Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon has called out a group of online commenters for harassing and even doxxing female writers on the show’s writing staff.
The events Harmon is referring to take place over the course of the show’s third season, with a heavy focus on the first few. A Reddit thread posted in the Rick and Morty subreddit singled out various female writers on the show’s staff for some fans’ lack of enjoyment of the third season. That same thread was later used for doxxing members of the writing team, forcing moderators to step in.
Harmon, who told Entertainment Weekly he’s been on a Twitter sabbatical for the past few weeks, admitted he was aware of the thread. Harmon said he also knew going into the third season that high-profile women were often the subjects of online abuse and attacks.
I was familiar going into the third season, having talked to Felicia Day, that any high-profile women get doxxed, they get harassed, they get threatened, they get slandered. And part of it is a testosterone-based subculture patting themselves on the back for trolling these women. Because to the extent that you get can get a girl to shriek about a frog you’ve proven girls are girly and there’s no crime in assaulting her with a frog because it’s all in the name of proving something. I think it’s all disgusting.
In a statement to the magazine, Harmon said he hasn’t made it a secret how much he loathes these types of viewers. Harmon added that going after a single writer shows ignorance toward how TV series and writing rooms work, explaining that audiences shouldn’t be able to tell who was credited with writing an episode as it’s a team effort.
In the Reddit thread where this all began, moderator elastical_gomez updated the thread to address the situation. Elastical_gomez made it clear that smear campaigns will be removed and multiple offenders will receive a temporary ban.
Plenty of women have been involved with the creation and production since the beginning of the show. Women work on R&M as producers, coordinators, assistants, voice actors, production managers, storyboard artists, designers, colorists, editors & animators not to mention all the people who work at the network, marketing, etc. The whole process is highly collaborative and everyone contributes to the end product. Whatever issues you have with the showpast [sic] 2 episodes, it has nothing to do with the writers' genders. The fact that this is even getting brought up is absurd. Interdimensional Cable 2, Needful Things and Raising Gazorpazorp didn't get crazy stellar fan reactions, and no one brought up the writers' dicks as being a factor (when in reality those episodes didn't do as well because of the writers' dicks /s)
The harassment wasn’t just contained to the subreddit. Writers like Jane Becker and Jessica Gao, two high-profile writers who earned writing credit for the episodes being moaned about, received vulgar comments from people on Twitter and Facebook. Another writer on the series, Sarah Carbiener, told The Hollywood Reporter that when female writers were brought on board for the show’s third season — the first time the show ever had female writers on staff — they were interested in focusing more on Beth and Summer. The two characters, while popular among fans, were largely there to help progress Rick and Morty’s arcs. Carbiener said they wanted to bring Beth and Summer forward and get into more nuanced storytelling.
“I don’t think they ever didn’t give Summer and Beth their due," Carbiener told the magazine. "I think a lot of guys in the room were driving those conversations because they realized we need to tell more of these stories, and now that there are women in the room we can vet them and make them better. It wasn’t like we showed up and said, 'Where are all the Beth episodes?’”
It was the deeper storytelling, emotional arcs and focus on Beth and Summer that resulted in the abuse the female writers were served. Despite Rick and Morty’s third season being one of its most critically acclaimed and bringing in some of its most popular characters — Pickle Rick was created by Jessica Gao — there was a group of fans who retaliated for the direction the show was going in.
Other fans have reached out to Carbiener, Gao, Becker and the fourth female writer, Erica Rosbe, on Twitter to offer their support. Harmon told Entertainment Weekly that he wishes he could yell at “these idiots” and inform them that all the writers work on episodes together; it’s not just one individual writer’s standpoint coming across.
“These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own — and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender,” Harmon said.
After two seasons of not having female staff writers on the show, Harmon and co-creator finally brought on Gao, Becker, Cabiener and Rosbe for the third season. Harmon told The Daily Beast having female writers on the show meant that there was an opportunity for more voices to be heard and storylines to make it into the show — including exploring Summer and Beth.
“We had that for this season and I thought the results were really good because it meant that both the men and the women could increase their attention on Beth and Summer,” Harmon said. “Nobody represents any gender because if nobody outnumbers anybody else, then nobody’s an ambassador to anything.”
Despite the push forward, fans started complaining about the upcoming changes as early as last year, creating Reddit threads to talk about their unease with the changing staff. The Rick and Morty subreddit moderators have made it their goal to ensure that writers aren’t targeted and sexist or derogatory language isn’t used, but with more than 635,000 active subscribers, that can be difficult.
“Some people have been threatening and harassing the female writers of R&M all because they didn't particularly care for the past few episodes,” elastical_gomez wrote. “It goes without saying that regardless of what you think about the show, that sort of behavior is shitty and inciting more harassment of these people is not allowed on the subreddit. It's beyond shitty that these people have worked hard for so long only to be treated this way over a fucking cartoon. For the record, I worked on Rick and Morty during season one and have been affiliated with the show ever since.
“If you set aside the sexism, the rest of this is rooted in ignorance about how animated shows are produced.”
Polygon has reached out to Adult Swim for comment on the story.
Update: In response to a request from Polygon, a representative from Adult Swim did not offer any additional information about how it was handling the situation, but said, “We wholeheartedly support Dan and the entire team of talented female writers and crew on Rick and Morty.”