The ABC’s of Sociopaths

Sorry I missed covering the last episode. I may do some retroactive reviews once the season is over but really it was a glorified clip show. Don’t get me wrong it was a good episode and when I say clip show essentially I mean a collection of short stories of which each had merit but it didn’t grab my attention hard enough to make me want to run out and write a review.

This episode on the other hand did. I’m not going to try to narrate the episode word for word but more focus on what I thought was the main theme, which in this case is sociopathy. You see in this episode Beth was forced to come to terms with the fact that more than likely she is just as much of a nihilistic sociopath as Rick is. But those are just words, they are labels and it takes people to apply meaning to words. So lets break down those words and try to dissect what they mean to the us. Nihilism means believing in nothing, literally nothing. What does that even mean you ask? good question it certainly opens up many existential cans of worms but more on that later, first I want to focus on sociopathy.

Sociopathy is defined as a person that cannot empathize with the suffering of other people. Essentially someone who cannot (or chooses not to) imagine themselves in the place of any other person who has a life worse than they do. I have heard figures as high as 10% of the population suffer from this to some extent. But that’s not true right? Rick is even more deserving of that label and I don’t even think he cares more about himself than (some) others. When Beth asks Rick flat out if she is an evil person he replies “worse.. you’re smart”. And I think there is a lot of truth in that statement. For instance imagine you are a scientist who is on the verge of creating fusion energy. If you complete your work successfully you will eliminate the need for fossil fuels entirely. Coal, Natural gas, Oil, all would become expensive relics as our power bills went from pennies per kilowatt to kilowatts per penny. Your work would not only change history but redefine human existence and may even be the difference between the entire species failing or continuing to exist. Now I would imagine you would be pretty hyper focused on your goal. You certainly are not going to spend your time volunteering at homeless shelters. You may even be a dick to anyone who distracts you from the big picture. Sure you could take the time to explain to every person you meet how vital your work is but even that is a distraction you cannot afford. I think that every person who some would label a sociopath believes this or some version of this in their own minds. To what extent it is true or not is up for interpretation but that raises the question who does the interpreting. Only you know enough about your daily efforts to know how important they may be, and you are likely to overestimate their importance. Other people can judge how you treat others but they will never know your justifications let alone know them well enough to judge if they are bullshit or not. Don’t get me wrong I am in no way defending people who engage in sociopathic behavior but essentially my point is that sociopathy shouldn’t be considered a binary yes or no kind of issue. It is in reality a spectrum disorder. Some people are a little bit sociopathic some are a lot. But we all fall somewhere on this spectrum. We have all been guilty at some time or another of thinking or acting selfishly. Rick undoubtedly cares very much about his children and grandchildren. But the fact that in his multiverse he has access to infinite quantities of each complicates the issue drastically. I think Rick does everything he can to take care of the family that he has in the universe he is currently in. Though he also knows better than to put himself in danger just to save any individual one of them. But even this comes with a degree of selfishness because there are also infinite Rick’s also. It’s not a simple issue to quantify, And I think this is why Rick refuses to try. He would rather not make a decision than make a wrong one.

Which brings me back to nihilism. One could easily say that Rick is a nihilist. Rick himself constantly tries to show this is true to whoever will listen. But to believe in nothing is not possible unless you’re currently brain-dead. The mere act of making a choice is a belief that it is the right one. So in reality nihilism is the futile effort to try to believe in nothing. An effort in which Rick continually fails. Rick cares about lots of things. Rick cares about his progeny. Rick cares about Unity. Rick cares about getting drunk. All these things count as something.

You see this is the problem with labels. Labels are a means for lazy people to quantify other people without putting in any effort. Very few people would ever label themselves as sociopathic or nihilistic, they are typically applied to you by other people who do not understand you and don’t care to. Does this mean that people never act in sociopathic or nihilistic ways? No of course not. But those are symptoms of bigger problems, not causes. To slap a label like this on someone is to write them off, and I think it is shitty to write people off. I am guilty of doing so just like anyone else. But that doesn’t make it right. If you know someone who acts this sort of way all I can tell you is to keep trying to reach them because there is clearly some inner pain they are hiding. Anyway, sorry if you thought this was a review when it actually turned into a massive digression. The episode was great. Go watch it and you will see for yourself. 😀

P.S. I don’t think Beth was cloned.

