If you've been confused by this ill-fated McDonald's rollout, you aren't alone.
Photo via Twitter
If you've somehow managed to tune out the frenzy surrounding McDonald's Szechuan sauce that overtook the United States for the past few days, congratulations. For the uninitiated, though, a primer: Rick, one of the titular characters of Cartoon Network's wildly beloved Rick and Morty, harbors an unceasing obsession with this condiment, initially sold in McDonald's locations alongside Chicken McNuggets in June of 1998. The campaign was meant to dovetail with the release of Disney's Mulan that same year, with the sauce billed as offering "a taste of the East" (yikes).
Rick articulated his nostalgia in the season 3 premiere of the show this past April, which generated a surfeit of interest in the long-discontinued fast food condiment. As a result of its appearance on the show, the sauce was subsequently sold by the jug on eBay for over $15,000 and became the subject of copycat-recipe video cooking tutorials.
Hoping to appease Rick and Morty's fervent fanbase, McDonald's announced earlier this month that it would give packets of the sauce away to customers for one day only in select locations across the country. The promotion took place this past Saturday, and, er, it didn't go so well.
Supplies of the sauce didn't even come close to meeting demand, much to the dismay of agitated fans, who screamed, rioted, and gathered outside McDonald's locations by the hundreds shouting for the condiment. The corporation kowtowed to its distraught cabal of sauceless Rick and Morty fans the day after its ill-fated promotion by promising to bring the sauce back in the winter in much more robust quantities.
Was this a false flag operation, as our colleagues at Motherboard suggested? Or had this event merely been the result of McDonald's incompetence, in which they miscalculated the enormity and fervor of Rick and Morty's fanbase? The jury's still out. All that's clear, really, is that this corporate tie-in snowballed pretty fast, resulting in a brilliant display of American consumerist panic.
If you've been utterly confounded by the particular manner in which this seemingly innocuous tie-in has somehow careened into a national crisis, you're not alone. Take a look at the coverage it generated in Japan.
On this morning's broadcast of Tokudane!, an hourlong news program that airs every weekday morning on FujiTV, five anchors devoted a good three minutes to the ensuing protests this McDonald's promotion ignited within the United States. It's a pretty marvelous segment, with a cadre of journalists on the other side of the world trying to make sense of what seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon.
SoraNews24 surfaced some tweets from a few unsuspecting Japanese television viewers who were as befuddled as those anchors covering this bizarre occurrence, and, well, they're quite funny.
To translate: "The Szechuan sauce is a re-release from 19 years ago when Mulan came out," one user rightly pointed out. "I never expected to see Mulan come up on Toku Da Ne." (Neither had I.)
"What?! America is on the brink of rioting over Schezuan sauce?!" asked another, thoroughly confused. "In America there are riots at McDonald's for people wanting Szechuan sauce, but I don't know if they're dangerous or peaceful," yet another quipped.
Same. With so many other issues worth organizing for, it's hard to believe this is what some Americans rallied around.