This node was inspired by a discussion I had the other day at a McDonalds south of Chicago with a close friend of mine.

Does anybody really know what Grimace, the large purple McDonaldland character, is supposed to be? Several theories have arisen, but none are very satisfying. Among them are "he's a space alien," "he's a horribly deformed genetic mutant," and "who cares?"

Somebody has to know. Somewhere, there are ad executives who once sat at a board meeting coming up with characters for the new Ronald McDonald ad campaign, and one of them had to have suggested "How about a big dopey purple blob-thing?" Even more interesting, though, is that all of the others had to have said "Sure, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Can't go wrong with a big dopey purple blob thing!"

While it's impossible to refute the theories mentioned before, my friend and I have recently come up with a few more interesting ideas:

  • Fry guys are actually larval forms of future Grimace-creatures. Their fry-structures eventually fall off, their legs thicken, and they sprout arms, as well as assuming the familiar Grimace-shape. This idea stems from the observation that Grimace and the Fry Guys sometimes have identical eyebrows.
  • Grimace, like many other McDonaldland inhabitants, represents some form of McDonalds food. Possibilities include:
    • Soda - he is shaped like a drop of liquid, and children don't relate as well to cola-colored characters as they do to purple ones.
    • Special Sauce - it is possible that Grimace has special organs which cause him to secrete special sauce, which is used on the Big Mac and in the floor cleaner.
    • Milk Shake - this is a stupid suggestion which makes no sense at all, but this is Grimace we're talking about here.
  • Grimace is an "eating machine" which can consume copious amounts of McDonalds food at an alarming rate and thinks only of eating McDonalds food at all times. This theory is unsubstantiated, but boy, he sure looks like he could eat a lot, doesn't he?
I am of the opinion that Grimace needs to be identified in the interest of science. And so the search continues...
Back when I was of a single-digit age, my own theory was that Grimace was basically a large Hershey's Kiss. It didn't really matter that McDonald's didn't sell Hershey's Kisses; it looked to me like a Hershey's Kiss, so a Hershey's Kiss it was.

I seem to recall that Grimace used to be a villain in McDonaldland, but I need to double-check this with The Big Book of the 70s when I get home from work.
later... OK, I double-checked: Grimace was indeed originally an evil member of McDonaldland, but apparently it discovered Jesus or something during a stretch in the joint, because now it's a terminally cheerful, if somewhat dim, McDonaldland drone.

I also checked out the McDonald's website, but it gave no clues to the identity of Grimace, or to the escapades of its checkered past.

/me looks down at her t-shirt, which - appropriately enough - bears grimace's likeness, and sees no apparent racial subtext.

apoxybutt is very close to the truth. this is just a theory, so feel free to quickly discount it, but i had always sort of thought that grimace represented a foodstuff. you know how the other mcdonald's characters (hamburgler, the fry guys..) represent mcdonald's menu items? i posit that grimace represents whatever odd, mushy substance they really make their food from. picture it.. somewhere, at a hidden mcdonald's lab in the base of some misty volcano, there is an operation not dissimilar to a giant play-doh factory, where shapeless and rubbery purple goop is molded, dyed, and blandly flavored, then left out to dry until it assumes a form more or less convincing enough to pass for whatever it's supposed to be. this would explain the bizarre uniformity of the vegetables, the meat, the buns, the condiments, the fact that you can go to any mcdonald's anywhere and order a cheeseburger that tastes exactly like the ones they serve in your hometown.

look at the mcdonald's cheese and tell me you disbelieve it could have been a substance akin to silly putty at some point in its life.

grimace is the soul of mcdonald's, the truth. ronald mcdonald is marketing - a pretty face on the product - grimace is the evil but clueless, yet oddly borg-like ceo, sitting in some secret office somewhere, guiding the culinary fate of the free world.
In October of 1999 I contacted McDonald's for their official statement about this situation. The email they sent me follows:

Thank you for contacting McDonald's and for your interest in the big, purple, jolly fellow, named Grimace, who resides in McDonaldland.

