What Rick and Morty Tells Us About Nerd Culture

Growing up Cartoon Network was the go to for the risqué programming you weren’t getting from other networks as a kid. They constantly pushed buttons with Ed Edd and Eddy, Grim and Evil, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Johnny Bravo to name a few. There was a bevy of innuendos and references that usually went over a kid’s head but later in life made you go “oh wow”. Over the years Cartoon Network manifested a late night version of it’s programming that became Adult Swim. Adult Swim has grown to become more than just a late night hang for those looking for a raunchy laugh, essentially becoming the adult cartoon locale. From shows like The Boondocks, Aqua Teen Huger Force, and Robot Chicken, Adult Swim is now a staple in nerd culture that has rarely been seen before. Well before Rick and Morty.

I think one of the crazy things about Adult Swim is that it has things like Mike Tyson Mysteries which makes you go “yes, this is exactly where a Mike Tyson cartoon show should be”, and also reruns of Bob’s Burgers which are essential viewing. But I don’t feel any of their shows have grown outside of cult favorites or funny YouTube clips to watch while you’re looking to laugh. Rick and Morty quietly changed that over the past few years. A show revolving around Rick Sanchez (a Doc Brown type) and Morty Smith (absolutely not Michael J. Fox) who are grandpa and grandson respectively, traveling around different galaxies and planets just messing things up. It is hilarious, inappropriate, and deep into it’s 3rd season. Rick and Morty, a brainchild of Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon (yes the same one of Community), has slowly seeped into the Zeitgeist, ultimately eclipsing “cult status”. I recall when season 2 was being released I stopped into the press room at New York Comic Con and it was half empty. If season 3 had a presence at this year’s NYCC, know for sure the room would have been filled in the first 5 minutes of the RSVP.

But, Rick and Morty has exposed an open secret; geekdom is mainstream. I know this comes to a shock to most people, and to even more this is blasphemy, but it’s true. Lets look at New York Comic Con or even San Diego. San Diego brought in over 175,000 people this past year, while New York brought in over 200,000. That is an insane amount of people hitting a convention center over 3-4 days. Being a geek isn’t a bad thing like when we were younger. You don’t have to hide your love for cartoons, comics, or even My Little Pony anymore. You like what you like, we value this honest assessment of our interests. Is it just Adult Swim or even Rick and Morty to thank? No, it’s more than that. We are deep into comic book movies, a phenomenon that has outlasted everyone’s expectations. Our best films are being made out of comics, culminating into a rare air of quality and quantity. Television is also invested in this culture, giving us fan favorites like Arrow (which is bolstered by it’s social media king, Stephen Amell), as well as yearly hit, The Big Bang Theory. Add on top of it, the internet (especially Reddit), and you have yourself a perfect storm.

So how did Rick and Morty truly expose this? Szechuan sauce. Huh? Yeah I know. This past year an episode of Rick and Morty revolved around Rick jumping through portals looking for the elusive McDonald’s Szechuan sauce.

In 1998, with the release of the Disney classic Mulan, McDonald’s had a limited edition plum based sauce to go with it’s Chicken McNuggets. I know this sounds crazy but bear with me. When this episode aired people collectively lost their shit. It got to a point where the talented Binging with Babish created an actual recreation of the sauce. This then in turn lead to McDonald’s sending a sample of the sauce to Justin Roiland a little bit after , and THEN Binging with Babish getting an actual helping of the sauce and recipe. Now add on top of all this a Change.org petition with over 44,000 signatures, and you have something a brewing. That thing brewing was McDonald’s deciding last second to drop the sauce at select locations for one day. Uh oh.

See the problems with major corporations is they’re not run by nerds. Yes nerd culture is mainstream now, but nerds don’t run the mainstream. Stuffy guys in nice offices still do. And that’s why this turned out to be a mess. See, McDonald’s dropped TWENTY packets per store and that’s it. This is when there were lines for 10-12 hours as well as thousands of people in line. I know. It sounds insane, but it’s very, very true. There were riots, fights, and Ebay listings going for hundreds of dollars. This, to me, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We are in PEAK geekdom. It is cool to be a nerd, and shows like Rick and Morty are not some late night joke fest anymore.

Which sucks really. You like to think as a nerd that only you know about this stuff, but that is a pretty terrible notion in this day and age. We are in this weird bubble where geekdom is prevalent, but will it last? I doubt it. I hope I’m wrong, but maybe I am being a tad selfish. Whatever, as long as I can get some Szechuan sauce I’m good. Oh yeah, McDonald’s took their foot out of their mouth and released a statement:

 

Nerds rule!

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