Jermaine Reed, MFA is a college professor and writer from Chicago, who creates fiction, nonfiction and local and national news stories. Subscribe and share to get new blog posts, writing advice and books. Get his recently released Science Fiction novel A Glitch in Humanity by clicking here. Follow J Reed on Twitter @jreed913.
*This contains spoilers of Rick and Morty season four, episodes seven and eight.
When we watch television, we do so to escape reality, and nothing does that as artfully as the Adult Animation Sci Fi show Rick and Morty. Linked by celestial violence and obscenity, the grandfather-grandson duo make entertainment look easy. However, there is a silent racial overtone to the show that I have henceforth overlooked.
The racial elements of Rick and Morty more clearly materialized in season four episode seven “Promortyus”. In this episode, Rick and Morty’s bodies and minds are taken over by parasites that latch on to the face. It is later revealed that Summer has been taken too. Even though she’s queen of the face-sucking creatures, she doesn’t have one stuck to her face.
At any rate, the face parasites are brown-faced with dark blue tentacles and have thick, oval-shaped dark pinkish lips reminiscent of older racist animation of Black people by Disney. With the creatures on their faces, one can’t help but notice how much Rick and Morty seem to be wearing blackface. This, for me, was a particularly troubling idea. It was one I had written off during my first binge of the series.
When I first saw the episode in question, I said, “Maybe these writers know nothing of blackface. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Blackface disguised as alien parasites is a stretch.” But as I binge-watched the series for the fourth time, I noticed something odd in episode eight, “The Vat of Acid Episode” which is directly after the episode in question.
At the end of “Vat of Acid”, protestors, law enforcement, and others Morty has wronged surround Morty’s house. He climbs in a vat of fake acid to fake his death. However, the bones floating to the top of the vat didn’t catch my attention. The sign reading “BLACKFACE” did.
Could it be that right after the accidental “blackface” parasites, the writers coincidentally included the word “Blackface” in the very next episode? Maybe. Morty was, at the time of episode eight when the sign appeared, being accused of horrendous and ridiculous crimes. Or maybe the showrunners thought it would be funny to trigger people with blackface.
Some would wonder, if the parasites represent blackface, on a grander level, what are the creators and/or writers of Rick and Morty saying about Black people? Are they equating Black people to parasites who want to take over the world? What if this is the furtherance of the “Great Replacement Theory”, a false belief that Black people are intentionally attempting to replace white people? Seventy percent of Republicans believe in this theory, and there’s no telling how seeing it emerge in so many forums will influence its believers.
Rick and Morty is a legendary show of cosmos-wide adventures that take us places our otherwise grounded reality cannot. Although the show is entertaining, some of the images may be a bit racial. The team behind this show has made powerful statements with Rick and Morty and must continue to do so. Still, in the interest of the show’s diverse audience, maybe the showrunners should steer clear of racially provocative images.
Subscribe and share.