clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fans are going all in on celebrating Grimace’s birthday and declaring him a gay icon

The purple McDonald’s mascot is a slay

An old photo of Grimace, the Hamburgler, and a Birdie and Early Bird sitting around a table, eating McDonald’s.
A throwback photo from a 2023 Grimace’s Birthday McDonald’s ad.
Image: McDonald’s/YouTube
Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

According to a McDonald’s marketing promo, it’s the birthday of furry purple mascot Grimace. The gimmick (or Grimmick?) is mostly to introduce a new purple shake as part of what’s being sold as the limited edition “Grimace’s Birthday Meal.” But social media users have embraced the event by claiming Grimace as a pride icon and beloved guy. Some TikTokers have shown up in cursed cosplay to partake in the Grimace Birthday Meal, which was released on June 12.

McDonald’s marketing has come up with some other inventive ways to celebrate the mascot, including turning its Instagram account over to Grimace, and releasing a Game Boy Color game (in collaboration with Krool Toys) called Grimace’s Birthday, which you can play here. There’s also Grimace merch, of course. This level of bombast is entertaining, as it isn’t particularly clear why this span of days in mid-June counts as Grimace’s birthday — the press release makes no mention of Grimace actually being born (I don’t want to know what that would look like), or when he was first introduced in advertising, though a simple Google search puts that date at 1971. (He was also originally an evil thief akin to the Hamburglar, and he had four arms and scales when he was first created, according to Insider. That version of him apparently terrified children.)

People were, of course, curious to know what a Grimace shake tastes like. What flavor is a purple, triangular, googly-eyed monster, who might actually be a taste bud? Turns out he’s “berry” flavored. One reporter compared the taste of the shake to cereal-milk.

TikTokers are having A Time, ordering the Grimace Birthday Meal, donning cursed cosplay, and vaping in celebration of “mother Grimace.”


New mcdonalds grimace birthday meal and shake! grimace tastes so good mcdonalds food

♬ birthday - multi

happy birthday to our queen, grimace from mcdonalds. thank you to the clown for coming in for this one. #tattoo #tattoos #grimace #grimacesbirthday #grimaceshake #portland #oregon #mcdonalds

♬ Rock N Roll McDonalds - Wesley Willis

But a number of fans have really popped off, embracing the mascot with fan art and other… interesting… works. Do we like him because McDonald’s has come all the way around the corporate ring of hell and is now camp? Or is Grimace a queer icon now because his birthday falls during Pride Month, when so many corporations are rainbow-washing their brands, and because it’s funny to politicize mascots for such a massive, far-reaching fast-food chain? Who’s to say?

The idea of Grimace and the Hamburglar dating is very cute, though. And while Grimace’s pronouns have been he/him through the years, historically, women have donned the mascot suit for TV and commercial appearances.

Grimace is simply out here, not having a single thought. That’s the real birthday treat. According to the McDonald’s fan wiki, Grimace “sometimes goes for long periods of time without speaking; when he does speak he is known for saying ‘duh’ before every sentence.”

But who or what is Grimace, really? Apparently even McDonald’s doesn’t know. A press release for the Grimace festivities reads as follows: “Our timeless bestie has become a fan-favorite known for his signature fuzzy purple look, friendly and playful personality, love for shakes, and of course — ambiguous nature. What exactly is Grimace? Perhaps we’ll never know…”

Here’s the real pièce de résistance, though — someone made a spoof commercial for what an actual Grimace burger would be like, made with… actual Grimace meat. Each and every patty is covered in undulating fur, resulting in an extremely tasty-looking (I’m lying) burger. However, if you really love Grimace, I would recommend not watching this one.

Grimace getting fan art in June wasn’t on my bingo card for the year, but McDonald’s has been striking a cord with its Happy Meal toys for the last couple of years, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised. In 2021, Pokémon Happy Meal toys became a hot commodity, ending up on the resale market. Last October, the company released a series of Happy Meal toys in collaboration with Cactus Plant Flea Market — pretty clearly aimed at adults — that also became highly sought-after on the resale market.

As Polygon culture writer Ana Diaz predicted at the time, “it makes sense that leadership at the company would try to recapture the once-young audience that’s aged up. I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach a day when McDonald’s runs multiple toy promotions simultaneously aimed at both children and adults.” Do the birthday milkshake, Game Boy Color game, and merch count? I think so.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon