rickness,” which could be a metaphor in our timeline for some transcultural state achievable by many different kinds of entities in different timelines, again possibly similar to a Nirvana type concept. Shrimp Morty comes in, asking if other Shrimp Rick is making clones, but both Ricks are united in shouting him down. It seems they get along. This is “the way of the world” for Rick, where he berates Morty because he’s an idiot and feels no guilt for doing so.
They talk about how Phoenix Shrimp Rick is ape-descended, yet the house is exactly the same. Again, the same mental structure which these being evolved into will arrange its domicile in the same way. Other Shrimp Rick says “that’s such a mindfuck” casually, as the show rubs in the fact that it deals with an extended multiverse that is never explained. This reflects how that is the case in reality, and the story is never really grounded all the way. Things just happen to work out sometimes, which is just as absurd as this plot point in its own way.
In its hegemonic function, power is a virtual configuration that metabolizes any element to serve its own purposes. It could be made of countless intelligent particles, but its opaque juncture would not change. It is like a body that changes its cells constantly while remaining the same. Soon, every molecule of the American nation will have come from somewhere else, as if by transfusion. America will be Black, Indian, Hispanic, and Puerto Rican while remaining America. It will be all the more mythically American in that it will no longer be “authentically’ American. And all the more fundamentalist in that it will no longer have a foundation (even though it never had one, since even the Founding Fathers came from somewhere else). And all the more bigoted in that it will have become, in fact, multiracial and multicultural. And all the more imperialist in that it will be led by the descendants of slaves. That is the subtle and unassailable logic of power; it cannot be changed.
Phoenix Shrimp Rick says he’s happy Other Shrimp Rick isn’t a fascist, but Other Shrimp Rick is a fascist. Cut to Phoenix Shrimp Rick running down the street screaming “damn, when did this shit become the default?” before being chased down and killed by fascist shrimp. Firstly, red, white, and black are the oldest three colors, therefore it’s no accident that the flags are the same. It’s the two colors with the highest contrast (white/black), plus red which is the color of blood and so symbolically central in our lives.
Second, social systems rely on in-group/out-group functioning to work, and with the development of more and more powerful technology, social discrimination becomes for wide reaching, psychologically precise in its damage, targeted, and the dominant biases in society come to be expressed as part of a totalitarian bureaucracy which uses the technological means at its disposal to centralize control and crush all dissent. This can happen in any social group, not just “conservative ones,” since any social group can become conservative by simply reinforcing its own principles into the ground.
Morty is at school still following the Crystal. The math teacher gives him an “A in confidence” because Morty draws gibberish on the board. This goes to show that Morty has found a powerful new form of identity, his attachment to his death, which allows him not to worry about violating this or that social norm. The math teacher will show up later, being eaten by the well-adjusted Wasp Family.
Morty struts down the hallways, when a bully says he will kill him, referencing the Coco movie in another ham-handed corporate plug (to go along with the Amazon plug). Morty says the bully should just go with the flow, nice and Zen. Yet in reality that’s not what Morty is doing, since Zen would proceed for letting go of some fantasy of death, instead of perversely taking great pleasure from a fantasy and blocking the world out. The Death Crystal is like an ideology, which gives Morty a superficial sense of self yet which he is entirely enslaved to.
The bully bangs his head on a locker, giving himself head trauma. Perhaps the message is that Morty is out of touch, just speaking platitudes instead of seeing what this individual needed to hear. Triggered by trauma, perhaps from people telling him to “chill out” while emotionally neglecting or abusing him, the bully begins to self-harm and becomes violent. This shows that ideology, while it gives us a sense of purpose and safety, can lead us astray by leading us to have simplistic readings of situations and of our possible engagements with them. The bully says “you will die tomorrow. It’s what bullies call a fait accompli.” This is a joke because most bullies are anti-intellectual, so they wouldn’t say that. Also just a direct literary term reference.
Holographic Rick is eating fried chicken, saying Morty got himself into a “lick” of trouble, referencing the “finger lickin’ good” slogan, another shameless corporate plug. Morty asks why holographic Rick eats food that isn’t real, and holographic Rick asks why it’s not real? Because it has no nutrients. Holographic Rick points out that what Morty eats is not what he considers food to himself, showing that applying the norms of the “abnormal” to the normal gives a similar view. Then holographic Rick suggest they respect each other, continually poking at the social problem of how to get along when there are radically different experiences involved.
To give an example, our current universities are set up very poorly to help motivate students and help them excel. Why? Because schools try to get children to be what the “experts” say they should be, instead of allowing for more input to come from children themselves, and having respect for the fact that established value systems may be incorrect, and thus that radical challenges to all forms of thought, and respect for the development of all cultural forms, ought to be encouraged by everyone, especially because our diminished standard for others may one day be applied to ourselves.
Morty finds a secret safe in Rick’s lab, and uses the Crystal to unlock it. Holographic Rick says that while Real Rick is the epitome of “bloated flesh privilege,” he’s right that it’s better to live in the moment. This insight, again, is core to Buddhism and other mystical philosophies, which point out that sequential time doesn’t really exist.
Holographic Rick says “oh, just because I can’t interact with solid matter means you can just walk all over me,” which has multiple interpretations. 1) It’s an obvious statement; yes that is the case, since Holographic Rick can’t stop Morty from doing anything. 2) This is analogous to our world, where the powerful do what they can and the weak “suffer what they must” (Thucydides). 3) This invocation is questionable, since in our world the weak can interact with the world. 4) Maybe it means the “real world” is out of reach for non-elites, such that we can interact with the world, but can’t really hope to change it. 5) Yet maybe this isn’t true, and the dispossessed actually have much more power than they think, making “you’re only one person” nothing but a slogan of the system designed to make people defeatist instead of inspired. Morty loads up with weapons.
Teddy Bear Phoenix Rick wakes up from suspension, finds out he’s in a fascist world from a German speaking fascist Teddy Bear Rick, and commits suicide. This is a joke, in context, which is not making light of real suicide since this Rick knows he will come back. It could be a metaphor for not talking to people you disagree with, since you just “suicide” the conversation instead of hashing it out. We have to hash it out eventually, or get the end run on the “fascist dystopia” default option.
End of Act I