How did it make its triumphant return after months, perhaps years, of quiet slumber in the meme graveyard?
The Foundations of its Return
1) Consuming things that taste bad when put together is funny. Videomakers mix milk and Pepsi to create Pilk, or put orange juice on cereal, or – if the user can legally drink – put Hennessy brand Cognac in their protein shake. If it sounds like it wouldn’t go together, well… now it does. Mainly for views.
2) Drugs are funny, as long as they aren’t the life-ruining kind. Meth isn’t funny, crack isn’t funny, but alcohol and lean are. While weed is still funny, it’s not funny in the same way that buying a bottle of codeine cough syrup just to mix it with soda and consume it is. OTC drugs are funny because they’re a ‘legal’ way to get high (see the hat man tweet) but the high itself is not enjoyable. The Benadryl ‘Hat Man’ hallucination is often more scary than cool. Why would you willingly do this?
3) This meme already happened, so some people recognized it. This actually isn’t the first time the Nyquil chicken has been posted. You can see in this Techcrunch article that it’s been around at least since 2017, maybe longer: (https://techcrunch.com/2022/09/21/nyquil-chicken-fda-warning-tiktok-trend/)
Is It That Big of A Deal?
The original posts didn’t warrant a warning from the FDA, so it’s truly bizarre that they’ve stepped in this time. Perhaps the relative size of the trends is the difference, or maybe it’s that TikTok has a younger userbase than Twitter does, and the FDA is concerned the children on the site won’t realize it’s a joke. Maybe monitoring of internet sites has just gotten better in the time between the first wave of cough syrup chicken and this current one. Nobody official seemed to notice it when it was happening on 4Chan, at least. The saving grace of the TikTok userbase is that NyQuil chicken looks like garbage – in much the same way nobody wants to recreate Hennessy and protein shake, I don’t think anyone is sincerely looking to make NyQuil chicken to eat.
However, even just actually cooking the chicken without eating it ‘as a joke’, the trend may turn into an issue for kids. The official position of the FDA is that heating the medicine makes it behave unpredictably, releasing fumes of a substance you’re meant to drink and not inhale. Taking a bite of the chicken itself, even once, as a gag, has an unknown amount of medication in it. Liquids become more concentrated when they are cooked, as well, so that ‘unknown amount’ could be more than the recommended dose, especially for a kid. Some twelve-year-old who doesn’t realize the idea is the joke, and not the execution, could take a bite of this horrid creation just to film it and end up consuming a significant amount of cough syrup.
Ultimately, the FDA putting out this notice wasn’t really an overreaction, because the channels it’s happening on no longer have the parental supervision they need to in order to keep children safe. Just googling ‘Child burned in TikTok Trend’ gets you a truly upsetting number of unique results and stories. It’s not the kid’s fault – they should have been supervised, and TikTok shouldn’t be letting dangerous hacks be shown to kids. This warning seeks to prevent that from happening again, a bit of caution in a world that hardly seems to care that children too inexperienced to recognize a bad idea are seeing content and comments all telling them to do something stupid and dangerous for a laugh.