Extremely Online

How Grimace Became The Beloved Mascot Of Summer 2023

He’s just a (52-year-old) baby.

It seems like every summer we have a new main character energy to embody — for a while, it was hot girls, before that it was all things feral, but this year? It’s all about Grimace, baby. IYDK, the beloved McDonald’s character celebrated its 52nd birthday in June, and to honor the big purple monster, Mickey D’s launched a limited-edition meal that includes a new Grimace-inspired milkshake. McDonald’s has seen plenty of success with themed meals in the past, from the Travis Scott meal to the Cardi B and Offset Valentine’s Day special. But there’s something about this meal that has inspired all kinds of memes and trends, effectively turning Grimace into the internet’s summer 2023 icon.

The recent hype surrounding the fuzzy freak all started when McDonald’s released its Grimace Birthday Meal on June 12 to commemorate the character’s birthday. The meal includes a Big Mac, a side of medium fries, and a medium Grimace Shake, which contains vanilla soft serve that’s been blended with Grimace Shake syrup and topped with whipped cream, per the McDonald’s Twitter account. Though the account doesn’t specify what’s in the Grimace Shake syrup, I’ve tried it myself and it tastes like a mix of berries and birthday cake. The end result is a tasty purple milkshake that Grimace would definitely approve of, though the public’s response might have left a sour taste in his mouth.

Not long after the milkshake hit stores, Twitter users were quick to turn the whole birthday celebration into NSFW memes — all at Grimace’s expense. Not to mention, people were not too kind about the actual shake, either. Poor Grimace. :(

Then, just as Twitter was starting to run dry with Grimace jokes, the TikTokers came in and took a gory turn. “Happy birthday, Grimace!” are the “last words” many TikTokers utter before trying the Grimace Shake — and meeting their theatrical, untimely demise. According to Know Your Meme, the Grimace Shake test taste trend got its start after user @thefrazmaz posted what started out as an innocent video on June 13. “I just got the new Grimace milkshake from McDonald’s. I’m so excited to try this,” the creator announced emphatically. The TikToker takes one sip and suddenly ends up on the floor motionless while the purple shake lays beside the creator.

The hilariously eerie vibes of the video inspired dozens of other TikTokers to make their own Grimace Shake taste tests, and somewhere along the way, the videos transitioned from being funny memes to full-on horror short films. @Dylantate’s review includes a chilling Grimace cameo, while the @beansicle and their friends were taken on a truly wild adventure after trying the purple shake. But the most terrifying take on the trend might be the Blair Witch-inspired video from @donniedarkoismybabydaddy, which tells a genuinely creepy story through found footage from an old camcorder. Even Courteney Cox joined in on the trend, watching in horror as her dog became a giant after accidentally trying the drink.

Besides the fact that he is a fluffy, oversized purple weirdo, what is it about the character that has the internet so taken with this character? Twitter user @jacob_denobel attributes the obsession to the nostalgic connection between Gen Z and the once-popular McDonaldland characters, and based on a deep dive from @eatitkatie on TikTok, he may be on to something. After doing some research into the character, the TikToker discovered a tweet from McDonald’s that revealed Grimace is either the “embodiment of a milkshake or a taste bud.” Obviously, these are two completely different answers and leave us no closer to figuring out what he is or where he came from. Mysterious king.

And as @eatitkatie so eloquently asks, “If Grimace is a milkshake, is he drinking himself?” If this is true, Grimace’s birthday campaign is more dark-sided than I could’ve ever imagined. Does Grimace know he’s drinking himself? Does he like it? Is this all an elaborate rouse to cause an extinction-level event for Grimaces everywhere? And if he is a taste bud, why is he pointy and purple? None of it makes sense, but maybe that’s the whole point.

People don’t just love to hate Grimace — some people actually adore the guy. In fact, some fans think the TikTok trend took the internet’s fascination with the character a step too far, and are now responding to the response to Grimace’s birthday with tears, disappointment, and compassion.

He’s just a (52-year-old) baby, says @pumpkibu on Twitter.

Bringing Grimace’s mom into it nearly moved TikTok user @arianatomlinson2323 to tears.

@Nickiminajs_sewinweave was so upset they made a whole sad-girl fan cam in Grimace’s honor.

However you may feel about him, it doesn’t look like the memes put much of a damper on Grimace’s birthday. After nearly a month of celebrating, the character thanked his fans via the McDonald’s Twitter account, saying, “u made me feel so specialll ty say goodbye grimace nowww,” in a July 6 tweet. It’s unclear where Grimace is going or when he’ll show up next (hopefully we didn’t drink him to death), but in true Twitter fashion, the cryptic message inspired yet another wave of memes.

“Say goodbye Grimace” does sound like a threat, TBH.

Just when the world needed him the most, he vanished.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Grimace is the main character of summer 2023. Happy birthday, Grimace — make this one a year to remember.