Two pop culture institutions came together this week when KFC, the fast food restaurant chain, announced that it had created, in conjunction with a florist in Kentucky, a chicken-themed corsage for prom-going high school students. Young men can head into their local KFC (with nearly 5,000 convenient locations across the United States) and, for just $20, purchase a chicken drumstick nestled in bed of baby’s breath that can be affixed to a lady’s wrist via a long satin ribbon. Grease stains notwithstanding, it just might turn out that the drumstick is the highlight of the evening’s festivities for the couple, a welcome alternative to spiked punch and a bowl full of germ-laden pretzels.
Why would KFC, a company not exactly known for its cutting edge corporate culture, come up with such a crazy product? The easy answer is that, in the age of the viral marketing campaign, a chicken drumstick corsage holds obvious appeal. Who can resist sharing the image, on Facebook and beyond, of a young woman glowingly gnawing on a drumstick during the slow dance? Combining the downmarket concept of a fried chicken leg with the upmarket appeal of the ritual of prom — one of the only high school traditions still treated as truly sacred — is both funny and smart from marketing perspective.
But aside from the exponential commercial benefits of repeating “KFC” a million times via social media, the KFC chicken corsage stunt underscores just how mainstream absurdity has become. It is Wes Anderson’s world now, and we are all just living in it. What used to be niche humor, reserved for the special few who thought comedian Andy Kaufman was hilarious, has thoroughly infiltrated pop culture, from Napolean Dynamite’s moon boots to McDonald’s recent commercial for the filet-o-fish sandwich.
Now it has reached an apex, or nadir, depending on your perspective: fried chicken, the most humble of foods, has been released from its bucket and into realms previously reserved for our culture’s highest aesthetic expression, the hothouse flower. But on the other hand, if anything could use an injection of absurdity, it is the corsage, a relic of a past where women were decorated with flowers just before heading to the dance floor where they swayed demurely for a few hours before making curfew. The corsage doesn’t seem quite right for the contemporary prom, where grinding it out on the dance floor is more the thing. Maybe, in such a climate, wearing a chicken drumstick makes as much sense as anything else.