Sometimes you can find representation in the oddest places. On American TV, you can find exactly one out, canon pansexual… and it’s Rick Sanchez, the alcoholic, genius scientist from the animated sci-fi series Rick & Morty.
The hit Adult Swim show is a hilariously bleak cartoon following Rick and his grandson Morty as they go on intergalactic adventures — or as Morty’s dad calls them, “high-concept sci-fi rigmarole.” The show is dark, sometimes moving, and above all, one of the funniest shows on television. And, at Comic-Con this year, Rick & Morty co-creator Justin Roiland announced that Rick is pansexual, and he wasn’t joking.
On one hand, Rick might not be the best spokesperson pansexuality. He’s drunk, obnoxious and pretty much amoral. But, he also seems like a real person which is impressive when you consider that mainstream TV shows typically portray stereotypical flamboyant characters, neurotic queens or magical gay-ngels who fix the straight cast’s problems.
While Rick doesn’t fit neatly into pre-existing LGBTQ stereotypes (he is unabashedly sexual), he also isn’t a role-model by any means. He’s blunt with a deadpan, deep-voice and his quick-fix solutions typically cause many horrible problems later down the line. In short, Rick is allowed to be a real, brilliant yet flawed person who just happens to be pansexual.
But enough generalizing — let’s look at some actual examples from the show.
That time Rick hooked up with a whole planet
Since Rick’s pansexual, it’s hard to get much more pan than a sexual relationship with an entire planet. Hooking up with every individual on a planet might seem like a gross stereotype, except in this instance all the individuals are controlled by one being: Unity, an alien hive-mind whose goal is to enslave the entire universe.
Unity (voiced primarily by Christina Hendricks) dated Rick a long time ago, and after rekindling their relationship in a sexual escapade involving a stadium, all of Unity’s redheads and all of Unity’s men who vaguely resemble Rick’s father (uh… dude’s got issues), Unity realizes that they’re not such a good match. After all, Rick’s too much of a bad influence.
Rick enjoys an orgiastic dream-dungeon.
In the first-season episode “Lawnmower Dog”, Rick and Morty go into Morty’s math teacher’s brain Inception-style in order to convince him to give Morty an A. Things get tricky, and when the first-level dream goes south, Rick’s got to “incept” one of the other people within the dream. This second-level dream turns out to be a huge orgy; while Morty feels uncomfortable, Rick is down with the situation and puts on leather gear to party with some masked dwarves… at least until a dream version of Morty’s sister Summer starts coming on to the both of them.
There aren’t many canon pansexuals on TV, and none on U.S. TV. The most known pansexual is Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood (played by openly gay actor John Barrowman) … but Harkness is also the poster boy for the “extreme omnisexual” stereotype who will sleep with anyone or thing. Other characters, like Degrassi‘s Imogen Moreno (played by Cristine Prosperi) are assumed by fans to be pansexual, but neither the creators nor the characters in the show have referred to her as such.