The Great Cheerio Debate

cheerios in a heart shapeDear Reader,

There’s a new Cheerios commercial going around. Usually, General Mills hosts good commercials for their products and, from a technical side, there is nothing wrong with this new one aimed at Cheerios customers. It is a cute commercial of a girl asking her mother what the benefits of eating Cheerios are, and the mother (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) answering to the camera what all of the glorious benefits to the cereal are, particularly for the heart. Then the father, in another room, wakes up to find Cheerios on top of his heart, with the implication that the daughter poured the Cheerios over him while he was sleeping. The end. In most cases, a commercial like this would not receive comments beyond “What a cute kid” or “I wish I lived in that clean of a house” (it is a clean house, even with the spilled Cheerios). There is one particular reason why this particular commercial has alerted the attention of the general public: the Mom is white, the Dad is black, and the daughter is biracial.

We could say that some responded unfavorably to this. So unfavorably, in fact, that the comments section on YouTube had to be shut down. As you can imagine, the majority of comments that are hateful target the interracial marriage. It is amazing, in a bad way, that so much hate has come through such a short commercial.

If anything, I was expecting the anger to be directed at the stereotypes. For one, the Mother takes a far more dominant role in the commercial than the Father does. The Mother is alone working in the kitchen with a cup of (presumably) coffee at her side. She is the one who is asked to confirm something that the Father told the girl. When asked about the nutritional information of a cereal, she is so on top of it that she delivers a perfect answer to her child’s question. Afterwards, she gives a knowing smile, as if she knows what the child is going to do. Meanwhile, the Father (who never once makes physical or verbal contact with the Mother, by the way) sleeps on the couch. He is in such a deep sleep that he does not even notice it as the child pours cereal over his chest. If there was one thing that I thought would attract criticism, it would be that the Mother plays the homemaker while the Father plays the Lazy Father role (at least from what we can see. Whether or not his nap is fully justified remains to be seen. And while it should be stated that most naps are justified by themselves, imagine if the roles had been reversed. When was the last time you saw the Mother in a commercial napping while the Father takes care of the household?) I also would have thought that it would have been criticized that the Father receives only seven seconds of screen time, while the mother receives nearly three times as much (about eighteen seconds). If one is looking hard enough, they could interpret the commercial as the Father being neglectful and the Mother being a house slave.

So why is it that there is such a debate about these characters? Remember that is all they are. We are fighting about fictional people, about lives that do not exist on this earth. At the end of the day, the lights go off, the set comes down, the actors get paid, and then the cast and crew go home. Obviously, though, it is not so much about these characters as what these characters represent that causes the storm. So then that’s the next question: what do these characters represent? And why is it that the image of these characters is so much powerful than the final image of the commercial, which is—ironically—the word “Love”? Interracial couples exist in this world. It is beyond our control and, from this writer’s opinion, is not something horrible we should try to control. Let it be. Can we not love these families, too?

Sincerely,

Jumbled Writer

 

*Photo courtesy of weheartit.com.

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8 Responses to The Great Cheerio Debate

  1. I haven’t seen the commercial (so my comments about it will be limited), but I’ve read some of the discussions about it. Your view on the stereotypical gender roles is a perspective I hadn’t heard previously. That’s interesting.

  2. The commercial is just as hokey as most commercials, enough that it didn’t even register with me until I heard about the Great Debate on Facebook. Maybe I didn’t notice the interracial couple because my family is interracial. Maybe I didn’t notice because I tend to ignore commercials altogether. But, the fact is, lots of people were offended enough to post abusive comments on Youtube. Surely these racists have seen interracial couples before. Certainly they’ve seen a black man and a white woman strolling through the grocery store, or a white man and black woman sitting across from each other in a restaurant. I doubt the racist had much to say then, except maybe a muttered curse under their breath. From the safety of their own homes and hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, I suppose they felt emboldened enough to unleash all their pent up hatred, thus proving racists are cowards. At least, that’s my opinion.

    As for stereotypical gender roles in commercials, you are absolutely right. It’s always the woman dishing out wholesome after-the-big-game snacks for the kids and trying to get the dirt stain out of junior’s baseball pants. The man is portrayed as hopeless as his wife whisks in, rescues the burning dinner, and gives her silly hubby a look that says, “Aren’t you just adorably useless.”

    • “Adorably useless” is a perfect way to describe it. Unless it is about something to do with sports. Then the mother seems to provide food while the father can do something basic, like throwing catch. Thank you for your valuable opinions.
      –JW

  3. I would think in this day and age it wouldn’t be that many and by even acknowledging them sometimes is to give them a forum for spewing hatred. I never even noticed this aspect (interacial) of the commercial. I saw a cute kid, concerned about her dad. You are observant to notice the stereotype people. I didn’t even notice that.
    A very good insightful article that raises a lot of questions. I wonder if it raises a real issue or it is a manufactured issue. Is there really that many people who are against interracial marriages or is it a few? I agree with adriathoughtsblog. I am always surprised at how many people dwell on something others are doing. It’s not as though anyone in our free country is being forced to marry someone they don’t want to.

    • That would be the ideal situation–that this has all been blown out of proportion and that everyone who had even an inkling of anger over interracial marriages went to the YouTube site and left all of their thoughts on it. Yet the numbers do suggest otherwise. Still, there are people out there who do not believe in spewing hatred to any group. Hopefully those numbers rise as time goes on and these conversations are had.
      –JW

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