I recently had the chance to check out the hit television series, Rick and Morty. Now, I’m a huge fan of science fiction. It has always allowed people to look forward and to imagine how human beings would react to the unknown and unfamiliar. The tradition is ancient; the many instances of prehistoric human beings imagining the future. The ancient aliens phenomenon is simply, and effectively reduced to the simple and unavoidable truth: even our ancestors wrote science fiction.
The reason for its enduring popularity is this forward looking ideal, as It allows us to examine our nature, our past, and look to the next step in evolution and consciousness, our interaction with technology, and to other aspects of life that, in the realm of literary naturalism, are rarely explored. But the idea behind all fiction is the doorway, the doorway to empathy, to understanding the world in unique and imaginative ways. But it is a false construct, a portal, and rarely has the degree of depth and texture of the real world.
Naturalism and psychological realism are both ways by which we look through the eyes of others and learn something new and exciting about ourselves. Science fiction extends the possibilities of examining humanity.
In Rick and Morty, the characters are put to extremes you’re unlikely to find in Mansfield Park.
In the first season episode ‘Interdimensional Cable’, Rick replaces the cable box in the Smith family with a device that allows for the viewing of programming from an infinite number of parallel realities. Jerry, Beth, and Summer latch onto a property of the device which allows for them to see alternate versions of themselves – Real Fake Doors – which, itself, appears during the same episode as a commercial, advertising literally fake doors.
This has the effect of connecting the stories, providing a thematic link to the experience going on in the other room, where the Smith family is realizing how different their lives might have been had Beth not gotten pregnant. Jerry discovers that he’s a movie star and director, Beth finds a version of herself who has realized her dream of practicing medicine (on humans), while Summer… sees herself playing board games.
After Summer decides to run away and start a new life for herself (doing something with turquoise) while Jerry returns to the living room, where Rick and Morty are watching Ball Fondlers, as Beth remains in the kitchen, drinking wine and looking through a real fake door into a life without Jerry and subsequently without a family. In the living room, Rick and Jerry remain in the living room while Morty goes to convince Summer to stay with the family.
While flipping through channels, Rick and Jerry come across a low-speed chase involving an alternate Jerry, who shows up at beth’s alternate self, which she is watching through her goggles. She hears the doorbell ring and finds Jerry on her step, crying and pleading his undying love for her. She puts away the goggles – the REAL fake door in the episode, and opens a real one – reconciling with Jerry as Summer has been convinced to stay home, to give her family another chance.
The sci-fi tropes – alternate reality, space travel, time travel, interactions between humans and nonhuman beings and cultures and lets us look through these Real Fake Doors to see something true about the world and who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. And sometimes we need to put down real fake doors and open a real real door, the doorway to the world.