On Her Rainbow Tour, Kesha Is Freeing Herself
Kesha’s breakthrough single “Tik Tok” was a piece of bubble gum that never lost its snap, a timeless, mildly generic ode to partying nonstop. But its chorus has acquired a sharper taste in retrospect, particularly the part where she pledges “Tonight, I’m-a fight ’til we see the sunlight.” Kesha co-wrote “Tik Tok,” like most of the songs on her first two albums, 2010’s Animal and 2012’s Warrior, with Lukasz Gottwald, the writer-producer known professionally as Dr. Luke, whom she accused in a 2014 lawsuit of drugging and raping her, as well as subjecting her to years of emotional abuse. (Gottwald has denied all charges and countersued for defamation.) The idea of the dance floor as a battlefield, of music as a means of not just escape but survival, no longer seems like just a metaphor.
It’s especially cruel that the dispute kept Kesha in musical limbo for nearly five years, preventing her from recording and releasing the songs she was writing about her personal trauma and threatening her ability to make a living as well. But when her Rainbow finally arrived in August, it went to No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart, an especially impressive achievement for an album that doesn’t contain anything resembling a contemporary pop single. Instead of an ode to all-night clubbing, the first song she released was “Praying,” a gospel-tinged anthem that directly addresses an unnamed abuser. Its production, by Ryan Lewis, is almost startlingly spare compared with Dr. Luke’s, especially where Kesha’s vocals are concerned: We’re literally hearing her voice for the first time. When she played the song on The Tonight Show, she appeared to be near tears, and after the last word had been sung, she let out a gasp, as if years’ worth of anguish was leaving of her body in.
Rainbow has faded from the top of the charts, but I’ve been coming back to it for months. The hard-earned catharsis of “Learn to Let Go” is a pointed contrast to the tit-for-tat recrimination of pal Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” another song that, at least in its video, alludes to being the victim of sexual assault. (Swift won her own lawsuit and appears in the video with the $1 she won from the DJ who groped her.) And as Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims have flooded the news, it’s made all too vivid the particular vileness of sexual harassment and abuse in industries where vulnerability and emotional openness is a job requirement. (Kesha, incidentally, is not out of the woods. Notwithstanding Sony’s dissolution of its corporate relationship with Dr. Luke, she is still contractually bound to him, and the judge assigned to her lawsuit remains extraordinarily unsympathetic to her claims.)
Netflix Plans to Release 80 Films Next Year, Most of Them Will Suck, and That’s Great News
Netflix is planning to release 80 original films in 2018, Variety reports. Eighty! Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos outlined the network’s plans in an investors’ call discussing the company’s third-quarter results. “They range anywhere from the million-dollar Sundance hit, all the way up to something on a much larger scale,” Sarandos said. It would more than double its current rate of releasing Netflix Original films: This quarter, it released eight, not 20.
By way of reference, Fox released 16 movies in all of 2016; Sony, 22; Warner Bros., 23. Even looking at parent companies only gets that number up to 38 films under the entire Sony umbrella: ScreenGems, TriStar, Sony Pictures Classics, and plain old Sony/Columbia. Eighty is a lot of movies.
It’s not completely unprecedented for movie studios to produce and distribute more films than they do today, however. Paramount released, by my count, 116 films in 1920, and even in the sound era, studios managed workloads that would make modern-day moguls tremble. Take MGM in 1939, long marketed as Hollywood’s greatest year. The gorilla of the studio system at the height of its powers had a legendary run that year, producing and/or distributing classics like The Wizard of Oz; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; and Ninotchka (oh, and Gone With the Wind). But MGM only released 52 movies that year.
And even with only 52 films—and thus, more time to carefully usher each one through the production and marketing process than Netflix is going to have with an 80-film schedule—not every MGM release that year became a classic. Here’s the trailer from what sounds like a can’t-miss proposition from September of 1939: Lana Turner in her first starring role and a soundtrack from Artie Shaw, including “Nightmare,” which is enough of a needle drop that it still shows up in the movies:
Wow. Well, despite the cast and the soundtrack, that didn’t look like it turned out that well, to be perfectly honest. What about a western starring Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz himself?
Henry Goes Arizona was the final title, huh? They went with that. Well, what about adventure movies? Did they make any adventure movies?
Ho-lee shit. And three Andy Hardy movies too. Three. Like 5 percent of the studio’s output was Andy Hardy movies, at Hollywood’s greatest studio, in Hollywood’s greatest year.
