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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

I used to spend a lot of time watching cartoons.*  A lot of time.  I remember shows about dogs looking for ghosts, dogs living with cats, and cats livid with skunks.  And though they were all wonderful in their own special way, one common thread, like a rural drying line in summertime, supported them all.

Cereal commercials.

More specifically, sugar cereal commercials.  Delicious, delicious sugar cereal commercials.

Given my propensity for cartoon-watching, it’s no surprise that I would eventually be inspired to write about these high fructose advertisements.  What is a surprise, however, is that it took me about 20 years of gawking (no, not glawking!) at the Trix Rabbit, Anthony “Tony” The Tiger and Toucan Samuel peddling their wares to notice the faux outrage de jure.

See if you can spot it in this illustrative example:

(Top-Secret Hint: check out the title of this post.)

The offending imagery/phraseology comes about 24-25 seconds into the clip.  Here, we see a snapshot of our now-discontinued hero, Cröonchy Stars, alongside several other breakfast items, as well a snapshot into the mindset of the Ad Wizards who came up with this one.

Part of this nutritious breakfast

Question: What does “Part of this nutritious breakfast” mean?

It seems like the narrator is telling us is that the contents of the big, burnt orange box of glowing cardboard is an essential element for healthy living, but that’s not actually the literal claim being made.

The sentence’s operative words: Part of this.  

The “this” is what’s depicted in the photo above.

So far as I can tell, what is actually being implied here is that Cröonchy Stars, the milk-stained product being pushed into the eyeballs of youngsters (who are now oldsters) throughout the nation, is not by itself nutritious.  The real takeaway is that Cröonchy Stars is part of this, a nutritious meal, and only if the rest of the “meal” consists of non-processed food items that are, you know, “actually nutritious.”

(Note: I am assuming that the contents of the class and what’s being poured into the bowl is not soy milk.)

Sadly, being part of a healthy breakfast that otherwise consists of a glass of orange juice, milk, an apple and banana (look behind the milk jug!), and whole grain toast is like being the player who never gets off the bench for the winning team of the World Series.  You still get a championship ring and are not perjuring yourself when you say, under oath, that you are a champion, but that has more to do with logistics and technicalities than it does with your individual contribution to the team.

ALERT!  PREPARE FOR PERFECT ANALOGY!

In that sense, Cröonchy Stars and cereals like it have a lot in common with Alex Ochoa of the 2002 Anaheim Angels.  If you replaced the Cröonchy Stars (sorry, I really, really like typing “Cröonchy Stars”) in that picture with, I don’t know, say, NOTHING, you would still have a nutritious breakfast.  The same holds true for replacing Alex Ochoa in the 2002 World Series with nothing, assuming you could get “nothing” to fly out to left in his only at-bat with his team down 16-4 in the 9th inning.

(Presumably, this is the first and last time Alex Ochoa will ever be compared to a breakfast cereal [though probably not the first time he was compared to something overhyped].)

It is either ironic or fitting that The Swedish Chef, one of Jim Henson’s genius Muppets creations, who communicates via mostly-incomprehensible pseudo-Swedish babble, is the star of this particular commercial.  As it turns out, it’s entirely possible that the chef’s Nordic gibberish and bloviations are less confusing than the plain English claims made by the narrator.

That said, this marketing-speak slight-of-hand is actually quite remarkable.  The child gets his/her positive message (Muppets!  Fun!) and the parent gets theirs (Healthy!) when in fact neither is true.  Post Foods somehow managed to market food as entertainment and processed sugar as fruits, juice and grains!

Brilliant!

Now, I know that criticizing commercials aimed at children might be considered low-hanging fruit of social commentary, but hey, at least fruit, low-hanging or otherwise, is a nutritious way to being your day.

* I still do, but that’s besides the point.

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