When Grimace first emerged from his cave and confronted the other citizens of McDonaldland, he expected them to be frightened of him. While initially conceived as a character representing McDonald's shakes, Grimace has transcended his role and is now seen as Ronald's right-hand man, and closest friend. He still, though, retains his love of McDonald's shakes.

You may be interested to know that when Grimace first joined McDonaldland he had four arms. At that time, he was known as the evil Grimace who stole everybody's milk shakes. However, by 1974 he became the big, fuzzy purple fellow that everyone knows and loves today.

Again, thank you for contacting McDonald's. We look forward to serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.

Customer Satisfaction Department



You wrote:

What exactly is Grimace supposed to be?

Obviously, the Grimace was originally conceived as an eggplant. Eggplants represent everything that McDonald's is against - health and vegetables. So they made a large, mean, scary character in the shape and color of an eggplant to permanently frighten children away from vegetables (with the exception of french fries, of course).

I've always figured that Grimace is supposed to be a McNugget. Which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly what prole said up there. It doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to imagine McDonald's bleaching their purple goo and cutting it into horrible caricatures of severed chicken parts.

Anyway, look at few of other denizens of McDonaldland:

Fry guys are, I assume from the name, some demented ad agency's idea of what sentient french fries would be like.

Mayor McCheese is a similarly mutated cheeseburger.

Hell, even good old Ronald McDonald is just a frightening shadow of real clowns.

There's more, though. McDonalds has, in creating Grimace, given us a glimpse at their alter ego. "He" is a shadow of preprocessed bird meat, but also the shadow of McDonald's corporate mind. Grimace, they admit, used to be evil, but somehow became a not-so-evil fellow. It should be obvious that McDonald's does not want to be good. They want to be evil and feed innocent children their hideous lab experiments. They have created Grimace as a way to deal with the more-or-less basic human aversion to hurting kids; whenever Ronald makes Grimace look dumb, it is to reassure McDonald's that yes, they can force instincts away and continue to torture people. (Also note that intelligence is not an instinctual quality; therefore, Grimace being portrayed as stupid is another way of psychologically linking him to these instincts.)

You guys can call Amnesty International; I'm going to be sending McDonald's a copy of Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido and a list of good psychologists.

If only I spent as much time tonight's homework as I did on this....

Panamaus informs me that Grimace predates McNuggets. All this means is that we now have the answer to the eternal question of, "What part of the chicken are those nuggets supposed to look like?" The answer is, I now see, that they aren't. Chicken McNuggets are supposed to look like Grimace!!!
While this does invalidate a portion of my writeup, I still stand behind the Jungian bit of my theory.

Although McDonald's ad agents will claim Grimace is representative of a milkshake, the truth is even more disturbing than a purple milkshake with eyes.

Grimace is, in fact, a visual representation of the artery clog you will develop by eating their food. But, smile kids, the glob of fat that will surely kill your daddy during your dance recital is a jolly purple fellow who sincerely regrets strangling the life out of your beloved patriarch's ticker.

The ad execs originally created Grimace in preparation for this future McDonald's promotion: Free fries if your daddy dies! . . . oh, and quaaludes were involved.

Intrestingly enough, a new McDonald's advertisement staring Cedric the Entertainer, who is African-American, happens to also feature Grimace and the Hamburglar in a promotion for the Big N’ Tasty sandwich.

Now, what I find odd is that Cedric calls Grimace his "dawg", and realizing that he has hurt Grimace, Cedric tries to make up for it by telling him that he is "a big purple...". Cedric proceedes to say something to the effect of "I don't know what you are", and then everyone starts dancing.

Isn't it odd that there is a McDonald's ad where the celebrity endorsement does not know what the hell Grimace is?

Just to let you know, the Hamburglar is alive and well. I suppose the clown missed.

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