Saturday, September 22, 2012

Breakfast Cereals

So I opened a box of Lucky Charms (they were on sale, I guess, so Tammy couldn't pass them up) today, and Cordelia got super excited about the rainbow on the back. So we looked at the pictures of the various fake-marshmallow charms. They've added 2 more since the last time I paid attention: The Hourglass, and The Rainbow. At this point I told Cordelia about how when I was about her age we only had Pink Hearts, Orange Stars, Green Clovers, and Blue Moons, and how I remembered when they first introduced Purple Horseshoes! and not long after that, Red Balloons.

Anyway, that got me thinking back to a conundrum I had as a kid - something my cousin Todd and I probably talked about while spending the summer on the farm in Idaho. I want to just dive into the conundrum, but I really want to set it up right... If you're young, you may not know all the commercials that I grew up with (and since I don't watch TV with commercials anymore, I have no idea if the format is the same today). But if you're in your 30s or older, you'll remember these.

  • Lucky Charms - The kids were always in relentless pursuit of Lucky so they could steal his Lucky Charms cereal. He was good-natured about it when they caught him, but did that make it not stealing?
  • Cocoa Puffs - Sonny, the Cuckoo Bird, went Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs... they made him explode with energy, insanity, and frankly this idea terrified him. He hated it. He did all in his power to avoid eating Cocoa Puffs. But the sadistic kids would chase him down and force-feed this cereal to him - all for a laugh. Charming.
  • Trix - The Trix Rabbit wanted to eat Trix. He didn't try to prevent kids from eating Trix, but he wanted some, too. The kids refused absolutely to share: "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids."  Excuse me, but Trix are for kids? The cereal has the Trix Rabbit's name on it. How did the cereal get his name, if not because they are his? I have some recent theories on this one:
    • He's allergic. Something in them will make him sick, or possibly kill him - so the kids are just looking out for his best interests (view the behaviors of the kids from the above examples, and you'll likely join me in doubting it - in fact, if he were allergic, they'd probably force him to eat the cereal as a sick experiment).
    • Trix is made out of other Trix Rabbits, so for him to eat the cereal would make him a cannibal. Of course, if this were the case, I'd half-expect the kids to take a bite out of him, just to see if "fresh Trix" is better than processed.
    • Finally, we get to the one that I suppose is most-likely: Trix Cereal is actually made up of Trix Rabbit pellets. Yes, that's right, rabbit poop. They are pellet-shaped, and it would be really upsetting for him to eat them. Of course, this doesn't answer the question: Why do the kids want to eat them???
Tony the Tiger and the Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Bee were both a lot better at getting kids to share the cereal without being total douches about it. Tony, as you may have noticed, was a tiger. He would have mauled up-start children and had himself a greeeaaaat! breakfast of his own. And the Honey Bee - well, he is a bee. They sting you if you tick them off. Seriously. 

And this brought me to another thought: What's with all the cartoons pitching cereal? Is it because these are kids cereals? Their tastes haven't matured enough to realize how unappetizing most of these cereals are, yet... or maybe they have, but kids will eat anything if a cartoon character tells them to?  Adults have choices, many better choices than sugary-sweet, low-to-no-nutritional value breakfast cereals. 
  • Raisin Bran 
    • If you don't like raisins, the following are essentially Raisin-free alternatives
    • Wheaties 
    • Special K
    • Total 
  • Fruit & Fiber
  • Grapenuts
  • Cracklin' Oat Bran
  • Oh!s
  • Shredded Wheat (mini's are all I see these days)
None of these cereals need cartoon characters to pitch them. They're good, they're healthful, and frankly the health-conscious real-human actors pitching them seem to have good BMs, so that's encouraging.

For my closing remarks, I want to make special mention of Toucan Sam, who always shared his findings with the kids - and he never seemed coerced. Snap, Crackle, and Pop, also. I don't recall them trying to withhold their Rice Crispies, and were never prevented from eating or forced to eat them. Sugar Bear was genial (again, he was a bear, so the kids were probably a little terrified of him). Don't want to forget the Cookie Crisp Cookie Crook, or... you know... the Flintstones... and of course: Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry.

And finally, Cap'n Crunch. This guy had no problem lying to kids - right to their faces. He gave them his cereal as a brain-booster. And he also said that the cereal stayed crunchy in milk. This was only true if you ate them quickly - a feat I could never do, as (1) I couldn't stand them and (2) they were so hard with sharp edges, they chewed the roof of my mouth to shreds if I didn't let them soak in my bowl for 5 minutes or so.

Thanks for strolling down memory lane with me, and thinking about the messages commercials are trying to make our children think about, you know, when they get older and have time to reflect on them - or just can't sleep.

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