The 15 Crazy Objects That Defined an Even Crazier 2019

From White Claw to Trump Straws, consumer culture brought us stuff we loved, loathed, and were baffled by

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
10 min readDec 20, 2019

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WWhat’s the best way to tell the story of 2019 — of who we were and what we valued? Perhaps it’s the books we read, the politicians we elected, or the ideas we debated.

Nah. Look at the stuff. The Things. Objects. The products that overflow our commercial marketplace, designed for our consumption, that we loved, loathed, mocked, coveted, worried about, or just found so baffling we couldn’t stop obsessing about them.

The Popeyes chicken sandwich.

In an age of division and strife, few things united the country like a $3.99 fast food rendition of fried chicken on a bun, with pickles. Debuting in August, it won rave reviews — and sparked social media #ChickenWars with rivals Chik-fil-A and Wendy’s. This led to such demand (and long lines) that after two weeks Popeyes said it had run out of the sandwiches and would put the item on hiatus — with the puzzling implication that a fried chicken chain was having trouble coming up with enough fried chicken. What business are you even in, Popeyes? Anyway, the sandwich finally returned in November, to great excitement... and sporadic violence. Maybe the sandwich isn’t totally a uniter after all.

Ring

In 2018: Cool, a neat, startup-created gizmo doorbell that allows people to check out visitors through a smartphone-connected camera! In 2019: Hey, it’s an Amazon-owned product that encourages people to spy on and share video of anyone who doesn’t look like them, and is increasingly tied into partnerships with police departments all over the country. Not only a high-tech way to answer the door, but now it’s helping build the people’s surveillance state, too!

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