Szechuan Sauce & the Failure of Postmodern Neoliberalism

2 weeks ago Triangle 0

Written by: Caleb Ecarma, Staff Writer

High fructose corn syrup, water, tomato paste, grape vinegar, distilled vinegar, salt, soy sauce, food starch and soybean oil.

These unhealthy, unnatural and most likely not tasty ingredients make up what is called Szechuan sauce — which is what drove hundreds of thousands of crazed Rick and Morty fans to rush McDonald’s stores across America. The ensuing scene was pure terror: groups of 15-25 year-old-men demanding their condiments and police officers fighting to maintain order against packs of nerds inside fast food chains.

The catalyst for these incidents was McDonald’s announcing a limited comeback for a 1998 teriyaki sauce that was originally released to promote Disney’s Mulan. The sauce resurfaced into current pop-culture after it was referenced in an episode of the insanely popular Adult Swim series Rick and Morty.

In the Szechuan sauce episode, Rick — a scientist and the grandfather of Morty — says he plans on using his genius abilities to travel through time and space to get ahold of the coveted McNugget condiment. Fans of the show then took this throwaway line and demanded McDonald’s bring the sauce back.

But the show’s writers didn’t introduce the sauce because it was some magical item worth embarking on a dangerous and time consuming journey over. The Szechuan sauce was just a stupid joke. The joke being “this is in no way worth caring about” — it’s an arbitrary, pointless reference that proved how much of a crazy person Rick is.

However, some extremely intelligent McDonald’s employee — who is probably fired by now — decided to bring back the sauce as a promotional stunt to please all the crazy nerds. The fast food chain opted to re-release a limited number of sauces with posters at a few locations.

And when I say “limited number,” I mean very limited number. Reports suggest that some stores only received 20 packets of the sauce.

But Rick and Morty fans — being the absolute brain geniuses they all are — did not take “sorry, we’re out of Szechuan sauce at this location” for an answer. Instead, they wailed and howled and shook their fists at the McDonald’s employees who were in the unfortunate position of telling them that they were out of the sauce.

Their anger was somewhat understandable given that some of these fans traveled hours and hundreds of miles to get the sauce.

The struggle of Szechuan sauce crazed Rick and Morty fans is an almost relatable one. In a country where subculture is dead, organized religion is more or less dead, structure that community offers is dead, the idea of family is dead, and belief in God himself is dead to many, why wouldn’t you waste an entire day chasing down a sauce inspired by a TV show?

And why wouldn’t you be devastated when even that is taken from you?!

With more and more Americans fleeing from the traditional life-fulfilling goals of God, family, and community, what’s left for them aside from the faux-nostalgic pursuit of Szechuan sauce?

If we have no real meaningful life goals — aside from working trivial jobs that change every 2-5 years — and no real reason to live, who among us wouldn’t pursue a connection to the one thing that brings us joy in life? Which, in this case, happens to be a cartoon series.

As it turns out, mankind wasn’t brought into existence to live without community, family, God, and purpose. And hundreds of thousands of ticked off fans is only the beginning of what this postmodern, neoliberal hellscape will look like — postmodernism being the philosophy that all ideas of good and evil are equally credible and neoliberalism being the globalized, technologically advanced economic era of the last 40 years.

It may be depressing — even more depressing than basing your life around a cartoon — but the reality is, without the frivolous journey to acquire a condiment, these people would probably be spending their time engaging in even more frivolous activities. Maybe they’d be on a Reddit message board yelling into the empty void that is the internet, or maybe they’d just be watching the show and thinking about the sauce, rather than acting on it.

Even sadder? I can only assume the fans who actually got ahold of the coveted condiment who realized, that once they acquired it, there life was no better, no more fulfilled, and just as meaningless. Call me old fashioned, but a packet of chemical and artificial tasting dipping sauce can never fill that void.

Rather than looking to a sauce packet, a reality TV star president, or followers on Instagram for meaning in life, perhaps we should all focus on pursuing God, family and community in a time where the world has basically turned into a cartoon.