Tales from the Citadel of Morty

In Rick & Morty the subtext IS the show.

Nowhere is this more evident than the recent S3E7 episode “The Ricklantis Mixup”. This episode promises to take us on self contained adventure to Atlantis and immediately drops that promise on the floor. Instead delivering us into several ‘day in the life’ threads from the recently liberated Citadel of Ricks. There are several stories here, From a group of disenfranchised school children who go looking for the magical wishing portal, a la “Stand By Me”. To a “Training day” esque. story of a beat cop on the take of the local crime syndicate trying to push his rookie partner to accept the status quo. Those tale’s were all pretty amazing but not the one I want to talk about today.

This one is just stupid good. And it is a testament to Dan & Justin’s art that only upon reflection do you realize you’ve just watched what is essentially a clip show sans flashbacks. What an amazing concept to have an entire city made of two people. To recap the Citadel is a massive city sized space station made of all the Ricks’ & Mortys’ across the multiverse that have decided to take up common cause. They struck some sort of pact to work together and the city is the result of their labor. But as happens all too often in life what looks good on paper can cause trauma and heartbreak in practice. These little details are swept under the rug by those who hold power to uphold the illusion of a functioning system. Thus is the basis for much of our human existence not to mention this episode. Maybe it’s Rick who summarizes it best when he says “Whoever is still exploring the citadel, is either stupid, or one of the unfortunate millions held hostage by their terrible ideas.”

But wait Jim, Didn’t you just say they were set free?

That’s true, Back in S3E1 Rick C137 transported the entire citadel into the middle of an alien prison. This resulted in the murder of all council members along with many of the city’s citizens essentially setting the city free. But freedom is not as simple of a concept as we would like to believe. The power vacuum always gets filled and there is never a guarantee that it will be filled by a benevolent leadership. This takes us to the main thread of this story. With the council’s elimination the city becomes Democratic. It’s election season in the Citadel, and the candidate’s are unremarkably similar. (sound familiar?) They are especially so in this scenario being all the same person, all Ricks’, and all too willing to tell the public exactly what they want to hear.

They are all this way except for one. There is one candidate that stands out. The Morty party candidate.

 

Quickly voted “Most adorable” by the Rick pundits it’s clear that he is not taken seriously, even by his Campaign Manager. But after a barn buster of a speech during a publicized debate about class warfare the and divisive tactics being waged on both Ricks’ & Mortys’ alike it’s also clear that he is the dark horse underdog. Candidate Morty promptly fires Campaign Manager Morty. Who, now depressed, finds himself drinking his woes away in a shady dive bar when a shadowy anonymous Rick hands him a dossier full of incriminating evidence against his former employer. Distressed by this information CM Morty tries to assassinate the Candidate, shooting him in the chest in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses.

The next we see Candidate Morty he is now President Morty. Having miraculously survived his assassination attempt, along with miraculously surviving his election. His true nature is immediately apparent. We have seen this Morty before. He is the only Morty with that much certainty, cunning, and confidence. He is the only Morty that never stutters. He’s the only Morty that can stand up to a Rick’s sheer intelligence not to mention force of will. That’s right.. Cue the Blonde Redheads. Evil Morty is Back!

This is literary genius, Not only was his character played perfectly but it has been so long since we last saw him that I never thought for a second that it could actually be Evil Morty until I heard that song. This story arc is shaping up to be the protagonist/nemesis dynamic that defines the series. He is easily the most dangerous and cunning villain the C137 duo have faced yet. Add to that the fact that C137 Rick & Morty have been sloppy with their game recently and you end up with a pending cage match that will showcase exactly what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.

Not much more to say except that the political aspect of this episode really hit home for me. The hopelessness of the Citadel residents, trapped in a prison of their own creation. The way Ricks’ inevitably stereotype, manipulate, ostracize or flat out use their peers, who are not alike to them but literally ARE them. The utopia illusion, forever close yet forever out of reach. All too bleak.. all too real..

But.. wanting to write about it made me start this blog so maybe a silver lining after all 😀

9/10 (would be a 10/10 but I’m holding out to see if the end of the story arc is a better episode.)