Crystal Pepsi and Chill
We are living in an incredibly unique cultural space right now. In the past decade, we’ve come to realize that nothing will ever truly be allowed to die. Tomorrowland has been replaced by Yesterdayland. Even if a Television program is canceled due to poor ratings in its own time, it can usually be brought back on another Network and/or Internet Video Platform. Films that underperformed in their initial runs both critically and commercially will still get sequels. If a cult speaks out loudly enough, anything can be resurrected, even if it’s been off the air for twenty-five years and several of its cast members have passed away.
I have nothing against this never-say-die facet of modern times. I stand to benefit from at least two of these revivals (Twin Peaks & Gilmore Girls). A lot of these revivals are creatively inspired by unfortunate circumstances. Fickle networks giving up on a cult classic far too soon or a muddled final season wherein the original show runner was pushed away from their own creation. These are what I call Necessary Reboots. They make sense both creatively and logically and can be great. You can never really come back home again when you’re gone for too long, but you can certainly come close.
On the other side of things, most of the new media which capture’s the public’s attention seems to be taking place in the past. Stranger Things, a critically lauded Netflix Original doesn’t only take place in the 1980s, it cribs story beats, character archetypes and its plot from the cinema (particularly Steven Spielberg) and literature (Stephen King) of this bygone, romanticized era. What makes Stranger Things more than just a pastiche and facsimile is the care and attention which they give to the love and camaraderie between their characters and the very relatable emotional depth you feel in this otherwise fantastical story. You can expect to see a whole lot more of this kind of media programming now and if we’re lucky, most of it will be this good.
But thanks to this fascination and romanticization of the past, everything gets a second chance. Even things that weren’t really great in their own time. A recent example of this actually took place on a Cable network (the IFC channel.) Receiving mediocre ratings and only decent reviews, the show The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret ended in its second season in 2012 with its dignity intact and on a note that was, without spoiling anything, seemingly impossible to return from. I say seemingly because, with a hack “it was all a dream” explanation, this show came back out of nowhere in 2016.
This 3rd season (with the slight title-tweak of Todd Margaret) isn’t the worst television I’ve ever watched, but it’s certainly the most pointless. Throughout its somehow brief yet overstuffed 6 episodes, Todd Margaret never once fights to explain why it deserves to live again. It has absolutely nothing new to say. It’s all references to the first two seasons. But who is this show really for? People who’ve already watched the first two seasons weren’t asking for it. It’s a prime example of the pain that can come from what I call, The Unnecessary Reboot.
Unnecessary Reboots aren’t always bad, though. There are some that, through a combination of great chemistry, taking creative risks and the occasional nostalgic callback can make a case for their existence and win. While nobody was asking for a Television-based prequel to “Wet Hot American Summer,” a cult-comedy classic written by David Wain & Michael Showalter, the series worked because it acknowledged this fact and used that absurdity to inspire the show. They introduced new characters and wrote new, current-feeling jokes, not just relying on call-backs or “rememeber-whens” for fans of the original movie.
We’ve reached a tipping point for Reboots my friends. Television programs and Films aren’t the only things being resurrected these days. We’ve evolved to the next great thing: Junk Food Reboots. And just like with film reboots and revivals, they fall into categories of Necessary and Unnecessary.
In May of 2016, Hi-C announced that they were going to re-release “Ecto Cooler.” For those of you who aren’t aware of this (as I wasn’t,) “Ecto Cooler” was a flavor of Hi-C that tied into the movie franchise Ghostbusters. The front of the box featured the unappetizing site of the phlegm-looking visage of Slimer, Ghost-friend to the Ghostbusters. And yet, this Hi-C flavor was absolutely delicious. Slime remained the spokes-thing for the beverage for an unexpectedly long time- he was only removed from packaging in 1997, nearly 10 years after Ghostbusters II was released. Then in 2001, “Ecto Cooler” finally left store shelves, seemingly forever.
That is, until talk of a brand new Ghostbusters film began to circulate. On April 25th, 2016, Hi-C announced that “Ecto-Cooler” was going to come back to shelves. This was a move that made a lot of sense financially. There was already a dedicated cult who dearly missed this beverage. As of publication, the “Ecto-Cooler” page on Facebook has 22,860 members who are ecstatic to have this beverage back in their lives. It is possibly the most positively received aspect of the new Ghostbusters film, which I have not seen and I do not have an opinion on so please don’t hurt my body.
