Memes Rule Everything Around Me: Popeyes And The Chicken Sandwich Wars, Idris Elba & More
May we all look back on August 2019 as the month that the Popeye’s chicken sandwich took over the internet.
Another month, another edition of Memes Rule Everything Around Me, where we round up the best memes to hit the internet. The past three months have seen Drake at the center of some of the most popular memes on the internet but his social media reign has now come to an end. And it’s all because of Popeye’s chicken sandwich.
The meal item from the fried chicken chain was the subject of countless memes this month as it incited a chicken sandwich war on social media. It all began on August 12, when Popeyes debuted its then-new fried chicken sandwich. Made up of a crispy and crunchy fried chicken breast sandwiched between two brioche buns with pickles and mayonnaise, the sandwich served as an obvious alternative to Chic-fil-A’s fried chicken sandwich. (And just like with Chic-fil-A, Popeyes offered both a spicy and non-spicy version of their sandwich,)
The sandwich’s debut started buzzing on social media. It then caught the attention of Chic-fil-A, who sent out the following tweet August 19 — seven days after Popeyes’ dropped their chicken sandwich.
Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the ❤️ for the original. pic.twitter.com/qBAIIxZx5v
— Chick-fil-A, Inc. (@ChickfilA) August 19, 2019
Sure, Chic-fil-A didn’t mention Popeyes directly but it definitely came across as a veiled jab at the Louisiana fried chicken chain. Chic-fil-A wanted to remind Popeyes that they were the self-proclaimed “original” chicken sandwich and that no questionable political history attached to their name would take that way from them.
… y’all good? https://t.co/lPaTFXfnyP
— Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken) August 19, 2019
Well, that same day, Popeye’s hit back at Chic-fil-A on social media with the following tweet — “… y’all good?” The two words, a response created by advertising agency GSD&M (the agency oversees Popeyes social media strategy), started the chicken sandwich wars that took over social media for the last week and a half.
Countless hashtags emerged: #ChickenWars, #ChickenSandwichWars, and #ChickenSandwichTwitter. The driving force behind the chicken sandwich conversations was Black Twitter, with many, many users firing off jokes centered around Popeyes chicken sandwich.
popeyes after they saw that tweet: pic.twitter.com/1IbD8OqcRL
— 🏁very famous rapper🏁 (@Codename_Epic) August 19, 2019
Popeyes came through like pic.twitter.com/RKlbbixp87
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) August 19, 2019
Popeyes cooks frying the 739th chicken sandwich of the day & it’s only 2pm pic.twitter.com/OwseXCCgIb
— 👨🏽💻 (@DoomzDey_) August 19, 2019
Everyone on Twitter, myself included, after trying the new Popeyes chicken sandwich pic.twitter.com/7pDwiNF7ZQ
— Homelander (@MathewwLee) August 19, 2019
As a war that began with just Popeyes and Chic-fil-A, the argument was centered around which one tasted better. (For some people, Popeyes just having a good chicken sandwich meant that they could now eat a delicious fast food chicken sandwich without feeling guilty about Chic-fil-A’s politics.) Then, other fast food chains joined in on the discussion including Wendy’s, Shake Shack, and Zaxby’s.
Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second best chicken sandwich. pic.twitter.com/4v9RJFgy0T
— WENDY'S SPICY NUGGETS ARE BACK!!! (@Wendys) August 19, 2019
If you're lookin' for a chicken sandwich (without the beef 😉), you know where to find us. pic.twitter.com/2wtV2POvFf
— SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) August 19, 2019
Did🥪 someone🥪 say🥪 sandwiches? 🥪 pic.twitter.com/RUcNboMPwY
— Zaxby's (@Zaxbys) August 20, 2019
According to Reuters, Apex Marketing Group, an advertising consultancy in Michigan, released a report estimating that Popeyes received $23.25 million in free advertising.
But as the chicken sandwich wars continued, certain discussions came about that were completely unnecessary. Black celebrities ranging from Judge Joe Brown and Janelle Monáe had taken to social media to suggest that black people cared more about standing in line for chicken sandwiches than voting or working to improve their communities. Others were quick to criticize the logic behind such stances, arguing that black people do actually line up to vote and the main problem is voter suppression.
People are so busy using the popeyes sandwich to shame black people about voting that no one has even brought up the fact it's easier to buy a popeyes chicken sandwich than it is for a lot of black folks to vote.
— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) August 25, 2019
I think the tweets that I posted about registering and voting were insensitive and wrong—specifically they ignored the very real issues of voter suppression that have impacted my community for years and me directly.
— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) August 26, 2019
Social media users were also trivializing images and videos of overworked Popeyes employees, most notably this image of an employee sitting on a bench and looking exhausted.
Y’all making Popeyes employees put up Klay numbers 😭 https://t.co/TcdMbXnJmZ
— Alexis Morgan (@alexismorgan) August 23, 2019
The image seems to be a screenshot from a video.
