How "Rick and Morty" explains why self-help is (kind of) evil
narcissism

How “Rick and Morty” explains why self-help is (kind of) evil

Is obsessing over yourself really such a great thing?

If your Facebook feed isn’t full of self-care posts, let me fill you in: People have been reading and spreading tons of articles in which self-help gurus urge people to ignore global problems and focus on finding inner peace.

“How to Take the Weight of the World Off Your Shoulders,” reads one such article. “5 Laws That Will Train Your Brain to Stop Worrying So You Can Be More Productive,” reads another.

Some of these guides may be useful; constantly circling around anxieties is no way to live. But as “Rick and Morty” points out, this self-focused attitude, when taken too far, is sociopathic.

In one episode, Rick and Morty go through a machine that removes their “toxic” selves, leaving them “healthy.” Toxic Rick and Morty, meanwhile, are left to wander around a hellish toxic universe.

When Morty becomes “healthy,” he turns into a Wall Street bro who presumably gets rich by taking advantage of people. He doesn’t care about the fate of his toxic self. When Rick starts feeling guilty about his other half, Morty distracts him, self-help style.

“Rick! You know, the only problem here is a big fat brain that misses eating all them big fat problems. Focus on the good things,” Morty says. “Trust me, things are good. Taking that away from me that wouldn’t be healthy.”

It’s almost a metaphor. Toxic Rick and Morty live in a world effectively destroyed by “healthy” Rick and Morty, just like people in rural areas and developing countries are living in world literally being made toxic by developed countries and big corporations. If a company fracks in Appalachia, people in town may start getting higher rates of cancer, even if urbanites subscribing to self-help gurus don’t notice.

Ignoring the world’s problems is something only people without real material problems can afford to do. If you live in a wealthy country that has an easier time dealing with climate change, you can ignore the global catastrophe. But someone living in a poor country trying to rebuild after a hurricane doesn’t have that luxury.

In “Rick and Morty” this separation between the haves and have-nots can only last so long. In the end, toxic Rick and Morty escape their toxic hell and try to take over the luscious healthy world. If you keep people down long enough, depriving them of their right to live in a decent world, they start to push back.

The episode ends when the toxic and healthy Rick and Morty’s reunite. Obsessing over the self while avoiding people whose lives you are indirectly destroying can’t last. We are all pieces of the same planet. We’re all connected, no matter how much one piece wants to ignore the others.

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