This article contains content related to sexual assault and attempted suicide.
Like most shows on Adult Swim, the channel that takes over for Cartoon Network at night, "Rick and Morty" is often vulgar, violent and offensive. Usually, however, the show’s writers know how to not cross the line, punching up instead of down and not breaching into subject matter that could be triggering or insulting for most viewers, and certainly doesn’t rely on shock value as much as something like "South Park" does.
Unfortunately, with the show now on its fifth season, there have been some instances where the show’s creators may have crossed that line. To find out which scenes went too far in the eyes of the public, we polled 630 people from the United States and asked them to choose one of five scenes they found the most repulsive, shocking or otherwise too much. Here are what they decided were the scenes in "Rick and Morty" that went too far.
Rick and Morty accidentally destroying the earth and abandoning it
Interestingly, all the votes for this poll were pretty spread out, so no one scene has a remarkably high or low percentage of votes. That being said, the scene the least voters chose as going too far was the scene in the Season 1 episode, "Rick Potion No. 9."
At 15.4% of votes, this is the episode where Morty (Justin Roiland) destroys the earth by using a potion that inadvertently makes everyone on Earth fall in love with him, which Rick (Roiland) then tries to reverse by using another potion, which instead turns the world into horrifying mantis creatures. Deeming the earth a lost cause, the two abandon the rest of their family and planet by traveling to a parallel dimension where the Rick and Morty there did figure out how to save the planet and immediately died afterward, leaving the original duo to take their places.
It’s a dark premise that has even darker implications, and it makes sense why it may have been a bit too much for people who watch the show to laugh, not cry.
Morty being sexually assaulted by King Jellybean
Just barely beating the previous scene is Morty getting assaulted by King Jellybean (Tom Kenny) at 15.56%, from the Season 1 episode "Meeseeks and Destroy." Although Morty is able to escape before anything happens to him, and Rick kills King Jellybean after finding out what happened, child molestation and sexual assault are serious topics that many might find distasteful or even triggering in a comedy show no matter how it’s presented, prompting Roiland to actually apologize for the scene in response to the backlash, while also explaining that, like many scenes in the show, it wasn’t written for laughs.
In his statement on Reddit, Roiland wrote that the scene "had to feel real and be horrific, weighty, and not cartoony […] I really do have a lot of empathy for anyone who has had to or is dealing with anything seriously traumatizing. I’m a bleeding heart. But I also can sometimes have this strange disassociation from the reality of horrible things and that often comes out in my art. Sometime I get off on shocking/making people uncomfortable […] but I never intend to actually hurt or anger anyone."
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Rick’s attempted suicide after being dumped by Unity
Also among the most sensitive subjects a TV show can touch upon is suicide, and that’s something "Rick and Morty" got very close to in the Season 2 episode "Auto Erotic Assimilation."
After being dumped by a hive-mind (it’s a long story), Rick goes to the garage and sets up a strange contraption, first putting a mutated creature out of its misery with it before putting his head in the same place, clearly meaning to kill himself with it before it fails, with Rick slamming his head on the desk and crying.
It’s clearly not meant to be a joke in any way, but like the last scene, suicide and suicidal ideation is such a sensitive subject that seeing it in a comedic cartoon with no warning could be especially triggering for those who have lost a loved one to suicide or struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past, which could explain why 20% of voters chose this scene as the one that went too far.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Rick’s spaceship killing, paralyzing and psychologically torturing people to keep Summer safe
An interesting pick for the second-most controversial scene, 22.86% of voters chose the one where Rick leaves Summer (Spencer Grammer) in his parked spaceship while he and Morty shrink themselves to go inside the engine to figure out what’s wrong, telling it to "keep Summer safe."
Of course, because it’s a highly advanced artificial intelligence created by Rick, that means dicing the first person who comes up to the car into a hundred tiny bits and paralyzing the second one. After Summer tells the car it can’t harm anyone, it instead creates a clone of an aggressing soldier’s dead son before melting it before his eyes, before finally brokering a peace treaty between the planet’s humans and giant spiders.
Although it doesn’t touch upon the controversial subject matter other scenes here do, it’s certainly violent and upsetting, which could explain why it nearly made it to the top of the list.
Rick and Morty’s jokes about the September 11 and Pearl Harbor attacks
The scene that most voters thought went too far, with 26.19% of the vote, was in the Season 4 episode "Promortyus," where Rick and Morty are having a fun time blowing up the city of a hostile alien planet from their space cruiser, when they see two twin towers in the distance that resemble those of the World Trade Center. Clearly unsettled, the two decide not to destroy the buildings, with Rick saying that would have been "low-hanging fruit." The two pause in silence for a beat, before seeing another area that resembles Pearl Harbor, and deciding that destroying that area would be "in bounds" before resuming their gleeful destruction.
It shouldn’t be hard to guess why this scene generated some controversy, as both the September 11 and Pearl Harbor attacks are considered two of the most tragic days in American history, with thousands of people dying in both attacks. For many people, they’re events that shouldn’t ever be joked about in any setting, and the fact that "Rick and Morty" appears to be saying that it’s fine to joke about the older attack but not the newer one (even while saying so could be considered a joke in and of itself) could reasonably strike a nerve with viewers as well.