Grimace, an ancient McDonalds character who—recent marketing blitz aside—may be so unknown among younger readers they will actually need to consult a website to find out who the hell he is, has for a very long time had an extensive page up over at the unofficial McDonalds Wiki. Until this week, at least, when McDonalds paid the site’s owners to temporarily replace Grimace’s biography with a paid advertisement.
Let’s be clear up front: the original biography, written by critic, writer and digital marketer Nathan Steinmetz, aka Humanstein, isn’t the most important piece of historical information on the internet. Doing exactly what it needed to do, it served as an introduction to the character himself, before also (this was the real highlight) delving into real-life matters like Malaysian Happy Meals, records of his public appearances and a list of the people who had voiced the character and worn the purple suit.
Or it did, until it started looking like this instead:
At time of writing the page had been completely hijacked, Nathan’s research wiped and replaced with reminders that people can go buy a Grimace meal at McDonalds and play a video game based on the character. The wiki’s changelog says the swap is temporary, running “for the length of this [advertising] campaign”, while a small footnote at the bottom of the page simply says:
At participating McDonald’s for a limited time. While supplies last. Grimace’s Birthday Meal includes choice of 10 pc. McNuggets® or Big Mac® © 2023 McDonald’s. ADVERTISEMENT: This page is sponsored by McDonald’s.
It doesn’t matter how important a wiki page on Grimace may or may not be, this is some bullshit! The idea that wiki pages, even ones on McDonalds characters, are somehow up for sale undermines the entire point of them existing as historical records (however tenuous they may be), and is a super shitty look for Fandom, a company we last wrote about a few months back after they bought a bunch of popular video game websites then promptly fired a bunch of people.
“I think that wikis are a bastion of the old internet where people get together to share information simply for the sake of it”, Nathan tells me. “Unfortunately that is not directly monetizable. While The Grimace is a very silly page for this to whole thing to be about, I think it probably sets a really bad precedent that an IP holder can approach Fandom or whoever and have user generated content basically ‘suppressed’ and replaced with a press release.”
“I get how dramatic it sounds to talk about the suppression of Grimace lore, but just about every pop culture property has thousands of hours of work put into these wikis” he says, while adding he’s “not that avid of a wiki editor” (“I mostly just edit this one particular page as kind of a bit because I think it’s funny to be a Grimace Expert”).
“But I am an avid wiki reader and have half a dozen bookmarked. If you want the rundown on the continuity of Doctor Who audio dramas or all the pop culture references in an episode of the Venture Bros you pretty much have to go to a Fandom wiki. I think these wikis are an incredibly important resource and it just feels really gross that any company can step in and do that.”
“Also as a note it’s pretty wild that jokes I’ve written about a milkshake monster have probably been read in a McDonald’s board room or whatever.”