Morty Smith, one of the main characters in the popular animated sci-fi sitcom Rick and Morty, has often been speculated by fans to have some kind of disability or disorder. While the show has never explicitly confirmed a diagnosis for Morty, there are some strong clues that point to him potentially having autism or Asperger’s syndrome. In this article, we’ll explore the evidence for Morty having a disability, look at his symptoms and behaviors, and discuss how this representation is important for neurodiverse characters in media.
Evidence for Morty having a disability
Here are some of the key signs and hints that Morty may be neurodivergent:
Morty often struggles with social interactions and reading social cues. He can be awkward, has difficulty making eye contact, and doesn’t always understand sarcasm or figurative language. He also has limited friends and prefers to spend time alone or with family.
Morty has some very focused interests like science fiction and adventure. He knows a lot of obscure trivia about these topics but has less knowledge of or interest in broader subjects.
When Morty gets overwhelmed or excited, he sometimes flaps his hands or engages in other self-stimulating behaviors. These “stimming” behaviors are common in autistic individuals.
Morty can be sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, and other sensory stimuli. In the episode “Look Who’s Purging Now,” flashing police lights cause Morty distress.
Morty seems to learn differently than his classmates. Despite being intelligent in his own way, he struggles in traditional school environments.
Morty frequently experiences anxiety, worry, fear, and panic, especially related to Rick’s exploits. Many autistic people also deal with comorbid anxiety issues.
Analyzing Morty’s potential symptoms
Looking more closely at Morty’s behaviors and personality, here are some of the specific traits he displays that align with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis:
|Symptom||Examples in Morty|
|Difficulty with social interaction||Struggles to make friends at school, awkward conversational skills|
|Problems understanding non-literal language||Takes expressions like “busting my balls” literally|
|Dislikes changes to routine||Gets upset when Rick changes plans suddenly|
|Clumsiness and poor coordination||Frequently trips or knocks things over accidentally|
|Narrow range of interests||Focused knowledge of sci-fi tropes and tactics|
|Repetitive behaviors||Flaps hands when excited, paces when anxious|
|Distress at sensory input||Bothered by bright lights, loud sounds|
This collection of social, communication, behavioral, and sensory challenges lines up with an autism spectrum condition. Morty’s specific symptoms appear to most closely match Asperger’s syndrome, which was previously a separate diagnosis but is now folded under the autism diagnosis.
Autistic representation in media
While never officially confirmed, the implications of Morty being on the spectrum are important for representation of autism in pop culture. Some key points:
Complex, well-rounded characters
Morty being potentially autistic shows that these characters can be fully-realized, with strengths and flaws, not defined solely by a disability.
Morty goes against some stereotypes about autism by being an adventurous sci-fi hero instead of being pigeonholed into tropes of “genius” or “outsider.”
Subtle but impactful
An implicit representation allows the focus to stay on Morty as a character without making his disability the sole focus of his arc or identity.
Having a protaganist with subtle autistic traits can increase visibility and understanding of neurodiversity among the show’s mainstream audience.
Seeing Morty struggle with things like sensory overload or social anxiety can help neurodivergent viewers feel represented and understood.
The importance of diagnosis
While Morty displays numerous signs of being on the spectrum, the lack of official diagnosis in the show does raise issues:
Diagnosis facilitates access
A formal autism diagnosis unlocks access to accommodations and services that can help manage challenges.
Having a diagnosis helps autistic people understand themselves and reduces self-blame for social difficulties.
Reflects a process
Receiving a diagnosis is often a long process involving assessments by doctors and psychologists, which Morty hasn’t clearly undergone.
Risk of perpetuating stigma
The lack of label could inadvertently fuel stigma by framing autism implicitly as a shameful secret to hide.
It plays into tropes of neurodivergent characters never being explicitly identified as such in media.
So while not using a label allows Morty to be seen as a full character beyond a diagnosis, it has downsides in terms of reflecting the real diagnostic process and access to support services.
While Morty Smith’s disability or neurological status is never clearly confirmed in Rick and Morty, the preponderance of evidence suggests the character may be on the autism spectrum, likely with Asperger’s syndrome specifically. This subtle representation allows viewers to connect with Morty as a complex hero defined by more than just a diagnosis. However, the lack of official confirmation does have some problematic implications for reflecting the diagnostic process and access to support services. Overall, Morty represents autistic traits and experiences in a nuanced, positive way while leaving room for growth in explicitly confirming and labeling his disability.