It’s time, I think, to start using power of the written word and the dynamic platform of my beloved blog to mobilize my vast readership (I’ve added all eleven of you to my Christmas card list, by the way) in a fight to right the wrongs that are clearly afflicting the very foundation of our society.
To that end, I’d like to address one of the most grim and terrifying pop culture trends of our age, one that has poisoned the noble ideals of the advertising industry since time immemorial–or at least the mid-eighties. I think you know of what I speak.
It all started with those seemingly innocuous California Raisins. What could be cuter, after all, than jazz-singing, saxophone-playing raisins in sunglasses? We gleefully watched them on TV; we talked about them with our friends; we bought little posable raisin action figures for our desks; we put them on T-shirts; we hummed “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” on elevators full of strangers. The Raisins were adorable, and harmless, and they boosted raisin sales across the country. Advertisers sat up and took notice.
Other humanized edibles quickly emerged in an effort to capitalize on America’s apparent desire to buy food with personality.
But then, in 1996, the talking food gimmick took a macabre turn with the introduction of the now famous M&Ms Brand Characters. They were cute. They were funny. They were charming. And people were actively trying to eat them! What followed was a series of disturbing commercials in which the red and yellow M&Ms were tricked, hounded, pursued, and trapped by a variety of voracious humans, who, despite the obvious intelligence and self-awareness displayed by the would-be snacks, were simply driven mad by their insane lust for the creamy, delectable, milk chocolatey centers of the unfortunate celebrity candies.
And it worked. We bought M&Ms by the billions. We ate them with mad abandon and brutal relish. And the M&Ms talking candy campaign propagated. (In fact, the commercial introduction of the Green M&M a year later opened yet another dark door into crevasses of the human psyche best left unexplored.)
I know there’s not much that one person can do against such wanton exploitation of foodstuffs, but I can’t leave this subject without touching on the commercial that horrifies me the most, the one that really embodies everything I hate about this particularly repugnant style of product promotion: The Chips Ahoy birthday party commercial…
We open on a cheery scene–a child’s birthday party, with all the attendant streamers and balloons that frivolity demands on such an occasion. A close up reveals the birthday girl sitting next to a giant Chips Ahoy cookie character, both of them in party hats. He is smiling, delighted, I presume, at having been invited to his friend’s Very Special Event. He probably even brought one of the many presents that have already been unwrapped and tumbled into a corner in anticipation of the moment everyone’s been waiting for–the presentation of the birthday cake. “So…” he asks, looking around, “where’s the cake?”
At this, the formerly benign-looking birthday girl turns her suddenly wolfish grin on the unsuspecting cookie and purrs, “Oh, we’re not having cake.”
The cookie blinks, his smile frozen for a moment on his face before hideous understanding slowly seeps in. The smile dissolves into a grimace of horror, and, as the camera pans out to take in the coldly rapacious leers of the other party-goers gathered around the table, he utters a tiny “uh-oh” before the shot mercifully closes, leaving us to imagine the carnage that follows.
That’s right. In case you missed the implication, we’re talking about a mob of children at a birthday party savagely ripping apart one of the party guests for the purpose of devouring him.
Is that gruesome, or what?
I just can’t take it anymore. Please help! Write your congressman! Write the FCC! Write Amnesty International! Someone, somewhere must care about this assault on the sensibilities of feeling Americans!
I would stop watching TV altogether, but, well, you know.
“Lost” is a really good show.