Rick and Morty, Elliott Smith, and the Purpose of Emotion
I first discovered the music of Elliott Smith in a Rick and Morty joke.
Elliott Smith's music is well known for doing a simple thing: digging deep into a person and allowing them to feel emotion they may have been repressing. That's why teenagers like it so much. While it may not be poetic or incredibly skillful, the atmosphere created by Elliot Smith's guitar playing is uniquely calming. The ability his music to impel introspection is not unique to only Elliot Smith however. In fact, this effect—found at varying levels of skill from artist to artist—is ubiquitous throughout the music industry: the ability to create an atmosphere.
Nerdwriter1, one of my biggest literary influences, did a video on this phenomenon.
In today's world, we search for emotion and direction through TV, media, music, and friends. We spend countless hours watching Netflix for a buzz whenever a character makes a joke, or the sadness when a character dies. It's right in front of us 24/7. Whenever you try to change your mood by listening to happy music instead of sad, whenever you tune out the world with Netflix, whenever you play video games or watch Youtube or surf Facebook instead of doing work. We have so methods of feeling superficial emotion instead of those down to our core.
Music can either be an escape or a trap. Either way, they look like escapes. For instance, we may listen to Elliott Smith when we feel sad in order to feel all the emotions necessary for assessing our personal health and attitude towards an issue. This would be an escape, as we would be escaping from the distractions of the world and tuning inwards, freeing ourselves from confusion. Facing the absolute truth of how we feel—how we *actually* feel—is one of the most important parts of mental health. It's also what allows us to make art, music, poetry, etc.
I watch a Youtube channel called The School of Life. In one video, they talked about the role of art museums in today's culture. Essentially, the video proposed that we should go to art museums as a way to better ourselves intellectually, mental-health-ually (?), and creatively. If we need help coping with the absurdity of the universe (like Albert Camus three choices esque crisis), we'll go look at art not searching for truths about the world, but for appreciating the world .... or something. Better example! Ok you'd go look at art to heal from a relationship, or a sudden loss in the family, or maybe just to better understand yourself. Maybe you want to feel inspired, or maybe—tying it all together here—to feel an emotion on the deepest level.
Elliott Smith and Rick and Morty are both excellent at doing one thing: developing character. Rick and Morty poses characters at their most superficial layers (their desires, hopes, personalities), and then allows us to dig deeper into their lives. Elliott Smith allows us to develop our own character, looking inwards towards ourselves and feeling emotions perhaps hidden or erupting out at random moments. Emotion is a fickle thing, and controlling it all the time is the wrong move. We must learn to accept ourselves as beautifully flawed; our ability to feel emotion both a strength and weakness. Though emotion hurts and betrays us, we're able to understand who we are and what we want in life, and get inspiration to keep bettering ourselves before our inevitable death.