PJAS 14 Spring-6

Łukasz Muniowski
“Stealing Stuff Is about the Stuff, not the Stealing”: Rick and Morty and Narrative Instability
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 14 (Spring 2020), pp. 83-94

Abstract: Rick and Morty, one of the most popular presently-airing American TV series, is deeply rooted in popular culture. Each episode is full of allusions and references to other cultural texts, accentuating the show’s own status as a pop cultural text. This article analyzes the third episode of the fourth season of Rick and Morty, “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty,” using Stefan Schubert’s concept of narrative instability. The episode mocks twist films by introducing a ridiculous number of twists, eventually making the viewer immune to the element of surprise usually brought on by what Schubert understands as unstable moments. In doing so, the episode also emphasizes the overuse of that narrative device in recent decades in films, TV series and video games. “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Morty” deconstructs twist films while sticking to the rules of the sub-genre and remaining entertaining in its own right. Instability can pose quite a problem for the showrunners, who usually have to adjust to the norms of serialized storytelling. By using Schubert’s theory of narrative instability to discuss a singular episode of a series, I hope to demonstrate the extent to which this quality has permeated modern storytelling. The episode highlights the effects of over-reliance on narrative instability as a tool, as even the most elaborate form is not enough to make up for the lack of essence. This is exactly what Rick criticizes in the episode, when he states: “stealing stuff is about the stuff, not the stealing.”

Keywords: narrative instability, Rick and Morty, TV series, narrative theory, animated series

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.14/1/2020.06

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