Friday, October 13, 2017

I turn my back for FIVE SECONDS and you assholes are fighting over sauce.

Jesus Christ. All I want to do is go to England and see my friends and eat a whole bunch of meat pies and this happens. I can't leave you guys alone ever.

So in case somehow you've missed even more than I have, Rick & Morty fans are disappointed at not getting their hands on some limited-edition Szechuan Sauce from McDonald's. Confused? Yeah, I've actually marathoned all three seasons so far and I'm confused, too.

The joke was a throwaway in the most recent season premiere, followed by a callback in Justin Roiland's (almost certainly) ad-libbed rant as Rick at the end of the episode. Rick spends a lot of the episode in is own memories, which is the only place he can still get McD's long-gone Szechuan dipping sauce that came out briefly as a Mulan tie-in. And anyone who's a nerd can see where this is going. The throwaway joke becomes a fixation.

McDonald's noticed and decided to exploit it. They bring back the sauce for one day, with no official ties to the show. I mean, it's their sauce, right? Why do they need to? It's independent. No ties.

So check this art out. This is the art of a freelancer who was told to emulate Rick & Morty without getting sued, and to this artist's credit they did good. They did everything one does when told "evoke this but cover our asses." Different color palette, a font that is reminiscent but different in overall construction, and Generic Outer Space. Without the Szechuan Sauce tie, this could refer to a lot of things, but it pings a fan's knowledge and obviously leads the mind back.

So it's important to know this because Adult Swim had no part in the promotion. None. This wasn't a mutual venture -- it was a rare opportunity for a company to cash in on its own product via someone else's popularity.

And, well. We remember what happened. There wasn't enough Sauce. People fought, beat each other up, and (allegedly) traded cars for this shit. And look. I wasn't a big McD's goer in the 90s so I don't even know if it was good. It might suck. But it was madness. And yeah, Rick & Morty is a nihilistic piece of fiction about how ultimately our actions and losses don't matter in the greater universe, but that's no call for this.

But let's break this down a little further. Because what happened next is where it gets hinky in a pair of directions.

Direction 1: McDonald's offers ludicrously small amounts of The Sauce. Weirdly small. As in 'Why even bother' small. I could blame this on poor market research, but no one is this dumb. If an item on your menu is memebait for a rabid fandom, you're gonna notice. And you will be acutely aware of just how big it is.

According to Zap2It, the season premiere pulled in over 2 million viewers -- second only to reigning champion Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, there are currently over 14,000 McDonald's in the United States. If we assume that every Rick & Morty viewer went to get their sauce, each McD's would have to have 142 packets minimum.

That's awkward for two reasons:

1. Not every Rick & Morty viewer went to get Sauce.
2. Less than 150 of anything being handed out is... bad planning for a major chain.

But then something else happened: McDonald's apologized for the snafu and agreed to bring the Sauce back big time this winter.

Except they did so in a targeted post, littered (poorly) with show references, not long after underdelivering and sending massive bottles of the stuff to people (if Instagram is to be believed). If this wasn't a massive ploy, it's extremely bothersome that McD's doesn't seem to mind how much it looks like a massive ploy.

Direction 2: Show co-creator Dan Harmon is being snippy.

After some snarky jokes about the fiasco on his Twitter, some McD's employees called on him to recognize a separation between the company itself and the employees who got thrown in the shit. He didn't respond well at the time, implying that he was the only real victim in the mess and any McDonald's employees are just cross because they're stuck working a shit job.

Time for reflection and some strong words have either brought him around or made him realize that this won't win him any fans. The sad part was that this could have been a good, helpful moment. Speaking against the poorly behaved fans would have served the double purpose of bolstering the employees and pointing out the harm caused by the stunt. There might still be time for him to salvage something, but he lost what could have been a very good window.

And this is all putting aside the fact that this whole debacle was caused over a fixation with a throwaway gag about a one-off promotional item that the people seeking it out might not even like.

Before you all run off feeling I've just proved you can be a snark, I actually have nothing against lining up for limited edition TV related merch. I am a sucker for branding. I love that stuff, and if I were around for a genuine collaboration between Adult Swim and McDonald's, I'd get sauce. That's cool. I'd go into a fast food place and bring back all the Ricks and all the Mortys.

But this wasn't that. This was a company piggybacking with the law on their side off another franchise, and a bunch of confused employees getting screamed at for something they probably don't even know about. It was a big hot mess caused by people getting greedy and frankly nothing has panned out well.

This is the part where I say what I would have done. And uh. I don't know. I probably wouldn't have made the damn sauce. Or I would have tried for a true collaboration. But I probably wouldn't have made the damn sauce.

Y'all please have your shit together by the time I get back.