All of which is to say that all the money and power in the world and an almost completely vertically integrated production pipeline couldn’t manage a 52-film schedule without making some duds. An 80-film schedule is going to be bonkers. More films getting made and distributed means more chances someone makes a masterpiece, but it also means more Dancing Co-Eds, no matter how much money Netflix throws at the problem. Which means people who like movies but also like watching Wile E. Coyote run off the cliff will be doubly blessed. With a slate that large, Netflix will probably produce some wonderful movies next year, but it’ll also inevitably have to mobilize its entire marketing muscle to try to sell things that look terrible. Apropos of nothing, have you seen the trailer for Bright, which the studio reportedly bet $90 million on?
YA Novel About “Mob Mentalities” Punished After Online Backlash
When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write a dystopian novel about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran, so Moriarty began by diving into Iranian books and films. Moriarty explained via email that she asked two Iranian immigrant friends to read an early draft and see if Sadaf seemed authentic to them, and whether the language and accent fit with their memories and experiences. A friend of Pakistani and American descent who is a practicing Muslim gave additional feedback. Moriarty asked a senior colleague at the University of Kansas, Giselle Anatol, who writes about Young Adult fiction and has been critical of racist narratives in literature, to read the book with a particular eye toward avoiding another narrative about a “white savior.” And after American Heart was purchased by Harper, the publisher provided several formal “sensitivity reads,” in which a member of a minority group is charged with spotting potentially problematic depictions in a manuscript.
None of this, as it turns out, was enough to protect American Heart from becoming the subject of the latest skirmish in the increasingly contentious battle over representation and diversity in the world of YA literature. American Heart won’t be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online YA readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as “culture cops.” To them, it was an irredeemable problem that Moriarty’s novel, which was inspired in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually—too gradually—comes to terms with the racism around her. On Goodreads, the book’s top “community review,” posted in September, begins, “fuck your white savior narratives”; other early commenters on Goodreads accused Moriarty of “profiting off people’s pain” and said “a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.”
The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted “starred review,” which influences purchases by bookstores and libraries. Kirkus’ anonymous reviewer called the book “by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching,” and praised its “frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.” The book’s critics were not pleased with the commendation. “Kirkus Reviews of books reinforce white supremacy,” author and activist Justina Ireland, who had posted a critical review of the book on Medium, wrote on Twitter. “I'm sick to my stomach over this, and I'm so sorry Muslim folks have to contend with one more reminder that their humanity is negotiable.” BookRiot published a list of “Books by Muslims to Support Instead of Reading ‘American Heart.’”
James Corden Is Apologizing Again, This Time for Distasteful Jokes About Harvey Weinstein
To say that James Corden has bad judgment would be an understatement. For the second time in as many months, the Late Late Show host has had to apologize in the face of strong backlash to his poor judgment and poor taste. Last month, it was cozying up to Sean Spicer at the Emmys; this month, it was making inappropriate, offensive quips about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior at the AmfAR Gala in Los Angeles on Friday night.
“It’s a beautiful night here in L.A.,” he began, before proceeeding to make light of a traumatic incident allegedly experienced by dozens of women. “So beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage.”
“It's been weird this week though, watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water,” he continued, seemingly unaware that Weinstein's long list of victims are real people. “Ask any one of the women who watched him take a bath, it's weird watching Harvey Weinstein in hot water.”
The negative feedback was instantaneous, not that the comedian paid it any heed. Failing to grasp the immediate discomfort in the room, Corden mocked his groaning audience, saying, “If you don’t like that joke you should probably leave.” The ensuing social media backlash was harder to ignore, with Rose McGowan calling him a “motherfucking piglet,” while Anthony Bourdain said he was an “asshole.”
James Corden reveals snickering Hollywood in all its grotesquerie . It's not about masturbation, asshole. It's about rape.— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 15, 2017
On Sunday, Corden took to Twitter to complete the joke–backlash–apology cycle, saying he was only trying to shame Weinstein, not his victims. “I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior, but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims,” he wrote. “I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention.”
To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter. I was not trying to make light of Harvey’s inexcusable behavior, (1/2)— James Corden (@JKCorden) October 15, 2017
but to shame him, the abuser, not his victims. I am truly sorry for anyone offended, that was never my intention. (2/2)— James Corden (@JKCorden) October 15, 2017
Whether or not offense was his intention, both incidents were serious errors of judgment, with the Weinstein gags revealing an utter inability to grapple with the larger socio-political issues at hand—an increasingly important skill for a late night comedian—and an utter lack of empathy—an increasingly important skill for a human being. “To be clear, sexual assault is no laughing matter,” wrote Corden, unable to grasp that this is exactly how he treated it: As a topical punchline, rather than a moral outrage.
