While there are plenty of television shows out there that struggle to find an audience, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s Rick And Morty operates with one of the most engaged fanbases around. Not only do people clearly love the show (and showcase that love online frequently), but they also dig deep into it and formulate all kinds of strange theories about both past episodes and where things are going in the future. It’s a fun group to be a part of if you really love the Adult Swim series – but if you’re hoping that the show’s creators are constantly digging through the material and reading fan pieces, we have some disappointing news: they’re not. On the plus side, however, they have some very good reasons.
With Rick and Morty Season 4 having just ended, I recently thought to look back at a two-on-one interview I did with Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland prior to the main run of Season 3 episodes, and one of the interesting subjects covered in conversation was about their relationship with fans and their engagement with fan engagement. I asked the duo about their awareness of chatter and audience theorizing, and they explained why it is that they’ve learned to keep away. Said Roiland,
Continuing, and being as respectful to the Rick and Morty fans as possible, Justin Roiland explained that part of the detachment from fan theories and chatter comes simply from his closeness to the material. In the same way that a farmer may not want to peruse a bunch of corn recipes after spending an entire day harvesting, the show co-creator doesn’t ever find himself feeling super excited to read message boards and social media after having spent his days burning out his brain coming up with material in the writer’s room and recording booth. He explained,
For Dan Harmon, the case of Rick and Morty is an interesting one, as he has a bit of experience when it comes to actively discussing his work with a show’s fanbase. When his first network series, Community, was airing on NBC, Harmon was regularly interacting with audiences and even incorporated certain encounters into various episodes (a prime example being Chevy Chase's Pierce’s use of the fake expression “Streets ahead” in Season 1, which originated from a fan mocking Harmon online using the non-existent phrase).
As Harmon explained, part of the reason he felt compelled to be a part of that conversation was because he felt that being a part of it helped him psychologically deal with the fact that it existed and wasn’t something within his control:
To further express his view on the subject, Dan Harmon used what is a frequent metaphor among Hollywood writers by comparing his work to a flesh-and-blood baby that a parent raises and puts out into the world. As a good parent, he wants to be sure that his child is being treated well and respectfully – but the nature of the world is that it’s never going to provide the exact treatment you expect, and it’s a hard thing to see something innocent exposed to cruel nature. Said Harmon,
It’s a reasonable perspective. No piece of art is ever going to be universally beloved, and while Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have a great deal of pride in what they’ve created for Rick and Morty, there is a point where it stops belonging to them and starts belongs to the fans, and that’s not always an easy transition. They’ve learned that the smarter move is to simply step away.
What’s more, they’re not even entirely convinced that Rick and Morty fans actually want to know that they are checking in on fan theories and their analysis of the show. Harmon explained that he feels as though audiences should be able to express their thoughts about and appreciation for the show without the knowledge that the showrunners are looming and judging takes on their creation. Said Harmon
As noted earlier, Rick and Morty recently completed its run of Season 4, and now the wait has begun for Season 5. Cable subscribers can watch the most recent episodes for a limited time on the Adult Swim website, or purchase them online and previous seasons are available digitally, on both Blu-ray and DVD, and on HBO Max and Hulu.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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