Not a cheery indicator
June 7, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

A recent TV ad for Cheerios depits a heartwarming family vignette: An adorable tyke asks her mother if the cereal is good for the heart, her mother says yes, and the dad wakes up from his nap to find a pile of Cheerios on his chest. But the fact that the mother is white, the dad is black and the child mixed-race has touched off a firestorm of criticism that one media critic described as "a progressive-looking commercial collides with the ugliness of the Internet." Parent company General Mills says it is has no plans to stop airing the spot or to take it down from its YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, AdAge reports that the TV spot tests positively with most demographics, "with the exception of males over 50," though they note that "babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child."
posted by Gelatin (219 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a mixed kid who was always so annoyed at shows and commercials forcing families to be one color or the other, this commercial is awesome and I wish we could have had it sooner. But then I remember it took till 2000 for the Census to let us identify as more than one race too.
posted by dame at 7:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [50 favorites]


Not necessarily sold that Cheerios is good for your heart, but General Mills current stand on this issue warms my heart.
posted by incandissonance at 7:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


Honestly, trolling racists to make yourself look good seems like a good marketing strategy, regardless of whether it was intentional or not on the part of General Mills.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [45 favorites]


This "story" confuses me. People are racist jerks on the internet, that's news? People leave terrible comments on Youtube videos, that's news?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Lighten up, men over 50.
posted by emjaybee at 7:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


For those playing along at home; yes the year is 2013. Yes, this post is about news, not history. Just in case you were confused.
posted by Jimbob at 7:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


This "story" confuses me. People are racist jerks on the internet, that's news? People leave terrible comments on Youtube videos, that's news?


What's news to me is that the PR department at a major company didn't know to disable comments on their Youtube channel.
posted by ocschwar at 7:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [37 favorites]


General Mills can probably afford to wind up the over-50-white-male segment if they've decided that is not a marketing demographic that tends to shop for breakfast cereal. There's a degree to which the company may be risking close to nothing on this ad.
posted by ardgedee at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aside from the test spots, is there any indication that anyone who comments on YouTube is over the age of 14?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:10 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, AdAge reports that the TV spot tests positively with most demographics, "with the exception of males over 50," though they note that "babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child."

They must have surveyed this guy.

And, overall, WTF?
posted by Leezie at 7:10 AM on June 7, 2013


As a male over 50 I think this is a great commercial, except for the part that claims eating highly refined and processed grains is good for your heart.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:11 AM on June 7, 2013 [38 favorites]


People are racist jerks on the internet, that's news? People leave terrible comments on Youtube videos, that's news?

The fact that General Mills is standing by the ad is significant.
posted by Gelatin at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


There's a still from the commercial meme'ing around of the young girl, puzzled expression.

The caption is:

ALL THE PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD TODAY, AND YOU'RE MAD 'CAUSE MY PARENTS DON'T MATCH?
posted by tilde at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [38 favorites]


I'm biracial and that Cheerios ad is a big fucking deal. (SLJZBL)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm Biracial, and That Cheerios Ad Is a Big Fucking Deal. Trust Me.
[J]ust last week (IN TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN), a white father in Virginia was suspected by a Walmart security guard of kidnapping after he made the mistake of being seen in public with his own biracial children. A customer reported the father to the security guard after seeing him in the parking lot with his children and deeming the scene “strange.” Local police were dispatched to the family’s home to investigate. The children were made to positively identify their own parents, in their own home. As dumb as this sounds, this Cheerios commercial at least provides idiots in the parking lot at Walmart a foundation of knowledge about interracial families. I don’t necessarily want strangers to look at me with my parents and think “CHEERIOS FAMILY,” but if the alternative is bailing my dad out jail, then I guess I’ll take it.

This commercial is a huge step for interracial families like mine who want to be seen in public together and maybe eat some heart-healthy snacks. But it also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people. Often we’re treated like exotic flowers, who should feel complimented when people say stuff to us like, “All biracial women are so beautiful” or “I would kill for your skin.” One of the hardest things about growing up the way I did is feeling like you need to choose one racial identity over another just to fit in. The fact that strangers constantly ask you to identify yourself (forcing you to put yourself in a category) makes you feel conspicuous and gazed upon. You catch strangers looking at you. You know what they want to ask you. You know that they won’t leave you alone until you give them a rundown of your heritage.

