Whiskey company The Glenlivet has capitalized on yet another Gen-Z/Millennial trend, albeit a peculiar one—Tide pod-eating—by creating "whiskey Tide pods."
According to the company's marketing statement, the product is a "collection of edible cocktail capsules made from seaweed, meaning no need for glass, ice or a cocktail stirrer." The capsules are indeed made of biodegradable, edible material. According to Forbes, the concoction they contain is actually quite well-made and delicious and comes in three flavors: Spice, Wood, and Citrus.
While upon first glance, all this may seem like the final, doomed mutation of a generation hell-bent on the destruction of its forebears' most beloved cultural traditions (who among us was not offered a sip of scotch by a disgruntled Boomer?), it actually represents something a bit more optimistic. Whiskey Tide pods are ingenious advertising techniques—capitalism leaves nothing untainted—but they are also evidence of what happens when a generation of memers grows up.
A brief history: Tide pods were first popularized as a detergent product in 2012. A message thread from a board called Straight Dope popularized the knowledge that children everywhere were accidentally eating Tide pods, and contributed to the concept's dissemination in the wider public consciousness. A 2015 article from The Onion called "So Help Me God, I'm Going to Eat One of Those Tide Pods" also played a role in popularizing the phenomenon, which truly caught fire around 2017, thanks, of course, to Internet memes.
In the summer of 2017, a Reddit thread called "Bite into one of those tide pods. Do it" appeared, and was also referenced in The Onion. Many posters on Reddit and other sites began referring to Tide pods as the "forbidden fruit," using message boards like r/intrusivethoughts to promote the concept that Tide pods looked oddly delicious. In 2018, satire bled into reality, and things escalated in the form of the memorable "Tide Pod Challenge," wherein teenagers filmed themselves eating the pods in various contexts. (Many did not actually eat the pods).
In a sense, the fact that Tide pods have evolved from laundry detergent to deadly memes to environmentally friendly cocktail containers could serve as a metaphor for the optimal evolution of young peoples' consciousness in the 21st century. Presented with a world that served us poison and placed us within an increasingly dangerous hyper-globalized system, naturally we would turn to death wishes encased in a plastic layer of humor and irony. Given the technology and the knowledge that self-optimization was our profitable resource and thus could ensure our survival within this system, we would broadcast videos of us eating our own version of the apple of knowledge online.
Perhaps the tide pod-eating phenomenon is proof that we are guided by a fundamental impulse towards destruction and evil. But if this is so, then the whiskey tide pod is also a small millennial/Gen-Z generation victory lap, evidence of our survival and evolution within our fallen state. In its small biodegradable container, the whiskey Tide pod offers evidence that it is possible to survive this capitalist hellscape, this psychotic, poisonous technosphere that we've been born into—to perhaps convert consumption into something that, at least, might not rot in the bottom of the oceans for all eternity. Perhaps the least we can ask for is to leave no traces.
Roughly eighty-six teens actually ate Tide pods during the phenomenon's heyday, which sparked a hugely disproportionate moral panic in relation to the scale of the actual issue. On the other hand, roughly 7,000 children were exposed to laundry detergent in 2017; the food industry perpetually scams us and profits off false advertising and cheap labor.
Similarly, The Glenlivet's whiskey pods have generated a massive amount of coverage when, in reality, they are only being sold for a week as a gimmick during London's Cocktail Week. Perhaps, as The New Statesman argues, "These moral panics draw attention away from the real online issues affecting children and teens." Perhaps the craze around Tide pods and whiskey capsules merely highlights our tendency to fixate on small, viral incidents or singular, idiotic Twitter users rather than the systemic problems and dangers that created them and that pose our biggest, most existential threats.
Young people's deaths are not thanks to their own stupidity, as the media would have us believe, just as millennial poverty is not thanks to a lack of hard work. These deaths and struggles are thanks to systems that place certain people among us in the way of impossible roadblocks valorized by capitalism and institutionalized by our desire to bleach out evidence of its corruption.
The least we can ask for is to be left to drink our Tide pods in peace.