Newsweek article about fans not understanding Rick and Morty ironically misses the point

As a rule, I try to avoid writing about topics unrelated to anime, manga, or video games. But when I read this article last night on Newsweek, I decided I would make an exception.

Written by Emily Gaudette, the story is about the February 25th launch of the Szechuan Sauce at McDonald’s. Sort of. What it actually is, is an opinion piece on the Rick and Morty fandom.

It’s hard to tell whether she’s a fan of the series or not. And that’s fine. Love it. Hate it. I don’t care. The problem I have is the assumptions that she makes about people that watch the show and the lack of fact-checking.

The thesis of her article is that Rick and Morty is profitable because its audience doesn’t understand the show.

“The problem was, a huge swath of the fanbase wasn’t really in on the joke. Instead of accepting the deeply flawed Rick as Harmon’s satirical take on himself—the writer has publicly battled with substance issues, his ego and depression—thousands of vulnerable fans began to follow Rick like a religious figure.”

I don’t fully understand what she’s trying to say here. Hyperbole aside, yes, some people do identify with Rick, and maybe that wasn’t the point of the series. But to make the claim that this was an elaborate way of Dan Harmon revealing to the world that he’s an asshole is a little nuts.

Even if that was true, and common knowledge, it wouldn’t change anything. This is hardly the first time people have enjoyed watching a show about despicable people; House and Always Sunny come to mind.

Emily also refers to Justin Roiland as an unknown voice actor prior to Rick and Morty. This seems a bit silly considering he was in several episodes of Gravity Falls and Adventure Time years before Rick and Morty came out.

She then spends an entire paragraph on how Adult Swim capitalizes on the fandom by making new merchandise every time a new episode airs. Besides the fact that this is a good business practice — let’s not forget that Adult Swim is a company, Rick and Morty is a project they invested in, and companies like to see returns on their investments — it’s also irrelevant because this article is ostensibly about Szechuan Sauce.

The episode the joke came from was aired April 1, 2017. McDonald’s held it’s Szechaun Sauce event October 7, 2017. Just over six months later! The article wrongly states that this happened weeks after the episode aired. The relaunch happened another five months later! That is not the same thing as releasing Pickle Rick shirt shortly after the episode airs. Not even close. Also, it wasn’t an officially endorsed event.

She also glosses over the fact that McDonald’s severely underestimated the popularity of the original promotion when they sent a mere 20 sauce packets to a handful of stores. Of course people were upset. Some took it too far, but that doesn’t make the fandom toxic.

When the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl this year, the fans literally set their own city on fire. Does that make football fans toxic. What about when people threatened to boycott Dorito’s for making a rainbow chip in support of the LGBT community?

People like to paint nerd culture as a group of weirdos that get too invested in their hobbies, but it’s no different than when people get invested in anything. The fandom isn’t toxic. People are toxic

Most people went to McDonald’s, found out the sauce sold out, and went home. I went to McDonald’s knowing that it was sold out, but I wanted to see the line for myself.

I’m really not sure why she wrote this article now. All she said was, “Rick and Morty is a show that makes money. The fans are crazy. Sauce exists.” This could have just as easily been posted back in October.

More than once, Gaudette says that we didn’t get the joke. That it was a dumb, one-off reference that never comes up again and that we’re making it into a bigger deal than it is. Are we, though? McDonald’s is the one that made it real. On their own. What did you expect? People weren’t going to check it out?

“The whole nasty PR Ouroboros has sealed itself, and a major corporation is profiting off the intellectual property of a different major corporation, all in the name of feeding petulant fans who didn’t get the joke.”

So…what IS the joke then, Emily?

Gary Piano
Gary Piano
Fake Anime Fan. Professional Audio Boy. Founder of GONZO.MOE.