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What Justin Roiland’s Abuse Charges Mean for the Future of ‘Rick & Morty’

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Justin Roiland attends The Game Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater on December 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California

Humanity is an ugly thing, and Hollywood is even uglier.

I’ve been writing about celebrity abuse scandals for a few days straight now, and just when it seems like I’ve scraped out the bottom of the barrel, it turns out that the barrel has wayyyyy more bottom than I thought.

Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie has been accused by multiple people of sexual misconduct involving minors. Wednesday star Percy Hynes has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, many of whom were minors at the time of the alleged assaults. Twitter is ablaze with reactions to Tiffany Haddish’s child sex abuse scandal. Allegations on allegations on allegations. Are they true? Will the victims get restitution? Will it ever stop? The only question I can answer for sure is the last one, and the answer is “no.” At the intersection of money and power and fame, there grows a darkness in the human spirit, and the allegations against Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland prove to be just one one more of the countless examples of this sad truth.

What did Justin Roiland do?

In 2020, Roiland was charged with multiple counts of felony domestic violence against a former partner: One count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud, and/or deceit. Roiland pled not guilty to the charges. While a trial date has not been set, there will be a pre-trial hearing on April 27.

Although Roiland’s lawyer has vehemently denied the charges, the last shred of Roiland’s reputation was destroyed when disturbing DMs between the voice actor and an underage fan emerged online. In the DMs, Roiland uses a series of sexual innuendos and racial slurs with the 16-year-old, and finally suggests that she “go into sex slavery.” If you want to read the entirety of the vile exchange, you can do so on Twitter, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This unnamed minor isn’t the only person who has received disgusting DMs from Roiland in the past. Twitter user Allie Goertz, who wrote a Rick and Morty based concept album, tweeted out a series of DMs she received from Roiland with racist suggestions for songs on the album before calling the musician a “f*ggot.”

Fans of the adult cartoon series Rick and Morty are wondering about the future of the show in light of these charges. Allegations of this nature tend to throw a well-deserved monkey wrench into the career of any famous artist. In Roiland’s case, the voice actor has been dropped from the series, and a search for a replacement is underway.

How many characters does Justin Roiland voice on Rick and Morty?

Roiland voices the two titular characters of the show: Crabby, nihilistic scientist Rick and eternally neurotic teenager Morty. He also provides the voices for a slew of minor characters such as Mr. Meseeks, Mr. Poopybutthole, Mr. Always Wants to Be Hunted, as well as one of the show’s main antagonists: Evil Morty. The new voice actor(s) for the series will have big shoes to fill, and fans are no doubt wondering if replacing the voice actor for the two most iconic characters in the series will doom the show. That may be true, but when the other option is continuing to provide a high-profile job for an alleged domestic abuser, the decision is clear.

It’s possible that Roiland’s voice will be scrubbed away from other series as well. After the allegations against Louis C.K. came to light, Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch and Disney re-dubbed the disgraced comedian’s guest appearance with another actor. Justin Roiland also had a guest spot on the show, and it’s likely that his character will be re-dubbed as well.

While Rick and Morty are arguably Roiland’s most famous roles, he has voiced a slew of characters over a long voice acting career, leaving the legacy of those shows stained as well. His voice credits include the Earl of Lemongrab on Adventure Time (formerly my favorite fucking character on that show. Fuck you, Justin Roiland) and characters on Star vs. the Forces of Evil and Yo Gabba Gabba.

What will happen to Rick and Morty?

According to a tweet from Adult Swim, Rick and Morty will return for a seventh season without Roiland. The network has not yet confirmed how they will deal with the task of replacing the actor, nor have they announced when a seventh season will be released. While Dan Harmon initially stated in an interview with The Wrap that season 7 would air in 2023, it’s unclear if this will actually be the case. The season will likely be delayed in the scramble to find a voice actor or actors that can replace Roiland.

In the meantime, fans have developed a solution of their own. A group of Rick and Morty fans have come up with a story arc that would allow the show to continue without the two titular characters. The solution is to focus on Morty’s lovable loser dad Jerry, who some fans consider to be the true star of the show. Some fans have suggested that the show be renamed Jerry, and while it’s unknown if the writers of the show will take the bait, it’s a clever idea regardless.

Is Dan Harmon still on Rick and Morty?

Yes, Dan Harmon is still attached to the show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Harmon will continue as the series’ sole creator until season 10. However, in response to the litany of allegations against Roiland and the screenshots of his hideous DM exchange with a minor, it’s likely that many fans will not continue to watch the series if the comments section of Twitter is any indication. After all, Roiland provided the DNA on which the show is based. They can fire Roiland and replace him with someone else, but Roiland’s shadow will still continue to loom over the series.

Dan Harmon is a clever writer, and perhaps he will be able to use his skill to address the conduct of Roiland within the narrative of the show, and find a suitable story arc that allows audiences to bury the legacy of Roiland in the collective backyard of their minds. However, there are some things that no amount of talent can fix, and no amount of rebranding can wipe clean. The legacy of Rick and Morty may just be one of them.

(featured image: Greg Doherty, Getty Images)

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