The Producers Guild of America Unanimously Votes to Give Harvey Weinstein the Boot
In the midst of multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations, Harvey Weinstein has been fired from his own company, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and suspended by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Now, the Producers Guild of America is the latest organization to cut ties with Weinstein after a meeting of the PGA’s board of directors and officers on Monday morning. The board unanimously voted to initiate “termination proceedings” over Weinstein’s membership.
Weinstein and his brother Bob won the PGA’s highest honor, the Milestone Award, in 2012. In a statement on Weinstein’s expulsion, the guild called sexual harassment “a systemic and pervasive problem requiring immediate industry-wide action” and announced the creation of an Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force.
Per the guild’s bylaws, the expulsion does not immediately go into effect; Weinstein will have a chance to respond before a final decision is made on Nov. 6.
The PGA’s full statement by Presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary is below:
This morning, the PGA’s National Board of Directors and Officers decided by unanimous vote to institute termination proceedings concerning Harvey Weinstein’s membership.
As required by the PGA’s Constitution, Mr. Weinstein will be given the opportunity to respond before the Guild makes its final determination on November 6, 2017.
Sexual harassment of any type is completely unacceptable. This is a systemic and pervasive problem requiring immediate industry-wide action. Today, the PGA’s National Board and Officers—composed of 20 women and 18 men—created the Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force specifically charged with researching and proposing substantive and effective solutions to sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
The PGA calls on leaders throughout the entertainment community to work together to ensure that sexual abuse and harassment are eradicated from the industry.
The Best Song in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Season 3 Premiere Is an ’80s-Inspired Anthem About How Terrible Men Are
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend returned on Friday with a question: Where’s Rebecca Bunch? The show’s protagonist (Rachel Bloom) has disappeared after being jilted at the altar by her longtime obsession, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), at the end of Season 2. In the season finale, Rebecca had sworn revenge on Josh for abandoning her in favor of becoming a priest, but when we rejoin West Covina two weeks after the wedding, Rebecca is nowhere to be found, and the whole town is buzzing about her possible whereabouts.
Cue our first song of the season! The whole cast joins in for “Where’s Rebecca Bunch?” which converts West Covina into a provincial town straight out of Beauty and the Beast. While it’s fun to see our 21st-century characters decked out in mob caps and tricorn hats, the song is otherwise all over the place, as halfway through, it answers its own question: Rebecca is holed up in a hotel room, hiding from the piteous stares and faux-British accents of the others.
“Where’s Rebecca Bunch?” might have been more effective as the season opener if the show had dragged out the mystery out so that Rebecca was absent from the first episode entirely, BoJack Horseman–style. Instead, Rebecca’s reappearance within the first two minutes feels anticlimactic, especially as she immediately comes out of her breakup funk and arrives at the conclusion that she should embrace her “woman scorned” status and exact revenge—precisely the same conclusion she’d already reached at the end of Season 2.
The premiere episode’s other song, “Let’s Generalize About Men,” is far superior, as Rebecca and her squad, made up of Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), Heather (Vella Lovell), and Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), launch into a Pointer Sisters-inspired, ’80s-style anthem about how terrible men are. But before you reach for your keyboard for a #NotAllMen Twitter rant, you should probably listen to the song, which contains deeply ironic lyrics like “All men are stupid and childish/ Even the ones who are smart and mature” and “There are no exceptions/ All three billion men are like this (All 3.6 billion men).”
The song isn’t actually about how men are monsters, murders, and rapists, which is made clear by the way the women pivot to generalizing about how every single gay man in the world is great, and by Paula’s sudden realization that she has sons who are—gasp!—men-to-be. (Donna Lynne Champlin’s half-hearted power pose at the end of the song is a reminder that she’s consistently one of the best things about this show.) Instead, as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna has explained, “Let’s Generalize About Men” is about “the assumptions that people make about each other, and the way that people make these kinds of sweeping general statements and how enjoyable that is.”
Or in other words: “This is some primal kind of ritual we need now and then.” Giant hairspray bottle full of glitter? Optional.
Marvel at Wakanda in the Insane New Trailer for Black Panther
Marvel’s Black Panther is the latest superhero to get the solo movie treatment, and if the new trailer for Black Panther is anything to go by, it’s going to be out of this world.
