Presumably, Roiland’s, Rick and Morty (2013) that airs

Presumably,
since the beginning of time, we, as human beings, have tirelessly sought out answers
toward a greater, predetermined and/or significant purpose in our lives. The
question is still unanswered, but the desire remains—what is the point? The contradiction
between searching for order, reason or existential purpose and the inability to
find any type of purpose in an essentially meaningless and indifferent universe
is what French philosopher, Albert Camus, considered “Absurd.” Any hopeful searching
for concrete meanings is met with the discouraging and disheartening
realization that there are no true meanings. For many of us, the idea of the
world being made with no fated purpose or that any individual effort made
toward changing the world will be met by a forgetful and meaningless universe
that will continue to be indifferent toward our existence is a despairing
notion.

Camus
believed The Myth of Sisyphus to be
the embodiment of the Absurdist struggle as, according to Greek Mythology,
Sisyphus was a king who deceived the Gods and was sentenced to an eternity of rolling
a boulder up a mountain by hand. The twist that punishment is that the boulder
will only roll back down upon reaching the mountain’s summit. This left
Sisyphus repeating his pointless task endlessly, eventually coming to an understanding
of the emptiness of his condemned doing.

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Camus
believed Sisyphus was representative of humanity that is bound to an existence
of meaninglessness and senselessness, and sentenced to never-ending labor with
no real reward; and that is the core of the late-night satirical episodic created
by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s, Rick
and Morty (2013) that airs on Cartoon Network-owned Adult Swim. The show is
laced with many Absurdist undertones and that is represented throughout all
three seasons, but in the absurdist universe depicted in Rick and Morty, the episodic model used for the show stands as an
embodiment for the absurd existence mirrored in the world that we inhabit. Loosely
based on characters from Back to the
Future (1985), the show takes
place in a universe where there are infinite realities and worlds and
dimensions with extraterrestrial species and spacefaring adventures. In the
show, both title characters, Rick and Morty, inhabit expendable worlds that are
easily replaceable with the push of Rick’s self-created portal gun. Any species’
perception of self-importance or distinction is completely rejected by the rest
of the universe’s indifference toward their existence.

For
example, in the eyes of citizens of Earth—whichever Earth Rick and Morty may be
on—the idea of destroying a planet and its inhabitants by the Cromulons, a species
of enormous floating heads introduced in the episode, “Get Schwifty,” appears as
an act of wickedness and cruelty. For the Cromulons, destroying planets and its
inhabitants is a form of entertainment as they are hosts of an intergalactic game
show where planets are picked and its inhabitants must create and sing a song
in order to make it to the next round or be faced with watching their worlds
end. Think of this episode as an episode of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, but with giant floating boulder-textured
heads, with egos that are bigger than the combination Randy Jackson, Simon
Cowell and whoever the other interchangeable host is.

This
is also an episode where the citizens of Earth questioned their religious
beliefs, eventually tying a thief, a gothic woman, and a “movie talker” to a bouquet
of balloons, in hopes that they will float toward their newfound “gods,” the Cromulons,
for judgement and punishment.

Absurd
deaths are laced throughout the series, and while death is an impactful to some
of the show’s characters and storytelling, death is almost used as a punchline as
the laughter comes from a character within the show or from the viewers
themselves. In the episode “Anatomy Park,” a character named Alexander meets
his demise as a result of a cough/sneeze from a homeless, drunk Santa Claus whose
organs and body have been turned into a theme park thanks to Rick’s imagination
and genius technological and scientific advancements. The episodic-essence of Rick and Morty sees its protagonists in
a prolonged series of pointless and loosely connected misadventures and events,
where no relationship exists between one instance and the next.

The
absurdity is primarily based on the idea that despite their extraordinary interdimensional
adventures—and their best attempts to make a difference in the universe—their lives
are caught in a continuous cycle of random, illogical events that never
fundamentally get better or changes the universe in any way. And while in
actuality, many of life’s problems are not and cannot be justified within the
30-minute span of a late-night television show, Rick and Morty breaks down our individual tendency to exacerbate trivial
fears and uncertainties and daily problems that will unsurprisingly be insignificant
in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

In
the episode “Meeseeks and Destroy,” the Meeseeks Box was created by Rick to
fulfill needs that he either does not want to fulfill or is “too busy” for, and
eventually the needs of his family, in a timely fashion… each one of them greeting
the family and the audience, with “I’m Mr. Meeseeks!”