But as is the case with Arts & Entertainment, some reboots seem to be a smart idea while others leave you scratching your head and wondering… “why?”
On August 8th, Pepsi Corp relaunched “Crystal Pepsi,” a carbonated soft beverage whose name was a punchline to every joke about failed 90s products. While Pepsi was traditionally a black cola, “Crystal Pepsi” was a clear carbonated soft drink, which was a fascinating novelty for the people of 1992, but grew tiresome to the more jaded consumers of 1993.
This comeback is all thanks to the efforts of professional competitive eater and Youtube icon, Kevin “L.A. Beast” Strahle, who created a giant demand for the product by launching a “Bring Crystal Pepsi Back” campaign in 2015. This group was made up equally of people who used to enjoy “Crystal Pepsi,” as well as curious soda fans who’ve never had the product before. It’s due to Straddle’s magnetic and charming persona that I even thought of the possibility that I might want to try “Crystal” before I die. Pepsi, that is.
This could never have happened at any other point in history. Letter-writing campaigns could not have done this. Because of the unique position we are in as a culture and because of the voice Social Media gives to everybody, Pepsi Corporation brought back a brand that made them a laughing stock. The “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi” Facebook page has 16,000 likes, but a lot of the members of this group seem to have no conception of how the drink tastes and are just curious to try it.
I’m too young to have tried “Crystal Pepsi” in its heyday. I mention this because at 26, an age where my obsolesce grows more and more, it’s always nice to have things you are too young to have been around for. Anyways, I never tried “Crystal Pepsi” but I always figured I would like it. I tend to champion the underdog. The items I tend to enjoy on fast food menus usually wind up being limited time affairs which usually breaks my heart. So, I feel for the Pepsi fans who have been pushing for their beloved “Crystal Pepsi” to return.
So now we must ask a question that should be important but feels tangential — how is “Crystal Pepsi?”
The date is August 12th, 2016. The relaunch started on August 8th, but today is the first day I’ve been able to find any “Crystal Pepsi.” It would seem that PepsiCo has come under what I call a case of the Self-Sabotageys. I’ve read reports that it’s been difficult to find these things in the midwest.
But all is forgiven, folks, because I hold in my hands, the phoenix of sodas. Reborn via the power of whiny 90s kids and Social Networking, it’s the Unnecessary Reboot’s final form: “Crystal Pepsi.” I felt as awkward and uncomfortable buying this one bottle of “Crystal Pepsi” as I do whenever I greet the delivery driver who brings me a wheelbarrow full of shame-fueled pizza goodness. And while that Pizza wheelbarrow makes up for its sadness by tasting delicious and making me forget my
CP (which stands for “Crystal Pepsi,” FYI) is disappointingly bland. It’s like Sprite’s less-exciting older brother who never left his hometown and fills out the Sunday crossword puzzle as a way to “unwind.” I do taste a hint of the original bite of Pepsi, but also something else that doesn’t rest on my tongue in a pleasant way. Maybe the black dye covers up this flavor in traditional Pepsi. But there is a smoothness that you can’t deny. 1992 was all about smooth, New-Jack Swing, baby. In the climate of 1993, though, this soda never could have lasted. 1993 was about Jurassic Park and aggressively charged Hip Hop. I know now why PepsiCo did what it did when it took Crystal Pepsi out back. They were right and the Social Media movement was wrong.
Worst of all, Crystal Pepsi is flat. It’s flatter than William Hung, my friends. There’s a topical reference for you. I thought maybe I got a bad bottle, but according to my research, this is how “Crystal Pepsi” has always been. Distinctly lacking in taste, aroma AND carbonation. With a qualifier like Crystal, you’d expect it to have the raw crystallized power of an incredible drug of some kind. Weed, maybe?
But that really doesn’t matter anymore, because this fervent cult’s voices were were heard. They won. Because of this, they can choke this swill down with pride. Victory tastes a bit spoiled and barely carbonated but it’s victory all the same.
While it’s reported that “Crystal Pepsi” will only be around for eight weeks, “Crystal Pepsi” is the most relevant soft drink in the world and it will never be more relevant than it is at this exact moment. It’s the Netflix revival taken to its final conclusion. I predict that this soft drink will be around much longer than eight weeks. I predict that thanks to booming sales from ironic meme-lovers and overly ironic young adults, “Crystal Pepsi” will be around for a long time to come. It was too ahead of its time to last in the 90s but here in the backwards thinking and overly ironic 90s “Crystal Pepsi” has finally found its home.