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Chicken Nugget.png

Spoilers: Netflix’s Korean Comedy 'Chicken Nugget' Is Getting Review-Bombed Over A Single Joke

By Tori Preston | TV | March 30, 2024 |

By Tori Preston | TV | March 30, 2024 |


Chicken Nugget.png

SPOILERS AHEAD

This month Netflix debuted a new Korean comedy called Chicken Nugget, a show about — and I am not making this up — a woman who is mysteriously transformed into a chicken nugget. The ten-episode series currently has a 5/10 rating on IMDb and a 2.3/5 from Google users. Now, normally this wouldn’t give me great pause. Despite the fact that I quite enjoyed myself, the show is, again, about a woman who is mysteriously turned into a chicken nugget. It was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea even if I would gulp it down by the gallon. But apparently, basic differences in taste and humor are not behind those middling-to-low scores. Bots are.

Yup, Chicken Nugget is getting review-bombed. As Dan Hamamura mentioned on Podjiba last week, over 86% of the IMDb reviews for Chicken Nugget are 1-star ratings from Saudi Arabia, which has posted 3.6k of the show’s total 4.2k reviews. For comparison, the country with the next highest number of reviews posted is the United States, at a whopping 162 reviews total. While some of the negative reviews comment on the show in terms of its silly premise or criticize its special effects, the vast majority of the bad reviews are defending Saudi Arabia against insult. That insult? A joke. One joke. Thing is, it would be easy to watch the whole series and never even notice the offending joke because it’s so innocuous and broad. Here’s the exchange in question, from the series finale, between a popular musician called Yellow Pants and his assistant regarding the fact that his retirement world tour didn’t stop in the Middle East:

Assistant: The Saudi royal family contacted us too. They’re disappointed, even though I explained the situation. They asked for some tickets so the prince and his wife can see this concert.

Yellow Pants: Why should I give them preferential treatment?

Assistant: The thing is, try to look at it politically and economically…

Yellow Pants: Aah… Okay, nosebleeds.

Assistant: Mmm. Great.

Sure, I suppose the show does go out of its way to single out Saudi Arabia, but the joke could be easily applied to the rulers of any country. There is no specificity to it. “Send POTUS to the nosebleeds!” would play exactly the same. Additionally, the episode takes place after a 50-year time jump, so it’s unlikely that the “prince” referenced is Mohammed bin Salman, the current Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. That context appears lost on the bots, of course, because most of the negative reviews are singing the praises of the current Saudi royal family while insisting that Netflix take their nation out of its mouth. Despite the backlash being a tad over-the-top, it still worked: Netflix has since updated the subtitles for that scene, which now read “Okay, VIP Seats” instead of “nosebleeds” (the dubbed audio still reflects the original text, which Seth caught).

So, now that I’ve jumped ahead and spoiled an inconsequential joke from the season finale and explained why it’s dragging even more inconsequential scores down, let’s discuss the rest of Chicken Nugget! The plot in a nutshell: Min-ah (Kim Yoo-jung, My Demon) steps into a mysterious cabinet that was delivered to her father’s machinery shop and, yup, turns into a chicken nugget. Her father, Mr. Choi (Ryu Seung-ryong), and his intern, an aspiring songwriter named Baek-joong (Ahn Jae-hong), are determined to transform her back to her original self, an endeavor that’s immediately complicated when she gets mixed into a box of other chicken nuggets! Baek-joong begs his ex-girlfriend, a culinary aficionado played by Squid Game’s Hoyeon, to sniff out which nugget is Min-ah. Then all they have to do is unravel the secrets of the cabinet in order to reverse the process… if they can find it. Because it was stolen! Luckily their bumbling odyssey catches the attention of the cabinet’s original owners — who run the local chicken nugget joint and happen to be aliens. Can they help save Min-ah?

The series, which is based on a webcomic, is sheer absurdity bordering on cartoonish — and I mean that as a compliment. The humor is as broad as that “nosebleeds” joke, though often weirder. Baek-joong and his boss frequently collapse to the ground and writhe in paroxysms of despair anytime they think someone may have eaten Min-ah, or forcibly laugh with painful grins at the barbed insults of their co-worker. There are dream sequences where Baek-joong romanaces Min-ah, only her head is a giant nugget. The penultimate episode stages a massive battle with Baek-joong and Mr. Choi facing off against two mad scientists, while the aliens join the fray in the only way they can: Because they’re prohibited from harming humans, they choose to intimidate the humans by interpretive dancing as the most powerful things they can imagine, from nuclear weapons to K-Pop sensation BTS. There’s even a robot dog in the mix!

Every episode seems to shift the goalposts of the mission in a direction you could never have predicted, yet it all makes perfect sense in the moment — even that 50-year time jump. The Yellow Pants of the future is indeed Baek-joong, who achieved global success after chasing his dreams as a musician. He finally became the sort of man Min-ah might have loved, only she never got the chance. The alien leader took her back to his planet to fix her, where a day lasts 50 years — but when he returns to Earth, she’s still a nugget. The alien — bright purple, but otherwise looking like a healthier cousin to the one from Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City — reveals that his home world had decommissioned their shape-changing technology, so instead he offers Baek-joong a chance to go back to any point in time he desired and start again. There’s a catch, though: He’ll have no memory of what’s to come.

Instead of resolving Min-ah’s fate, Chicken Nugget swerves into a classic time-loop as Baek-joong chooses to give up his success and return to the moment in time just before Min-ah entered the cabinet … but with no memory to help him prevent her crispy fried fate. That’s where the show ends, and though it could seem like a bit of a letdown I think it works for one very specific reason: It preserves the allure of the forbidden nugget. Min-ah never really gets fixed, which means maybe there’s no hope of her ever becoming human again. Which means… what if it’s OK to eat her? Look, if you can watch all the close-ups of slick, crisp chicken nuggets in Chicken Nugget and not start to consider the morality of eating your friends, you’re a stronger person than I. Like: If they’re technically chicken is it even cannibalism? Could you resist the temptation, the siren call of a perfect chicken nugget, just because maybe it might have been a person at some point? It’s one thing if they could be transformed back but if they can’t be, it’d be a waste not to eat them, amirite? If you ask me, that’s the kind of thought-provoking entertainment bots just don’t seem to appreciate.

Chicken Nugget is available to stream on Netflix, though it’s best enjoyed on a full stomach for the sake of your friends and family.