Chadwick Boseman stars as T’Challa, the powerful superhero and African king known as Black Panther. T'Challa has returned to his futuristic kingdom of Wakanda to take up the throne, but it’s up to him to decide, Lupita Nyong’o tells him, “what kind of king you are going to be.” The hero’s attention, however, seems to be divided between fighting baddies in his stunning, technologically advanced homeland and those of a sleek, as-yet-unspecified Asian city.
We last saw Boseman as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, in which he sought vengeance for the death of his father, the king of Wakanda. T’Challa’s Wakanda is the place where Captain America and the Winter Soldier took sanctuary at the end of Civil War, though neither appear in the trailer.
“I have seen gods fly,” say the voice of Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross as the trailer pans over Wakanda’s mountains, waterfalls, and futuristic aircraft. “I have seen men build weapons that I couldn’t even image. I’ve seen aliens drop from the sky. But I have never seen anything like this.”
Black Panther, created by Stan Lee, first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1966 (just before the naming of the Black Panther Party), making him the first black superhero in mainstream comics. Black Panther the movie, directed by Ryan Coogler, will be the first Marvel movie with a predominately black cast.
Black Panther hits cinemas Feb 16, 2018.
John Oliver Serves Up a Fried Chicken Metaphor to Make Sense of the Equifax Breach
Given that the headlines lately suggest you should be worrying about everything from sex abuse in Hollywood to the deadliest mass shooting in United States history to the state of American healthcare, you could be forgiven for forgetting about a major story that broke in September: the Equifax data breach. On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver brought us up to speed on the massive information leak and the company’s attempts to alleviate the damage—and made a case for why you should keep paying attention.
First, Oliver offers some basic information for “the first generation to routinely send pictures of [their] junk to each other over the internet” who may not realize why the breach is so serious. Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies, which use a person’s financial data to tell landlords, lenders, and others whether that person can be relied on to make payments. The Equifax breach compromised the information of a whopping 145 million Americans, including names, birth dates, driver’s licenses, addresses, and even Social Security numbers. As Oliver explains, if you’re one of those affected, people can use that data to open credit cards, take out loans, or even claim tax refunds in your name.
This is a huge deal, and if the average day’s headline weren’t “Everything Batshit Bananas Again Today,” as Oliver puts it, then we’d probably still be constantly talking about the breach and the mess Equifax made of doing damage control, from waiting six weeks to inform the public about the breach to repeatedly tweeting out the link to a fake website instead of one created to help people find out whether they are among those affected by the breach. Last Week Tonight even proved that it’s still way too easy to trick people by making its own phony Equifax site, equifaxfraudprevention.com.
If all this makes you angry, well, it should. Too bad that anger won’t make much of a difference, because you’re not technically the customer, the way Equifax sees it. “They make most of their money selling our data to businesses, like banks,” explained Oliver. “So in their eyes, we’re not the consumer, we’re the product. To think of it in terms of KFC, we’re not the guy buying the 10-piece buckets. We’re the fucking chickens.”
9 Fall Movies That May Be Hurt by Harvey Weinstein Fallout
The Harvey Weinstein scandal is one of the biggest controversies to ever hit Hollywood, and its ripples will be felt for a long time to come. While the storied studio head was fired from his own company after dozens of accusations of sexual harassment and assault came out in the press, the post-Harvey landscape doesn’t simply affect movies that the Weinstein Company planned to distribute. It will also dominate the press tours of fall films involving actors who had a significant business relationship with Weinstein, while the increased push for accountability could snare stars with scandals of their own that can no longer be brushed aside so easily. Here are nine movies where the talent may have to navigate some tricky questions this fall.
Suburbicon (October 27)
Weinstein helped make Matt Damon a superstar with Good Will Hunting, so while promoting Suburbicon and his December dramedy Downsizing, Damon was already sure to be asked about the controversy. He was drawn in further, though, by the Wrap’s Sharon Waxman, who alleged that Damon called her at Weinstein’s behest years ago in an attempt to squash an unfavorable story. Waxman has since tempered the accusation somewhat—she says Damon likely had no idea what charges he was being leveraged to hush up—but the furor prompted Damon to do a damage-control Deadline interview and will likely spur more questions during the Surburbicon press tour about Weinstein incidents, which both Damon and the film’s director George Clooney claim not to have known about.
