When using subliminal advertising to sell cereal to impressionable young children, you'd think that ad executives would be cautious not to include racist stereotypes and would altogether avoid portraying genocidal maniacs sympathetically. You, however, would be wrong.
Dig 'Em Frog
SECRET IDENTITY: Black Guy
Smacks mascot Dig 'Em Frog wears an exaggeratedly sideways baseball cap, his name is an insulting approximation of urban slang, and his voice is low and melodious like an amphibian Barry White. It's just surprising that Dig 'Em doesn't walk around giving out unwarranted high-fives and beating white people in sports. Oh, wait"...
WHAT WE LEARNED: No portrayal of black people is too insulting to put into a TV commercial.
Without the trailblazing latent racism of Dig 'Em, we never would have been prepared for the McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It" campaign. ("Lovin.'" You know, because black people don't use Gs at the end of their words.) But we're not the only ones who learned something from Dig 'Em. When faced with the task of creating a cartoon character to reach their "urban" demographic, the now-defunct WB network went with a frog, too. It's easy to imagine dozens of WB executives sitting around a table, wracking their brains to come up with an animal that is known for jumping high AND for dancing well, before deciding, "Ah fuck it, let's just go with another black frog."
(Fortunately for African-American culture, the makers of Kangaroo Jack came through where Warner Bros. couldn't-they invented a rapping, dancing kangaroo who steals people's money.)
SECRET IDENTITY: British Imperialist
Like any turn-of-the-century British imperialist, the vaguely accented Sam can often be found deep in the jungle searching for the natural resource he craves with an Ahab-like singleness of purpose. If the natives can't keep up with him on his quest to plunder their land, Sam offers the pathologically unsympathetic rejoinder that they just need to "follow their noses," ignoring that fact that not everyone possesses the privileges to which he was born.
WHAT WE LEARNED: British imperialists and American imperialists are different.
By giving Sam a British accent, Fruit Loops commercials highlight the very important distinction between British and American imperialism. While both proud nations wantonly kill people who live in the jungle, British imperialists tend to kill them for their natural resources (See Heart of Darkness, Zulu ), whereas Americans tend to kill jungle civilizations because we think they're communists (Vietnam) or because we're bored (Granada, Panama). C'mon Britain, everyone knows pillaging natural resources is for the desert.
SECRET IDENTITY: Third World Beggar
It's easy to assume that Trix is a sexual predator--he's always following children around and begging them for a taste. But be careful. Note his emaciated frame and pallid complexion, as well as the lengths to which he'll go for a simple bite of cereal. The guy is clearly just very hungry. Of course, the white kids who appear in his commercials would rather feed him dismissive Western slogans like "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!" Please, pardon his confusion. Perhaps he felt entitled to a bowl or two considering his fucking name is TRIX RABBIT. No one would try to pull this shit on any other cereal mascot. Imagine telling Count Chocula, "Silly Count Chocula, Count Chocula cereal isn't for ... uh, Count Choculas."
WHAT WE LEARNED: Corporations are sadistic assholes.
If Trix are for kids, at least buy the guy a fucking sandwich! The amazing part about this advertising campaign is that children absolutely hated it. In 1976, there was a promotion wherein children had to vote whether or not Trix Rabbit should get to eat some of his own cereal. Ninety-nine percent of the kids voted to feed the poor bastard. Kids were apparently embarrassed he'd been reduced to begging. So Trix was fed a single bowl of his own cereal and then, against the wishes of 99 percent of their consumers, Generalissimo Mills returned to their policy of oppression.
SECRET IDENTITY: Addict
Sonny is in the throes of a very serious addiction, and he's not exactly in denial either. Cocoa Puffs commercials always centered around Sonny's desperate search for some distraction from his cravings. Leading something like a normal life, if only for a few blessed minutes.
Then, either a bunch of children (or, if you're old enough to remember the commercial embedded below, his grandfather) would show up and torment him by demonstratively eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs while trumpeting the "rich real Hershey's taste" and "life-giving sense of euphoria."
WHAT WE LEARNED: Young children and old crows are assholes. Also, drug addicts are fun to fuck with.
We can't be sure, but we think this might be why we play drinking games at AA meetings.
Tony the Tiger
SECRET IDENTITY: Steroid-Abusing Competition Addict
We're not saying that Tony is definitely doping, but let's use common sense for a minute. Look at any picture of Tony from the 1950s, with his wiry frame and spindly arms. Now, his shoulders are the size of barstools, his head has changed shape, he's only getting better at sports despite being a senior citizen, and he routinely hits 450-foot home runs into the upper deck.
In fact, the entire structure of Frosted Flakes commercials seems built to promote the use of performance enhancers. Almost every Frosted Flakes ad since the early '80s plays out as follows: Two unnecessarily evil teenagers come up and make a lame comment about how the wimp who's sitting with Tony isn't good at a particular sport. Also, the lame comment invariably involves the word "good," which allows Tony to say that "Frosted Flakes aren't good, they're great!" The unnecessarily evil teenagers never point out that they weren't talking about Frosted Flakes, nor do they scream: "Holy fucking shit, a tiger!" and run away in fear. Instead, they go out and get schooled by Tony and the wimp. The ad usually ends with with the teenagers saying stuff like, "Man, that kid sure can shred!"
WHAT WE LEARNED: Win at any cost.
There are substances you can consume that will immediately make you better at sports, and doing so will make people respect you (even unnecessarily evil teenagers who aren't afraid of tigers).