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Fandoms, Nostalgia and Szechuan Sauce

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If you work in marketing, and you want to appeal to a fandom, please check to make sure that the fandom isn’t beyond stupid.

For the record, being in a fandom doesn’t make you a bad person and the idea of fandom is not the problem. The problem stems from the “dark side” that each fandom has and how it can, and has, engulfed certain groups in the eyes of the public.

This “dark side” can be very toxic, ranging primarily from their inability to accept that the thing they like does not necessarily appeal to everyone. This is what I consider the most common form of “fandom cancer”.

“Fandom Cancer” can form whenever a group of people form either their identity, or simply focus on, one piece of media. It can be a game, movie, T.V show or even a single celebrity. The thing they choose to gather around is not the problem, it’s their actions that are the problem.

Stage 2 of fandom cancer is “the attack squad”. This is when the fandom will actively seek out, in massive numbers, people that have “wronged” the thing they liked. This primarily takes place online, but can have real world implications. In the case of the “Steven Universe” fandom, an artist was driven to attempt suicide after the fandom harassed them for art that was deemed “problematic”.

Whether or not the art was problematic is not the issue in this instance. The problem is that a large group of people singled out a Tumblr artist who wasn’t even that popular and started to harass them over a children’s cartoon. That should never happen, regardless of motive. This instance of “fandom cancer” had real world implications, which brings us to the third stage which conveniently involves “Rick and Morty”.

Stage 3 is “The Global” stage. This is when the cancer spreads to the real world and has effects outside of social media. We’re talking about police getting involved and actions that make you wonder if these people ever passed grade school.

This is the stage the “Rick and Morty” fandom reached with their sauce meme.

You see, during the beginning of season three of “Rick and Morty”, the show decided to use a little nostalgia to wow the audience. Only they weren’t satisfied with referencing Vanilla Ice or Tamagotchi’s, no they dug deep for the most obscure reference they could think of.

They brought up a McDonalds promotional product called Szechuan Sauce. It was developed in 1998 for the animated movie “Mulan”, and that is it. It was basically Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce and nothing more. It wasn’t that culturally significant, or even that good to begin with, since it was discontinued as soon as the movie left theaters.

It was never brought back by McDonalds, and that’s the only proof you need if you were wondering if this stuff was any good. Chain restaurants have a way of milking things that were popular and if this sauce was worth anything it would have been brought out again like the McRib and Shamrock Shack were in some compacity. But it wasn’t, and it stayed dead until Rick and Morty decided to dig it up again.

After the episode aired, the fandom started searching the web for some way to acquire said sauce. Why the sudden interest? It’s because the show referenced something that can be bought and people want to own it for their collections. This happens a lot; product gets referenced in a show, fandom suddenly develops an urge to own that product. Normally this wouldn’t be that bad, some suckers get scammed out of a couple grand on eBay and then everyone goes home.

However, it didn’t end there because McDonalds did the one thing no company should even attempt.

They tried to court the toxic fandom, obviously for profit.

McDonalds brought the sauce back for an extremely limited run on Oct 7th and the fandom went ballistic.

Side note: never bring a product back for a very small but vocal group, they will never be satisfied with the limited offering and will complain like a bunch of entitled brats. Furthermore, do not give these groups a physical place to meetup at because they will ruin the experience of your service with their presence.

Both points were displayed at McDonalds around the globe, when stores ran out of the stupid sauce. To be fair to the fans, McDonalds did a poor job stocking their stores and you should call them out for it. What you should not do is hop on the counter and throw a tantrum.

Or do anything that would lead to police being called to the scene. Or pay people ten bucks just for the chance to dip your McNuggets in the sauce. Or trade your car for packets of the sauce.

Spoiler, people did all these things and more.

Articles over this debacle are all over the internet and the fandom has successfully proved that if they work hard and believe in themselves, they too can display stupidity of the highest order.

Now McDonalds wants to take a second swing at playing with this fandom during the winter season. They plan to “properly” stock stores with this sauce for a second attempt at cashing in on a fandom.

I cannot in good faith support this decision in any capacity.

If you continue to market yourself to the most toxic members of a group then that group will continue to make problems for everyone. The reward for getting the police called to your store should not be “let’s give them more sauce”.

The “Rick and Morty” fandom already has their head far up their own ass due to how they act. They think that just because they watch this one show, they are suddenly geniuses worthy of praise. That every line of dialogue from this show is Shakespearian. That they suddenly know how science works just because they watched this show. They think they are the god damn greatest things since sliced bread and the longer they get acknowledgement from the outside world, the worse it will become.

Sure, police get called to one store, but what happens when the riots start to happen over this stupid sauce. People riot over baseball and Black Friday sales, its safe to say they will riot over this. Now you got people screaming “PICKLE RICK” as they burn garbage in the street just as Christmas is coming around the corner.

I know for a fact no one wants that, so anything that could attract this group should be avoided, that means letting this stupid sauce die out once and for all…or not.

You see, the mistake stems from the fact that this is “a limited run”. Everything becomes special if it has a limited stock, that’s basic economics. The fandom doesn’t give a shit about the sauce, they want the prestige of owning something that to them is just a collector’s item.

If McDonalds brought the sauce back as a permanent option on the menu, then that would kill the meme. Sure, the crowds would form for the opening day and maybe linger for a week at most, but then the truth would set in.

The truth that this sauce wasn’t worth a car or five grand. That its value was blind nostalgia and memes, memes that will one day fade away. They will see that their rabid desires killed the mystic of the sauce. The backlash akin to a self-inflicted “every day is Christmas” scenario would be felt across the web. The eBay offers would disappear and no one would care about any of this, except the fandom. They would steep in their pain from the wounds they inflicted upon themselves, complaining about how “the masses ruined are joke”. Then, once all hype had properly died down, the sauce can be removed from stores once and for all.

By then enough of the stuff will have been horded away by collectors ensuring that the eBay market doesn’t become littered with this crap anytime soon.

But seriously, to all fandoms, grow up. Your shows and games are not worth ruining other people’s lives. All you accomplish by acting up is scaring off people who might actually like your shows.

Personally, I look forward to the day all the toxic fandoms die out. When your shows stop airing and you relegate yourself to the corner next to Alf. When you’ll scream “Wubba Lubba Dub Dub” in a crowded area and no one will return the call. When you show them and episode of Rick and Morty and they respond with “its ok”.

Don’t believe me? Go over to the Bronies and ask how their numbers are doing.

What’s that? Trouble finding one? Exactly.

Below is one of the freak outs from this sauce

And here is another video showing the crowds that formed over this sauce.

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Fandoms, Nostalgia and Szechuan Sauce