Daddy’s Home 2 (November 10)
When it comes to abhorrent behavior, has Hollywood drawn a line in the sand after the Weinstein scandal? The button-pushing inclusion of Mel Gibson in Daddy’s Home 2 will be an early test. Gibson was considered an industry pariah after his slur-laden 2006 Malibu arrest and the 2010 accusations that he assaulted his ex, but he wormed his way back into Hollywood’s good graces last year by directing the hit Hacksaw Ridge, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. The press went awfully easy on Gibson last fall—perhaps Donald Trump’s path to the Oval Office was sucking all the air out of the room—but his attempt to revive a career in front of the camera may not go down as well post-Weinstein.
Murder on the Orient Express (November 10)
With an ensemble cast this stacked, you’d expect plenty of ties to Weinstein, and indeed, both Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz have won Oscars in movies the mogul distributed. (Dench has long credited Weinstein with giving her a movie career at all.) I suspect, though, that Orient Express’s most problematic cast member will be Johnny Depp, who was accused of beating ex-wife Amber Heard, and has seen his star wane precipitously in recent years; he may now be more liability than asset when it comes to domestic audiences. Depp doesn’t do much press, but Heard might be out there talking to reporters for Justice League, which introduces her Aquaman character Mera to the DC Comics cinematic universe. Speaking of which …
Justice League (November 17)
The Justice League press tour was going to be plenty difficult even before the Weinstein scandal went wide: As the movie underwent a director switch and major reshoots, rumors flew that Warner Bros. might be looking to bump an erratic Ben Affleck from his perch as Batman. Now, Affleck has been implicated in the Weinstein scandal by actress Rose McGowan, who claims the actor knew that Weinstein had assaulted her two decades ago, even though his recent statement on the matter pled naïveté. McGowan’s tweet “Ben Affleck fuck off” went viral and prompted renewed scrutiny of the actor’s own behavior; Affleck has since apologized to actress Hilarie Burton for groping her during a long-ago TRL appearance.
Needless to say, Warner Bros. has a lot to deal with here, and the studio will likely minimize Affleck’s press duties to avoid further complications. The question is whether the rest of the Justice League can keep their answers on the straight and narrow if asked to defend their co-star. Gal Gadot is perhaps the best press-trained of the bunch (if the cast’s summer Comic-Con appearance was anything to go by), but actors like Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa are uniquely freewheeling presences and it’s anybody’s guess whether they can keep the focus on their megabudget film, not Affleck’s many imbroglios (or their own resurfaced missteps).
I Love You, Daddy (November 17)
Louis C.K. has always been reluctant to address the rumors that he masturbates in front of female comics, but in the wake of the Weinstein situation, I’m not sure he’ll be able to make it through a whole press tour for his new movie with those same dodges and weaves. After all, there’s plenty of controversial stuff about the TV industry in this comedy, in which John Malkovich plays a legendary director (and rumored sex predator) who’s wooing Louis C.K.’s teenage daughter, while C.K. stars as a TV bigwig who beds an actress (Rose Byrne) seeking the lead in his new project. And that’s not to mention the scene where Charlie Day is miming masturbation as Edie Falco enters the room, which is impossible to watch without thinking of the similar accusations against the film’s maker. C.K. has often found a deferential audience in starstruck reporters, but you can’t engage with this movie without finally trying to get a straight answer out of him on these topics, especially when the industry is in the middle of a moment that interrogates how men abuse their power for sex.
Chappaquiddick (November 22)
Chappaquiddick, a movie about a prominent Democrat who covers up a growing scandal in order to continue his influential career, will surely be received differently now with Weinstein in the news. Expect reviews and think pieces that compare its central figure, Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) to the disgraced studio mogul, especially since plenty of people were complicit in burying the Chappaquiddick incident where Kennedy and a female staffer were in a car accident that cost the woman her life.
The Current War (November 24)
This film about the rivalry between electricity pioneers Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) was meant to be the Weinstein Company’s big Oscar hope, but it flopped in its Toronto Film Festival debut. Weinstein was said to be tinkering with the final cut of the movie even as his personal scandals intensified, but rumor has it that the company is now mulling a push of The Current War to 2018. Considering TWC’s cash-strapped state, personnel shake-ups, and potential legal issues, this fall doesn’t feel like the right time to sink a lot of money into an awards-season underperformer.
