Of all the toxic fandoms that exist in the world, Rick & Morty's may have the dubious honor of being the best at behaving the worst: Some ardent followers of the show are notorious for doxxing newly hired female writers (who made the egregious sin of joining an all-male writing staff) and in 2017 got entirely bent out of shape when McDonald's ran out of Szechuan Sauce re-released in homage to the animated series. In some ways, this volatile and vicious anti-female portion of Rick & Morty's fandom has made them analogous to the alt-right, masking hate speech and violent rhetoric with jokes and memes in the darker corners of the Internet.
But there's allegedly a simple way to deal with them, animation insiders claimed at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Saturday during a panel discussion called "Cartoons Have Grown Up and Audiences Are Loving It." Asked about the more problematic fans within the animation world and Rick & Morty specifically, Jason DeMarco, senior vice president at the show's home network Adult Swim, said one of the ways to keep Rick & Morty's toxic fans at bay is to simply not encourage them and not engage with them.
"There is a segment of Rick & Morty fans that's toxic,"DeMarco said. "They're the minority." Most fans, like the ones he meets at conventions, are "sweet" people who just want to celebrate the show. While that could sound like a dodge and denial, DeMarco said he encourages teams to not make the characters' unsavory speech — and Rick & Morty's characters, especially Rick, definitely say things that are racist, homophobic, sexist and so on — models of ideal behavior. "What we have to do," DeMarco said, is show "this is someone you don't want to be."
But that's tricky, given Rick's popularity and appreciation for saying outrageously offensive things bathed in humor, and given the toxic fandom's ability to cast a pall, some could rightfully argue that more definitive, concrete steps could be taken to quell toxicity online. Olan Rogers, a digital content creator and executive producer on TBS' animated series Final Space, revealed his trick for getting toxic fans to act like civilized people: be nice to them. Unlike DeMarco, Rogers does engage with the toxic portion of the fandom, but with empathy. "The moment you give them a shred of positivity," they change, he said.