Cheerios. Just about the least controversial thing you can possibly think of right now, right? They’re little pieces of oats in the shape of O’s. What’s to get upset about? But people do occasionally really want to get upset about something, so recently they managed to find a way. And it was about this.
You’re offended, right? Of course you are. Because that kid, um, buried her father in Cheerios? Her outfit didn’t match? That smile of hers was a little too winsome? I’ll be honest. I don’t know why I’m supposed to be offended. If you’re like me (which I hope you are, because I’m a pretty good person, I think), you also aren’t sure what it is you’re supposed to be mad about either. Cheerios are pretty hard to clean up out of a couch, I guess.
But people were mad. So mad, in fact, that Cheerios had to disable comments for this ad on their YouTube page. So why? What was it that had people so out of sorts about this particular advertisement? Sorry to say, but what they were upset about was the skin colors of the parents, particularly that they didn’t match. And yes, this is the year 2013. And no, I don’t know why this is still a thing that is happening.
Now let’s be fair here. Internet trolls do not, in fact, represent the opinions of the majority of people. Far from it. So there is no indication that most people took any offense to this Cheerios ad upon seeing it, just the majority of people on the Internet with too much time on their hands and a dearth of people paying attention to them. We won’t legitimize the opinions of stupid people. But it is an interesting thing to see, that this became an issue in the first place. Because as soon as Cheerios shut down comments on this ad, it instantly became news. And the news claimed that this advertisement “sparked heated discussions about racial issues.” Which it didn’t. At least not on purpose. It’s an ad about breakfast cereal. That’s it. That’s all the makers of this ad were going for. The reaction to the ad itself doesn’t even qualify as news. People are terrible on the Internet all the time.
So what happened? Why did, of all the brands out there, Cheerios end up being the one sparking a conversation on racial relations? I have no idea. And neither did Cheerios, since they did their very best to not get involved in that conversation. Which just makes sense, because that’s not what Cheerios is about. Cheerios has made ads just like this one for years and years. There is nothing controversial or edgy about any of them, and that is by intent. Other brands get their attention that way, but that is not what works for a company like Cheerios, who purposely does not want to rock the boat. So when they do, through no fault of their own, end up making the boat rock, they put their head down and try their best to avoid the attention they inadvertently drew to themselves. And then they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to business.
There. Happy now, trolls? That kid and his mother were both roughly the same kind of skin color, just like you care about, for some reason. And also, I do not like that I am crying right now, at my desk at work. Who do I write to to complain about this?
Change comes slowly in our culture, but it does come eventually. And when it comes in a Cheerios advertisement, that’s a big thing. That should be a quiet kind of revolution. Or it would be, if some people would just let that happen.
Erik Hagen is a writer for KK BOLD and a Honey Nut Cheerios man himself. The Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, however, he does not care for.