Cerabino: McDonald’s nugget sauce shortage riles ‘Rick and Morty’ fans

Over the weekend, deputies in Wellington were called to a scene of possible public unrest, encountering more than 60 people who were angry about … 

(a) the slow federal response in hurricane aid to Puerto Rico.

(b) the reckless escalation of nuclear war rhetoric with North Korea.

(c) a proposed federal budget that slashes taxes on the wealthiest Americans while raising the lowest tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent.

(d) the unwillingness of lawmakers to enact popular gun regulations, such as banning military-style semi-automatic weapons, high-volume ammunition clips, and gun sales to people on terror watch lists.

(e) the lack of Szechuan nugget dipping sauce at a local McDonald’s.


The correct answer is (e).

Silly Lives Matter. It’s a much under-reported movement in this country.

Galvanizing people to action over important things, such as comprehensive health-care or immigration policy, is a fool’s errand. And the only sure way to get everybody focused on foreign wars is to start a draft of American teenagers.

But if you come up with a clever meme or an oddball catch phrase, and get some traction on social media, you can cash people inside, outside and every place in between.

I haven’t watched the animated, science-fiction sitcom “Rick and Morty” on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup. But my kids have.

“You wouldn’t like it,” my teenage son warned me.

It’s a very popular show among those who do watch, and one of its creators, Dan Harmon, is the guy behind “Community,” a more Earth-bound hit TV show.

“Rick and Morty” is so popular among millennials that not only do scores of young people squander precious hours of their youth watching it, but they also engage in philosophical debates about what it all means.

The story is about Rick Sanchez, a cynical, alcoholic, mad-scientist and his 14-year-old grandson, Morty Smith. It’s part Simpsons domestic sitcom, and part “Back to the Future” — right down to the flying car that Rick uses to traverse time, space and various realities in something called the multiverse.

What’s the point in all this?

Well, it was revealed earlier this year, during the opening episode of the show’s third season, that Rick’s quest in life is to get the McDonald’s McNuggets dipping sauce that appeared briefly during the fast-food chain’s cross-promotion with the Disney movie, “Mulan,” in 1998.

“I’ll go out and I’ll find some of that Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce, Morty,” Rick tells his grandson. “Because that’s what this is all about, Morty. That’s my one-armed man …

“I want that Mulan McNugget sauce, Morty. That’s my series arc. If it takes nine seasons, I want my McNuggets dipping Szechuan sauce, Morty. That’s what’s going to take us all the way to the end, Morty. Nine more seasons until I get that dipping Szechuan sauce.”

Finding the meaning of life in a discontinued McDonald’s dipping sauce has been explored by the show’s fans as a deep philosophical message.

On You Tube’s heavily-trafficked Wisecrack channel, a nearly 10-minute video with more than 2 million views puts the quest for Szechuan nuggets sauce into the framework of philosopher and novelist Albert Camus’ “absurd hero” model.

“The only thing Rick’s love of Szechuan sauce means is that it means nothing,” the video narrator, Jared Bauer, explains. “The quest for Szechuan sauce is in creating meaning. It’s a reflection of the absurdity of being driven by, well, anything.

“Given the utter void of meaning in the world, why not dedicate yourself to a quest for plum-flavored McNugget sauce?” Bauer continued. “Why not spend nine whole seasons doing it? … The quest for McNuggets sauce is meaningful only that it is a joke about meaninglessness.”

But it’s not meaningless to the show’s fans. After the episode first aired on April Fool’s Day, fans petitioned McDonald’s on Change.org to bring back the Szechuan dipping sauce. As of Monday, that petition had nearly 45,000 signatures.

McDonald responded by announcing that it would bring back the sauce for one day only, last Saturday, at selected locations. The limited sauce release dovetailed with the introduction of the chain’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders.

But the fast-food company underestimated the demand for the sauce. The selected stores quickly ran out of the packets, while unhappy fans shouted “Sauce! Sauce! Sauce!” In Wellington, some of the show’s fans waited for hours outside the restaurant and didn’t get any sauce.

Some of the packets that were handed out are now being sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars. McDonald’s has promised more sauce.

“Szechuan sauce is coming back once again this winter,” the company announced. “And instead of being one-day-only and limited to certain restaurants, we’re bringing back more — a lot more — so that any fan who’s willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald’s.”

By then, though, who knows? Possessing packets of it may suddenly be meaningless again, and something else will be captivating that void in the Silly Lives Matter movement.

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