Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon and writer Jessica Gao have a new podcast, Whiting Wongs, where they discuss issues with minority representation in the television industry on the whole and, naturally, Rick and Morty.
The podcast currently has four episodes, and each one examines two sides of the discussion: Harmon talks about areas that he sees as complicated from the eyes of a white, straight showrunner and Gao talks about working in the industry as a Chinese writer.
In the first episode, Gao and Harmon talk about the character of Dr. Wong, a therapist introduced in Rick and Morty’s third season during its infamous Pickle Rick episode. Gao notes that in the television industry, unless a writer working on a script assigns a surname to a character that comes with a connotation to a specific race, white actors tend to be hired. Gao said part of the reason she came up with the name Dr. Wong was to help get an Asian voice actor hired for the role. The role ended up going to Susan Sarandon.
As the series progresses, the podcast also deals with backlash the female writers on the show faced for the third season, including Gao. Both Harmon and Gao have spoken about the harassment before, with Harmon telling Polygon that he was aware there was a toxic faction of the show’s audience, “because it’s a popular show and people obsess about it,” but Harmon goes into more depth on the podcast.
Gao, who mentioned in the latest episode that the reaction to her work on Rick and Morty has been mostly positive despite a few “angry, young white men” that appear in her mentions on Twitter, said although it’s not as fun to take the high road, it’s the only way she deals with harassers online.
“You ultimately lose if they get any sort of rise out of you,” Gao said, “and that means they affected you.”
One of the conversations that comes up between Harmon and Gao is the topic of hiring based on meritocracy, not for diversity reasons and inclusivity. Gao has addressed this in the past, telling The Hollywood Reporter that it’s “one thing that really pisses me off.”
"The people who say that have never ever thought about what that actually means and where that meritocracy comes from,” Gao said. “Overwhelmingly, the person who is deciding who is the funniest is going to be a white guy, usually in his 30s or 40s who for sure grew up middle class or upper middle class. Someone like that is going to have very specific life experience and a specific sense of humor."
Whiting Wongs, which runs about an hour each episode, does its job of providing good insight into what it’s like to work as either a white man or woman of color in the industry, but Rick and Morty fans will also note the abundance of behind-the-scenes looks Harmon and Gao provide. It’s an interesting podcast that deals with an important subject matter at a time when the Rick and Morty community is coming under the lens of mass media.
Being able to hear Harmon and Gao talk about the series, their involvement and how they deal with that toxic fanbase, as well as their most faithful fans, is pretty grand. New episodes of the podcast will be available every Thursday on Acast.