McDonald’s is currently experiencing every marketer’s dream: Having a new product go viral among young people on TikTok. There’s a slight monkey’s paw situation here however, because while Grimace memes are everywhere… they’re not exactly positive.
Essentially the Gritty of fast food mascots, the purple-furred Grimace is a perfect fit for absurdist Gen-Z humor. The gimmick of a mystery-flavored purple milkshake for Grimace’s 52nd birthday was already catnip for ironic memes, but over the past few days, the Grimace milkshake reactions have evolved into something more high-concept.
Right now TikTokers are racking up millions of views with videos of themselves wishing Grimace a happy birthday, downing his signature milkshake, and then pretending to pass out or die while covered in purple gloop.
@guaquamolininjabenis He will be grim-missed #grimaceshake #mcdonalds #trending ♬ Grimacing Sounds – Jon & Eli
These TikToks start out like a normal product-testing video, with people holding the McDonald’s cup up to the camera. But after they take a drink, the camera cuts away to something that looks like a crime scene or a shot from a horror movie.
When the TikToker reappears, they’re either lying unconscious and drenched in Grimace shake vomit, or they’ve gone through some kind of disturbing transformation.
@jaci.paci The new Grimace drink is so yummy 😋 . . . #grimace #grimaceshake #mcdonalds ♬ original sound – Jaci
@degoboop My review of the new #grimaceshake 😊 #mcdonalds ♬ original sound – Dego Boop
Beau is Afraid actor Armen Nahapetian posted a particularly alarming one, suggesting that he’s learned something from filmmaker Ari Aster’s horror skills.
@armiepcharmie i got grimaced #grimace #grimaceshake #grimacesbirthday #mcdonalds #armiepcharmie ♬ original sound – armen
The concept of Grimace shake-induced doom is so popular that some of these TikToks are getting meta, like this person acting like they’re trying to dodge the fate of It Follows.
After tasting the Grimace shake in a couple of ominous locations, the TikToker remarks, “I think you guys are overreacting, nothing bad’s happened to me yet.” Then the music from Hereditary kicks in, and we see her floating down a river while choking on purple Grimace liquid.
@c.goat.47 She thought she was safe from grimace😔 #fyp #fypシ #grimace #happybirthdaygrimace #mcdonalds ♬ Hereditary Sound – Taylor
These Grimace memes are already skirting the line of “any publicity is good publicity.”
On the one hand, McDonald’s was inviting weird internet reactions by hyping up a birthday shake for the brand’s strangest character. The ad campaign was certainly successful in terms of getting people to buy the shake.
On the other hand, McDonald’s probably isn’t thrilled about teenagers pretending the milkshake is some kind of supernatural poison, resulting in TikToks with “don’t try this at home” safety warnings. For anyone under the age of 25, this product is now a fast food jumpscare.
The Daily Dot has reached out to McDonald’s for comment.