Rick
and Morty, themselves, are the opposite of the Meeseeks character, a happy blue
mythical texture-less being that is summoned from a box to complete mundane tasks
that the Smith Family cannot complete on their own. Upon completion of their
objective by the person who summoned it, the Meeseeks would poof into thin air, disappearing—or dying—until
another one is summoned to complete new task.

Rick,
Morty, and the characters in the show’s expansive universe, are not there to
serve a singular purpose. They are simply brought into the world and are now fumbling
around for meaning. Like Sisyphus, Rick and Morty’s lives are characterized by unproductive
and stagnancy repetition, with many attempts to forge some kind of meaning for
their circumstances being confronted, reminding them, and us, that it is
senseless to search for meaning.

According
to Camus, Sisyphus, and by the extension, mankind not entirely hopeless as
Camus believed that the consciousness to “constitute Sisyphus’ torture” acts
as an instrument of victory.

“…It
is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that
toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back
down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never
know the end…” Camus continued, “At each of those moments when Sisyphus
leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is
superior to his fate. Sisyphus is stronger than his rock…”

Sisyphus
may not have been able to change the doomed situation that he was in, but he chose
to accept it; and this is the same consciousness in the mind of an individual where
they can claim their fate—a personal and self-motivated rebellion against the
mechanical meaninglessness of the universe— and can continue to exist in the
universe despite its utter pointlessness. Camus believed Sisyphus found his respite
in his pointlessness task by accepting it.

This
made Camus reject the idea of suicide or spirituality as he believed that only facing
the Absurdity of the universe and adopting it would make someone achieve human
freedom to its fullest extent. Camus endorsed that our lives will be forgotten
and our existences would have been meaningless along with our accomplishments. And
as opposed to melancholy, understanding those realizations can be an inspiration
and comforting.

In
Rick and Morty, there is a special
moment that captures Camus’ understanding. In a scene from “Rixty Minutes,”
Morty confronts his sister, Summer, shortly after she recently discovered that
she was an unwanted pregnancy and the possible cause to her parents’, Beth and
Jerry’s, disgruntled marriage. Summer begins to question whether her life has
purpose, until Morty, upon hearing her distress and watching her pack her bags
to run away, says “Don’t run.
Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s going to die.
Come watch TV?” While the understanding that no one exists for a
specific purpose or reason is an unnerving notion to some, there is an
alleviating idea that in the absence of all-encompassing direction and fade,
significance and meaning can manifest themselves in the smallest of pleasures
of life, whether they are in the form of friends, family, the environment that
we put ourselves in, or simply watching a late-night television show. Camus’ philosophy
is not a source of helplessness, but more of a “lucid invitation to live
and to create in the very midst of the desert.”

Camus
believed that there is no reason to be serious about finding a meaning or be
discouraged about discovering that there is a lack of meaning in the world and
in the universe because it contains a variety of comforts and enjoyments, no
matter how small they are. To simply put, and as Rick would say, “Don’t think
about it.”

Rick
and Morty are conscious of their meaninglessness, but they continue to carry
their experiences with them, never allowing sorrow to overwhelm their lives. And
by episodically emphasizing life’s fleeting nature through a series of quickly
resolved, forgettable and unimportant events, Rick and Morty is a show where the attention is on the smaller, personal
stories and struggles of an abnormal American family and their day-to-day
lives, and the human emotions that accompany the chaotic nature of the
disgruntled family. In the absurd universe, mankind is caught in between acceptance
of the meaninglessness of the universe and the ability and wanting to laugh at
it. Rick and Morty, despite the show’s
often bitter truths and jagged realities, is primarily a comedy for true Absurdist.

In
an absurd universe that is void of order, logic and meaning, we, its
inhabitants, have a lot that we can laugh about because, in the end, it does
not matter if the boulder rolls back down the mountain as Camus believed mankind
will always find their burdens.