Savage Consumers

Standard

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.

Talking food.

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.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGH!

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.

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16 responses »

  1. “Lost” IS a good show. If a show about hungry survivors can stay away from thoughts about the movie “Alive”, then surely food commercials can be more reserved! πŸ˜€

  2. I thankfully have not see this commercial…I am not even sure if Chips Ahoy is sold here in India (most famous american food brands are) !

  3. Being your research assistant, as I have dubbed myself, I found a site where you can view this most unsettling of ads, however you must pay to do so. What’s the point? You can also go to chipsahoy.com and make your own happy movie with smiling and bouncing cookies and you program them to say what you wish. Perhaps that would help erase those gruesome scenerios put into your head by the evil advertisers at Nabisco.
    Now, while these commercials are decidedly grim and disturbing, they run a close second to my disdain for the talking toilet bowl commercials. Please, please, do not give my facilities a personality, especially one that talks with the lid and seat forming its mouth…

  4. On that note, have you noticed that the huge, new massively oversized M&M’s are not given character personalities? I mean, can you just imagine the commercial where they meet up with the smaller M&M’s? Would they then be labelled the “Fatties” of the M&M universe? Would we see disturbing commercials of candyland bullying, followed by years of therapy later on in their lives?

    However, I am hooked on Lost. Now there’s a show that’s not disturbing, that doesn’t keep me up at night formulating conspiracy theories… or contemplating Matthew Fox. πŸ˜‰
    -Lisa

  5. As much as I dislike the commercial you so meticulously described – thanks allot! – I have to say that there is another commercial that I hate even more…the Gold Fish Cracker commercial. Though the gold fish do not speak or even have personalities, the cheery little song instructs the buyer to ‘bite their heads off’. How lovely is that?!?! I actually caught my oldest son humming the song one day while eating gold fish for his mid-afternoon snack. You can imagine my horror when he then formed the words ‘bite their heads off’, then transformed himself into a bear (or lion, or monster) and devoured the poor fish – the growl was enough to send me underneath the kitchen table!!! I’ve actually thought about NOT buying these particular crackers any longer, but that decision was met with much disapproval by all 3 of my kiddos! What’s a mom to do?

    P.S. Lost is my current favorite show, followed closely by Boston Legal πŸ™‚ Did you see the conspiracy theories on Minivan Mom’s blog? If not, you have to go search and find them – very insteresting!

  6. my friend jared just wrote on his blog about talking M&Ms.

    thanks for your uplifting coments on 2flvrs.

    nat
    ps harvey got a good job at baptist hospital today! we are so happy.. medical insurance! yay.

  7. HAHAHA!! I don’t watch TV, so those commercials don’t bother me. You did, however, make me think of Bambi – no, I’m not a vegetarian. Good luck finding a support group for people who eat talking food.

  8. On another scary note, does the Burger King large character in their recent commercials scare anyone else? As he pops at a door with the ginormous breakfast buffet sandwich? Or log rolls with a guy…that one makes me shudder. I’m afraid if I go into a Burger King, he’ll be there!

  9. To all of you haunted by your own horrifying commercial and cinematic atrocities, I wince on your behalf at the thought of exploited goldfish, motherless baby deer, and talking toilets. What can I say? The world has gone mad.

    And that big headed Burger King guy scares the pee out of me, Rosie, especially in the commercial where the guy wakes up and the King is in his bed–I might start sleeping with mace under my pillow.

    Lisa–You must be right. I can only imagine that it is Dr. Phil’s pioneering effort to educate the world about the dangers of bullying that has stopped M&M from giving voice to those behemoth candy monsters.

    Jennifer–I’m definitely going to check out those Lost conspiracy theories. I’ve got some theories of my own, each one crazier than the last, I’m afraid. What an addictive show!

    Natalie–I’d love the link to your friend Jared’s blog; it’s always uplifting to meet an ally in the crusade for talking food awareness. And tell Harvey congrats on the job! I’m sure that is an answer to prayers! I know he will bring the light of his unique form of Harvey-ness to his new workplace. πŸ™‚ How are things going for you at TSC?

  10. Ahhhh… the joys of Tivo. my bro gave us tivo for xmas a few years back. he is a computer geek and can afford gifts like that to his social worker sister. At first my hubby and I were like, “what the heck are we going to do with this?” now we love because there are no more annoying commericals!!!

    And I agree, Lost is excellent.

    Thanks for name ideas, Boy actually thought of Dakota as well and I like finn…

    Thanks for stopping by!

  11. On a related note… You are watching TV and its a show with heavy dialogs often whispered, you increase the volume so that you can catch whats being said…its commercial break time and its so *&^%!@# loud!!!!
    Even the latest Sony with Intelligent Sound doesn’t help. WHY DO ADS HAVE TO SCREAM!!!

  12. Sri, the ‘industry’ wants to be sure that those persons that don’t have TIVO and can’t skip the commercials can hear them wherever they go while the commercial is on – bathroom, kitchen, outside. It’s all intentional on their part!

  13. Oh, you are so right about this… I am personally appalled by the Teddy Grahams commercial in which we see a little boy first drown his screaming Teddy in milk, then bite his head off.

    Exactly what message is this sending to our children?

    I’m going to write my congressman this very minute!

  14. Luckily, food doesn’t really talk. But look at all the imagination that goes into wishing it did. The Chips Ahoy commercials I have always found disturbing (I LOVE cookies by the way). The new M&M (oversize) makes me think pure idiot. It does make me chuckle though. I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten a food mostly because I saw it talk on TV. I just got hooked on LOST. I’m thinking of viewing the first season from Blockbuster. Great writing! I always enjoy what you have to say because of the way you say it.

  15. The cookie’s reaction is priceless! Advertising just doesn’t get any better than that. he looks like I looked at many church business meetings during my ministry…”We’re doing what?”

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