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Many Rick and Morty fans already know the brilliant Adult Swim animated comedy shook up its writers’ room boys club for the current third season, and now have a gender-balanced writing staff. But while this summer’s episodes have received the usual raves from critics and most fans, there has also been some ugly online backlash against the show’s newest team members. The second and third episodes of the season (the Mad Max trope-busting spoof “Rickmancing the Stone” and the gleefully bonkers “Pickle Rick”) were credited to two of the show’s female writers (Jane Becker and Jessica Gao), who were then harassed on Twitter and even had their personal information put online (a.k.a. doxxed).
We spoke to executive producer Dan Harmon (who co-created the show along with Justin Roiland) about what went down.
“I’m on a Twitter sabbatical, so the last thing I saw about that was [the Reddit thread detailing the harassment], and I’ve seen the tweets they’ve sent to the female writer,” Harmon says. “I was familiar going into the third season, having talked to Felicia Day, that any high-profile women get doxxed, they get harassed, they get threatened, they get slandered. And part of it is a testosterone-based subculture patting themselves on the back for trolling these women. Because to the extent that you get can get a girl to shriek about a frog you’ve proven girls are girly and there’s no crime in assaulting her with a frog because it’s all in the name of proving something. I think it’s all disgusting.”
Continues Harmon: “These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own — and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender. It’s offensive to me as someone who was born male and white, and still works way harder than them, that there’s some white male [fan out there] trying to further some creepy agenda by ‘protecting’ my work. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I loathe these people. It f—ing sucks. And the only thing I can say is if you’re lucky enough to make a show that is really good that people like, that means some bad people are going to like it too. You can’t just insist that everybody who watches your show get their head on straight … And I’m speaking for myself — I don’t want the show to have a political stance. But at the same time, individually, these [harassers] aren’t politicians and don’t represent politics. They represent some shit that I probably believed when I was 15.”
And if any fan has a problem with any individual episode of Rick and Morty — or any scripted series with a writers room, for that matter — Harmon pointed out that it’s unfair to single out the credited writer (particularly if that writer is not the showrunner).
“It’s total ignorance of how writing a television show works,” Harmon adds. “It’s frustrating enough having run Community for several years to see threads like, ‘Oh well, it makes sense this episode was written by Andy Bobrow because when Hilary Winston wrote her episode she tends to linger more on dialogue and Andy is better at the I-want-to-hold-you moments.’ And I want to scream at my computer: ‘You idiots, we all write the show together!’ If you can tell the difference between one writer and another on a show I’m running I’ve probably gotten so lazy that it hasn’t all been blended and refined in the usual process. The reason one person’s name goes on an episode is that someone has to and everyone deserves one of those times at bat where they have to do all the grunt work — they have to do all the outlining, sometimes, if they’re willing to, they can expand into the post-production process. There’s a bunch of reasons why we don’t accurately reflect how many writers contribute to each episode in the credits.”
Or, to put all this another way:
Rick and Morty airs Sunday nights on Adult Swim (and if you’re not watching it yet you probably should be).