The Fall of the Empire

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

by Patrick LeClerc

So, this happened.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, I’ll provide some background.

The s/f cartoon Rick and Morty made a craving for McDonald’s discontinued Szechuan Dipping Sauce into a thing. It was a joke on the show, and as happens so often in geek culture, it became a huge thing on social media.

McDonald’s, sensing a marketing opportunity like shark smelling a wounded seal, jumped on it. Rather than a conventional ad campaign, they sent Rick and Morty’s creator a tub of the sauce, and advertised that it would be back for one day only, letting Facebook and Twitter run with it.

Predictably, s/f cartoon fans proved to be both plugged in to social media, and the exact demographic to whom to sell the combination of deep-fried compressed chicken parts, cheap faux-ethnic sauce, nostalgia and irony.

But McDonald’s screwed the pooch.

Most stores got very little of the sauce, or the limited edition posters, some franchises never got the memo that this was even happening. What should have been a great opportunity to cash in on more or less free viral marketing and gain some geek cred turned into a PR nightmare.

And the fans, deprived of one ounce packets of cheap dipping sauce, rioted like idiots.

Seriously, the police had to get involved in a few locations.

This is almost an episode of Rick and Morty.

Now, this touches us at QM because of the connection to s/f, to the power of the web, and illustrates some of the issues with fan culture in general. That’s kind of our wheelhouse.

But I find it part of an even more profound and disturbing trend.

This is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with America.

A reality TV star is President. Who is golfing while California burns.

The gladiators are revolting.

And now, the biggest fast food company is the world just fucked up the Bread and Circuses. And people rioted over the lack of what is almost surely a packet of equal parts soy sauce and corn syrup.

Any day now the Visigoths will be showing up at the gates.

We had a good run.

I’m gonna go pour one out for the dream that was America.

Last one out, turn off the lights.

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