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TikTok Grimace trend: Gen Z humor in a nutshell

TikTok Grimace trend: Gen Z humor in a nutshell

Grimace, McDonald’s resident purple blob mascot, recently bid his goodbye on the fast food chain’s social media accounts. He succumbed to newfound fame as his berry-flavored milkshake for his month-long birthday celebration spurred mini horror series on the Tiktok platform. 

Following the series of cryptic messages, Grimace, who took over the accounts on June 12, wrote on Twitter, “u made me feel so specialll ty say goodbye grimace nowww,” last June 28. The #grimaceshake has garnered over 2.2 billion views in TikTok alone. And, of course, in true Gen Z fashion, it also wreaked havoc among McDonald’s workers.

It may signify an end of an era, but let’s gri-minisce good ‘ol weeks of the unhinged trend.

TWITTER | McDonald’s

The TikTok Grimace trend is Gen Z humor in a nutshell

For those living in the rock, here’s the logline. TikTok users, predominantly young children, pretended to pass out or die after several sips of the odd-colored milkshake, followed by numerous spooky endings. The easiest trope is convulsing, insinuating that the shake is poisonous. While the darker and more elaborate end would be the once beloved mascot, Grimace turned into a demonic entity and slaughtered anyone who dared to try the concoction.

TikTok user @guaquamolininjabenis also received 8.8 million views for their video submission, which showed him tasting the Grimace shake while standing in the middle of the night in a car’s headlights. 

@guaquamolininjabenis He will be grim-missed #grimaceshake #mcdonalds #trending ♬ Grimacing Sounds – Jon & Eli

It eventually shifted into a found-footage horror sequence in which a person followed a trail of purple shake drops in an abandoned, dilapidated building. He later discovered a shirtless man with a purple handprint on his chest. Interestingly, Grimace only has four fingers, raising suspicion of a frame-up.

Unlike other Grimace Shake Tiktoks, user @dylantate caught the blundering monster running toward him on camera. It later cut to a crime scene, where he lay on top of his car with spilled purple shake.

@dylantate happy birthday grimace #grimace #grimaceshake #grimacesbirthday #mcdonalds #fyp ♬ original sound – Dylan Tate

After the birthday meal rollout spiraled out of control, Grimace himself reacted by sharing a picture of himself on Twitter with blank staring eyes captioned: “pretending i don’t see the grimace shake trend.”

The video that started it all

On June 13, Tiktoker Austin Frazier (@thefrazmaz) originated the trend with a posted video of himself trying the milkshake, then – a smash cut to him lying on the ground like a crime had just occurred. That video, captioned “R.I.P Grimace (and me),” now amassed over 3.2 million views on TikTok. Many users flooded the app with creative submissions, from simple to elaborate production value.

Frazier, who called himself the “original ‘victim’ of Grimace,” explained that the inspiration came from a similar meme. In reference to a video of a man who appeared to be at the back of an ambulance after eating the Burger Kings’ Spider-Verse Whopper.

@thefrazmaz Replying to @Jonesy I originally made it for a quick, funny, one-off video and a lot of people jumped on board which honestly made it so much funnier #grimaceshake #grimace #mcdonalds #trend #viral #fyp ♬ original sound – Fraz

“I was thinking, ‘Oh this is like the Spider-Verse burger,’ it’s an unnatural color, it’s unique,” he said. Besides the red and black color of the infamous burger, many netizens also poked fun at the ‘Pink Sauce’ condiment sold online that oddly varies shades for every batch made and the limited Saweetie meal.

Frazier added, “Grimace is collecting victims… It’s just funny, ya know.”

@thefrazmaz Opening the box that McDonald’s sent over in response to the Grimace Shake Trend! #grimaceshake #grimace #boxopening #mcdonalds #notsponsored #viral #trend ♬ original sound – Fraz

Grimace lore, a reformed thief with fewer arms

YOUTUBE | Grimace with four arms in the 1970s McDonald’s commercial | TESTMACORONI Classic

Not far from the sinister twists of the Tiktok trend, the purple blob was initially introduced as “Evil Grimace,” a villain whose pal with the infamous Hamburglar for their affinity for stealing. He first appeared in a 1971 commercial as the “four-armed” monster that swiped cups to prevent anyone from drinking milkshakes and Coca-Cola at McDonaldland.

Although the original iteration seems more fitting today, the milkshake fiend prompted quick changes when it inadvertently scared young customers.

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“The original Grimace was scaly, mean-looking, had four arms, and had no charm whatsoever,” Roy T. Bergold Jr., McDonald’s former advertising vice president, wrote in QSR magazine in 2012. “We changed him to a soft, plush, two-armed blob of a sweetheart who only wanted McDonald’s milkshakes and to hang out with Ronald.”

After the rebrand, Grimace survived the purge of McDonaldland’s characters in the 1980s and appeared in commercials until 2003. 

Not until 2021, Grimace entered the scene again when McDonald’s Outstanding Manager of the Year Brian Bates weighed in to say he’s a taste bud. But a fast food company spokesperson confirmed to Insider that Grimace’s identity is somewhat fluid. “Whether he’s a taste bud, a milkshake, or just your favorite purple blob — the best part about Grimace is that he means different things to different people,” the spokesperson explained.

But to dial back further, the 2001 episode of ‘The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald,’ showed that Grimace came from the ‘Grimace Island’, a Hawaii-esque land that inhabited his tribe of various purple shades. 

Last year, Grimace had a brief stint at the 2022 Super Bowl Commercial voiced by Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and hopped on the bandwagon with the parody cryptocurrency called “grimace-coin.”

The trend is Gen Z humor in a nutshell

The Tiktok trend created a creative sandbox where creators riff and parody with the established format. It’s no longer simply passing out and foaming ‘grimace juice’ in their mouth. Creators adapted techniques from “Insidious” and found footage horror “The Blair Witch Project,” including heavy breathing and eerie music score alike. 

Apart from the display of the creative and production wits, the Grimace became a poster child of Gen Z’s dark and strange humor that puzzled older generations. Children hanging out in the sewer and foaming in the mouth with the ‘grimace juice’ is peak GenZ humor–anything between morbid, vulgar, and self-deprecating.

It tapped into the appeal of cutesy mascots morphing into demonic creatures, following suit the territory of reimagined slasher movie Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, puppet-like dark comedy Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, and video games like Poppy Playtime, Five Nights at Freddy’s.

No one, especially the Mcdonald’s team, could have anticipated that the supposed wholesome and nostalgic birthday campaign would be hijacked by teenagers with purchasing power, free time, and dark humor. But until then, Happy Birthday, Grimace! You will be grim-missed.

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