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Have you heard the latest news? The Rick and Morty fanbase is toxic. Their fans are whiny manbabies who went absolutely rabid over a one-time joke in the season three opening.
Zealous fans of the animated comedy were excited when McDonald’s recently announced it was bringing back Szechuan sauce, which was referenced in an episode of the show. In the scene, after traveling to a simulation of 1998, main character Rick Sanchez reveals his love for Mulan-themed Szechuan McNugget sauce, and goes into a ridiculous rant over his love of the sauce. After the episode aired, the fandom went absolutely crazy on social media, calling for McDonald’s to bring back the sauce. And bring back the sauce McDonald’s did.
McDonald’s underestimated how popular the show had become, limiting how much Szechuan sauce they would be selling at their outlets. Thousand lined up outside McDonald’s outlets around the United States. Many were disappointed. Many showed their disappointment in incredibly dramatic ways.
The Rick and Morty fandom were acting absolutely ridiculous, there’s no doubt about it. Their behavior—like a man who sold his car for a sachet of the sauce, to another fan who screeched and jumped on a McDonald’s counter—seems to be completely irrational. Rick and Morty is a funny show, there also no doubt about that. To the uninitiated, Rick and Morty is a modern Back to the Future with the humor of early Family Guy and The Simpsons. Despite dealing with the multiple-worlds theory, it is not a show you are meant to take seriously. It is something you watch for its light-hearted moments (except for the ending in season one’s Rick Potion #9, or the scene between Morty and King Jellybean in Meeseeks and Destroy).
The mainstream media jumped on the Szechuan sauce incident as proof Rick and Morty has a toxic fanbase. How toxic fans turned a hit cartoon into a hate movement, roared The Telegraph. Rick And Morty’ Fans Take Obnoxiousness To A Whole New Dimension, shouted Forbes. Variety took it to woke levels, proclaiming: Harassment of Women Flows From Harvey Weinstein to ‘Rick and Morty’ Trolls. Struggling to find news that wasn’t about Donald Trump and his overuse of Twitter, many sites rejoiced at this event. Finally! Something else we can blame on toxic masculinity and fascists and Russia/Bernie! they cheered to each other.
It is true this element of the Rick and Morty fandom is toxic. What these sites—and many people—are leaving out is this is not limited to the Rick and Morty fanbase. When a show escapes from its niche status, and become mainstream, toxic people start enjoying the show. Prior to season three, Rick and Morty was a niche show that didn’t enjoy too much popularity and mainstream attention. Two events changed everything: the long wait for season three, which ramped up anticipation, and lead to many people joining the show’s bandwagon. The second was co-creator Dan Harmon’s announcement he would be hiring more female writers for the show. Naturally, this brought the horrible, over-political people (the Social Justice Left and the 4Chan-slash-r/TheDonald Right) out of the woodwork. What’s this? they thought. A show which we can turn into a political shitstorm? Yay!
With these two “events”, Rick and Morty had officially become mainstream. And what happens when a show becomes mainstream? Toxic people jump onto the bandwagon. The same happened with the early seasons of Family Guy, Rick and Morty’s predecessor. After Family Guy was canceled and returned and canceled and returned, it brought attention to the show, and many people who’d otherwise never heard of the show jumped on as fans. The show became mainstream. Many of these were toxic. Now, Family Guy is a shell of its former self, just like Rick and Morty will be in a few years.
It’s not just limited to animated shows. Ever heard of Superwholock? Well, it’s the combined fandom of three popular television programs: Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. The fandom for Superwholock is prominent on Tumblr, and if you think the Rick and Morty fandom can be rabid, you haven’t seen Superwholock. It’ll make anybody embarrassed to be a Supernatural, Doctor Who, or Sherlock, fan. The same is true with many other shows featured prominently on Tumblr: Adventure Time, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black.
When a show becomes prominent and mainstream, the chance of obnoxious and toxic fans increases. This is incredibly disappointing for Rick and Morty, because the toxicity of these new fans has made the show less enjoyable. By catering to these Szechuan sauce fiends—the ones who shout one-line wonders like “Pickle Rick” and the Szechuan sauce bit—it makes the show less. The show is now more known for its awful one liners and more awful fandom than the actually interesting parts of the show. More people know the embarrassing copypasta that is “To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty…” than they remember memorable characters like Mr Meeseeks and Krombopulous Michael.
Rick and Morty has a toxic fanbase, but it is not unique to the show. However, if we let people like the Szechuan sauce lunatics take over the show, then the show will head down the same route as Family Guy, The Simpsons, and many other once-great cartoons that are barely the exoskeletons of their former selves.
For a sauce that wasn’t even endorsed by Adult Swim and Rick and Morty, it’s amazing how many people fell for McDonald’s marketing. It’s truly something to show future Advertising and Marketing students as a bar for how gullible the public is.