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How Young Is Too Young to Watch RICK AND MORTY?

I had never seen Rick and Morty until I had to see Rick and Morty.

Oh, I had heard about it, ad nauseam. The internet won’t shut up about it. College students rioted because they couldn’t get Szechuan dipping sauce from McDonalds because of Rick and Morty. I’ve had people, from strangers encountered on the London Tube to colleagues, pull me aside and show me clips on their phones. I’ve had folks that I trust and love explain, in great detail, that I’m a moron for not watching Rick and Morty.

Then, my 13-year-old son told me he was watching Rick and Morty. When my wife asked me if I’d seen Rick and Morty, all I could say was, “I hear it’s really good.” Realizing that my answer did not fit the requirements of responsible paternity, I sat down with the Boy — we  always call him “the Boy” or “the Lad”— and watched an episode called “Pickle Rick.”

“Pickle Rick” is a phenomenal episode of television. But Rick and Morty is not a cartoon for a 13-year-old. So much violence, so much sex, so many ideas that turn violence into sex, with a healthy helping of liquor and space travel. But after I watched “Pickle Rick,” my wife asked me if I thought the Boy should be allowed to watch Rick and Morty. I said, “Yeah, it’s okay.”

As much as I want to shield a developing mind, 13 is about the age when a kid should start exposing her or himself to culture that is a little beyond their years. Think back to when you were 13 years old: What were you watching? What were you reading? How much of it was theoretically age appropriate, and what does that even mean really?

I remember faking a fever to stay home the month Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was on HBO— this was back when you could sneak a little toplessness into a PG movie, and PG movies were okay to program during daylight hours. I remember my friends and I hiding behind a couch watching The Exorcist. (One of us might’ve wet ourselves.) I remember finding the works of Iceberg Slim on my father’s bookshelf — and I definitely shouldn’t have been reading about life as a pimp at that age.

When I was 13, video store clerks never checked ID, so as long as you weren’t wading into the disco-curtained-off “adult” section, they didn’t care what you rented — and 1984-85 was the hieght of the VHS exploitation boom. I saw my share of crap, videos I actively sought out because the boxes promised precisely what a teenage boy was looking for.

But I also saw The Terminator and National Lampoon’s Vacation and A Nightmare on Elm Street and Revenge of the Nerds and This Is Spinal Tap and Beverly Hills Cop and Christine and Flashdance and Risky Business and The Last American Virgin. I saw the kinds of movies that my parents would’ve been furious to know that I’d seen, but would eventually come to define me. Or, at least, define the kind of pop culture consumer — and, eventually, creator — I’d become.

When you exercise, the ache you feel is from microtears in your muscle tissue. You are pushing past your comfort zone and doing damage—but when the muscles heal, they heal stronger. I think the brain works much in the same way: You have to push it into places it’s never gone before and, hopefully, it’ll be stronger on the other side.

So I’m letting the Lad watch Rick and Morty, simultaneously laughing and cringing, because this is what growing pains feel like. For both of us.

Featured Image: Adult Swim

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