Tonight’s ‘Rick and Morty’ Teaches Us That Ethical Consumption Under Capitalism Is One Spicy Meatball
When the central Smith family first found their current universe, they thought the way their new home world pronounced the word “parmesan” was disgusting — then they found out where the spaghetti comes from.
Al dente spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen tonight’s Rick and Morty episode, “That’s Amorte,” which gave a vocal faction of fans exactly what they said they wanted out of Season Seven: more Morty. As can be expected every time Rick allows a Morty-driven adventure, the episode revolves around a moral quandary that Morty thinks is simple and immediately fixable within the first five minutes. Naturally, the ethical issue at the core of the plotline isn’t nearly as simple as a 14-year-old would think — in the Rick and Morty universe, or our own. Morty bit off more than he could chew in “That's Amorte” by taking on late-stage capitalism, ensuring that none of us will ever look at a plate of pasta — or Leftist Twitter — the same way again.
“That’s Amorte” examines the dark consequences that come about when a government prioritizes a culture of consumption over the health and well-being of its people — and those people go great with “parmezian.”
Exactly 40 seconds after “That’s Amorte” establishes that the Smith family’s new favorite tradition is a regular spaghetti night hosted by Rick Sanchez himself, Morty ruins it by discovering that the delicious spaghetti bolognese that his family was horking down in the other room came from a human-ish corpse Rick keeps in the garage. However, the twist isn’t exactly a “soylent green is people” cannibal kind of beat — in fact, could eating people actually be, you know, ethical?
Rick takes Morty to the source of the spaghetti, a planet where the inner organs of people who commit suicide turn into delicious pasta. Though Rick had been covertly claiming his family-sized portions, Morty blows the top off of the operation after insisting on visiting the funeral of his latest meal where he explains to the deceased’s loved ones how delicious the dearly departed was and how sorry Morty is for their sauce — I mean, loss.
After the planet’s leaders learn of the edibility of their suicide victims, they enter a booming interplanetary spaghetti industry while the populace’s mental health plummets, thanks to the hilariously dark side effects of financially incentivizing suicide — the capitalist powers that be of the spaghetti planet even dyed their sun institutional gray. The planet’s president is unwilling to address the public-health crisis because of the profit margins their exported spaghetti earns, so Rick and Morty explore ethical and economically satisfying alternatives to eating people, only to find that there aren’t any.
Rick solves the spaghetti crisis by getting the planet’s entire edible populace and their international business partners to watch a broadcast of a terminally ill man’s entire life story before he self-euthanizes into spaghetti, convincing the entire people-spaghetti industry that the value of a life is greater than a plate of pasta. The conflict ends with Morty commenting, “You couldn’t change everyone’s taste buds, but you could make it… distasteful.”
“That’s Amorte” is more overtly political than what we’re used to seeing from Adult Swim's flagship series, or Dan Harmon projects in general. As is customary any time Rick and Morty tackles morally significant themes, subtlety and sensitivity are scoffed at while poor taste is indulgently celebrated, which was most apparent in an excruciating sequence showing Rick and Morty’s attempts to generate a GMO alternative to suicide victims. This pushes the plotline into an uncomfortable place that plays as a vague indictment of both capitalism and factory farming — just with, you know, people.
However, Rick’s closing thoughts on the weighty topics touched upon in “That's Amorte” feel insincere in the face of the clear stance the storyline takes on capitalism’s ability to directly and indirectly exploit suffering for the sake of profit. While standing over the man who provided a sort of Up-style epilogue montage that ended the spaghetti rush, Morty wonders what the point of the entire conflict had been. Rick cynically tells Morty, “You’re asking whether this was a story about right and wrong. The answer is — I don’t care. Cells consume, Morty, that means life itself is wrong and that death is right. But you can’t side with that. So you live, even when it means eating.”
Though obviously in character for the uncaring anti-hero god-king of the universe, this closing statement felt like a betrayal of the biting satire the Rick and Morty writers built in “That's Amorte.” Prior to that point, the episode very directly called out political leaders who sell out their constituents’ well-being for a quick buck and criticized their unwillingness or inability to intervene when systems of market incentives lead directly to the suffering of the many for the profit of the few. In a moment of moral conviction that’s rare for Rick and Morty, the most overexposed series on the internet tackled one of the most over-discussed issues on social media and came dangerously close to making a salient point about serious problems before copping out with artificial apathy and a message that amounts to little more than a wet noodle.
Rick and Morty’s attempts to boil down late-stage capitalism probably won’t change any minds — or global economic systems, for that matter — but “That’s Amorte” is an entertaining exercise in pointed political comedy from a series not known for stepping on soap boxes. But, after Rick’s ending monologue undercut a thematically fulfilling payoff, all the satire stirred into the episode amounts to little more than throwing entrails against a wall and seeing what sticks.