A few emotions when I watch this video. So many people work so hard and are paid so little. This sister just looks tired. pic.twitter.com/xFnOgmNLO6
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) August 23, 2019
Countless social media users spoke out against the meme-ing of this employee while also speaking about the unfair treatment employees have endured by customers hoping to get one of Popeyes chicken sandwiches. They brought attention to the fact that employees weren’t receiving any type of bonuses or raise for being overworked too.
Pics of Popeyes workers being worn out are not funny to me. They’ve been on their feet all day. Have to deal with non-stop orders & people trying to fight them over sauces. All that for pay that doesn’t match the work performed. I don’t want that for anybody.
— Reid (@RVAReid) August 22, 2019
Popeyes needs to be giving all their employees a raise and a bonus for dealing with the craziness.
— Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) August 23, 2019
Black Twitter helped Popeyes make $23 million. I wonder if they will give their employees a bonus, vacation, raise..something or did we just help the CEO buy another yacht ?
— Indy 🧜🏾♀️ (@IndiaAlmighty) August 23, 2019
Popeyes had the most successful rollout of a food item since Dairy Queen dropped the Blizzard and only like 6 people are gonna get paid off of it while the workers are now trying to survive Thunderdome.
Capitalism is terrible smh. https://t.co/0UtZOlgX04
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) August 22, 2019
Business Insider spoke with five Popeyes employees across the United States about working during the chicken sandwich wars, with all of them saying they were overwhelmed and exhausted.
“I was working like a slave in the back prepping the buns with pickles and the spicy mayo,” an 18-year-old Popeyes crew member in Orange County, California, said. “Everyone wanted to quit so bad because it was that bad. We have never seen it get this insanely busy.”
“My experience at Popeyes has been fine till this sandwich has come,” the employee added.
On Tuesday, August 27, Popeyes took to Twitter to essentially end the chicken sandwich war, tweeting: “Y’all. We love that you love The Sandwich. Unfortunately we’re sold out (for now).”
Y’all. We love that you love The Sandwich. Unfortunately we’re sold out (for now). pic.twitter.com/Askp7aH5Rr
— Popeyes Chicken (@PopeyesChicken) August 27, 2019
“We had very aggressively forecasted the demand, and we thought we wouldn’t have any problems at all, at least until the end of September,” Felipe Athayde, the Popeyes president for the United States market, told the New York Times. “And then two weeks go by, and we’re out of the product on a national level.”
Although Popeyes has not set a return date for the sandwich, Athayde said that Popeyes plans on coming back “full throttle” with the product. Nevertheless, Popeyes chicken sandwich and the so-called chicken sandwich wars that came about this month started off as something entertaining before becoming something that reflected just how terrible capitalism is, as well as the ills of meme culture. In other words, a real life version of The Boondocks episode, “The Fried Chicken Flu.”
— Nolan 3rd Of His Name, Breaker Of Stereotypes⚔️🛡 (@NolanHarrison74) August 22, 2019
In other chicken-related memes, this one of Idris Elba eating a very hot chicken wing during his appearance on the popular YouTube series Hot Ones became very popular on the internet this month.
The brief clip shows the actor coughing and choking as he eats a spicy chicken wing, offering a very distraught “Oh shit” as he’s caught off guard by how hot the wing is.
The video has since been used for scenarios ranging from being caught off guard to being poisoned.
When you’re eating at a restaurant and she randomly asks “what are we?” pic.twitter.com/D7hBGgSr10
— Deeps🥤 (@Shallows_C) August 11, 2019
Joffrey Lannisters wedding, Game of Thrones Season 4: pic.twitter.com/s3p5HIPY5w
— FRANKLIN SAINT STAN (@Cindtrillella) August 12, 2019
Will chicken still run memes coming into September? Or will something else take over memes next month? We’ll find out soon. Until then, take a look at some other notable memes that came about this month below.
“Niggas walkin’ up and it’s just me / Now it’s just three / Now it’s just two / Now it’s just me” from 3ohBlack’s “All Talk.”
When you plan a trip with Black people pic.twitter.com/h2J12lTRji
— Without meee? 🙈 (@Brokequan9378) August 15, 2019
— Marty Boomin (@Marty_Digital) August 19, 2019
Alyson Stoner’s appearance during Missy Elliott’s MTV VMAs tribute.
— maddy hive president. (@drizzyxcole) August 27, 2019
alyson stoner on stage with missy
— FEZ HIVE (@zitties) August 27, 2019
The “Kombucha Girl”
Looking at myself naked in the mirror pic.twitter.com/qtAJympbBi
— lil adam (@MaxxAtom) August 11, 2019
“Let’s go out tonight”
— Kara 🖤 (@KaraKempp) August 12, 2019