Wonder Wheel (December 1)
Kate Winslet is no stranger to working with controversial Hollywood figures: She won the Oscar for the Weinstein-distributed The Reader and starred in Roman Polanski’s comedy Carnage just a few years ago. She’ll face her trickiest press tour yet while promoting Woody Allen’s new drama Wonder Wheel, since a renewed focus on the sexual-assault accusations against Allen dominated last year’s Cafe Society press rounds, and that demand for redress hasn’t gone away. Much like I Love You, Daddy, which seems to have patterned its Malkovich character on Allen, Wonder Wheelengages with certain themes and plot points that almost demand you to reexamine Allen’s personal history: Decades after Allen left his partner Mia Farrow for her daughter Soon-Yi, Wonder Wheel tracks a woman who may lose the man she has romantic designs on to her own stepdaughter.
I, Tonya (December 8)
After a well-received Toronto Film Festival debut, this dark Margot Robbie comedy about figure skater Tonya Harding leapt into the awards-season fray, and Allison Janney as Harding’s mother is thought to be this year’s front-runner for Best Supporting Actress. I, Tonya will be distributed by newcomer shingle Neon, but that company is mired in controversy thanks to co-founder Tim League, who created the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain and has been accused of enabling controversial figures like Devin Faraci and Harry Knowles, and looking the other way when it comes to sexual harassment. League has not stepped down from either post and has had to issue multiple statements on these matters; since I, Tonya features plenty of abuse against women, expect these topics to be on the table.
Where to Start With Rick and Morty, and What to Watch Out For
If you’re feeling equally intrigued and bewildered by Rick and Morty, I don’t blame you. Perhaps you’re curious about why Rick and Morty is the number one show among Millennials, or perhaps you’re wondering how a cartoon could inspire such rabid devotion that its fans would wind up in an extended spat with McDonald’s about a dipping sauce for chicken nuggets. Or perhaps you’re just tired of being the last kid on the block to know what wubba lubba dub dub means and why it’s funny. At the same time, the show’s semi-serialized plot, dense use of running gags and catchphrases, aggressive animation style, and even more aggressive fans might’ve left you wondering if this is the show for you.
Never fear! Here at Slate, we’ve got you covered. You don’t have to watch all of Rick and Morty to form an opinion about it. You only have to watch “Anatomy Park,” the deliriously absurd third episode of Season 1. If “Anatomy Park” doesn’t grab you, then this is definitely not the show for you.
“Anatomy Park” has all the ingredients that Rick and Morty will mix in different proportions throughout the show’s three seasons. First, there’s a wacky—and gross—sci-fi adventure that works as both parody and thrilling genre entertainment. In this case, mad scientist Rick Sanchez (voiced by Justin Roiland) has set up a miniaturized theme park inside the body of an alcoholic homeless man named Ruben, and something is going wrong. He shrinks his sidekick/grandson Morty (Roiland again) down and injects him into Ruben to investigate. What follows is a mashup of Fantastic Voyage and Jurassic Park featuring renegade deadly diseases instead of dinosaurs.
This biological misadventure gets Rick and Morty out of the awkward holiday family bonding time when Morty’s father Jerry (Chris Parnell) invites his parents over for Christmas dinner. Both stories are, in their own hilarious way, about how close we actually want to be to another person, whether it’s learning about their sexual peccadillos or actually wandering their innards accompanied by a talking microbe voiced by John Oliver. And when the two plot lines come together in the episode’s final minutes, it’s as surprising, inventive, and hilarious a knotting as Seinfeld accomplished at its best, except with way, way, more viscera.
Part of the thrill of watching “Anatomy Park”—and Rick and Morty in general—is the sense that its characters have entered a world so fully formed it could have its own spin-off. “Anatomy Park” introduces a half-dozen people we never see again, and they each have their own desires, insecurities, and lightly deployed backstories. The sense of visual specificity and detail is equally well developed. Even at their most absurd, the jokes and storylines feel deeply rooted in world and character, allowing “Anatomy Park” to explore complicated themes of the limits of tolerance, creative ambition vs. corporate power, intimacy, and family.
All of Rick and Morty’s hallmarks are present in this episode: Weird sex stuff, dysfunctional family dramedy, genre deconstruction, layered jokes, ultraviolence, and animation that’s as imaginative as it is gross. Thanks to blink-and-you-miss-them visual gags and rapid-fire dialogue, it also rewards repeated viewings. I’ve seen the episode a dozen times and it has yet to wear out its welcome. I giggle just thinking about Rick’s insistence that a theme park ride called “Pirates of the Pancreas” is a good idea, or his flying into a rage when told by a corporate executive (voiced by Harmon) that it isn’t because “Does [the pancreas] make pirates? No. It makes insulin.”