So, this is just a stupid commercial about Cheerios but it means a lot to me. It shows interracial families and their children being normal and cute, not something to gawk at or to question. Hopefully this commercial will lead to even more positive representations of not just interracial families, but all kinds of non-traditional families.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [28 favorites]


I noticed this commercial a few nights ago and actually pointed it out to my wife, because it was so obviously a big step forward for a commercial. Right up there with the Kindle commercial featuring a same-sex couple.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am glad to be 49 years old right now.

It is good to see this getting press; there are a lot of people out there who need to be reminded that there are still plenty of racist assholes out there despite the fact that we have now elected a black president twice.
posted by TedW at 7:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


General Mills can probably afford to wind up the over-50-white-male segment if they've decided that is not a marketing demographic that tends to shop for breakfast cereal. There's a degree to which the company may be risking close to nothing on this ad.

It depends on how fired up the haters are, I think? GM also does Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Pillsbury, Green Giant, &c. It's not impossible that super outraged "concerned citizens" would call for a boycott of all brands under the GM name. I think it's unlikely, though.
posted by elizardbits at 7:14 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good for General Mills!

I wish they would come out with an new ad stating that if you are over the age of 40 and a bigot that you should eat donuts, fried food and take up smoking instead of eating Cheerios.
posted by Renoroc at 7:15 AM on June 7, 2013 [30 favorites]


I just wanted to say that when I first read this post, I misread it as Cheetos, and was very confused.
posted by pemberkins at 7:15 AM on June 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

It might make ripples here now and then, but it seems to constantly seems to pop up in the US.
posted by Mezentian at 7:16 AM on June 7, 2013


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Yes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man. Meanwhile in the real world people do whatever they want to do.
posted by miyabo at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am glad to be 49 years old right now.

Oh man, just a few months and every damn time you go to your mailbox there'll be the AARP application forms and your KKK "welcome to the demographic" cards.
posted by yoink at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


This ad is likely to be banned in Canada.

(Because of the health claims.)

(But we'll still see it on American channels.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2013


if you are over the age of 40 and a bigot that you should eat donuts, fried food and take up smoking instead of eating Cheerios.

Why do those bigots under the age of 40 get a free pass?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Two generations ago virulent U.S. racists lynched people. Now they yell impotently at Cheerios commercials.

This is not to say racism is not still a huge problem.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Yes. A friend of mine's sister was recently essentially disowned for getting engaged to a black man.
posted by Leezie at 7:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that General Mills is doing the right thing. I think it's great that there's a biracial family in advertising, which tends to be very conservative. But I think the commercial itself sucks.
posted by jeather at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2013


It seems to me that if we are to have a society of people living 100+ years, in which they are only capable of learning in the first 20 or 30

I know people who are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s(!) who are actually capable of learning new things.
posted by malocchio at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

As of 2011 (PDF), 33% of likely Alabama GOP voters and 46% of likely Mississippi GOP voters thought that interracial marriage should be illegal or were "unsure" if it should be legal.

So, yes.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


If a biracial kid feels as good seeing this commercial as I did when I stumbled upon the aforementioned same sex husband Kindle ad, I tempted to pay General Mills for their commercials.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:20 AM on June 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


I dislike this commercial for its stilted, unnatural dialogue and I'm not a big fan of "adorable" children on television, though at least "adorable" child actors are an improvement over "adorable" children on reality shows.

But my brother (Canadian, of muddled European descent) and his wife (Canadian, of Chinese descent) just adopted my niece (Japanese, and as far as I know of Japanese descent) so I'm glad that families of multiple races are sufficiently accepted to have their own TV commercials. Not because of the TV commercials themselves, but because the TV commercials represent the idea that their family is as normal as any other family, and that the people who don't agree with that are the ones with the problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:21 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that if we are to have a society of people living 100+ years, in which they are only capable of learning in the first 20 or 30, then they will have to be treated like animals most of their life, having their personal concerns (like not liking black people or mixed race marriage) dismissed as irrelevant.

That strikes me as a terribly arrogant statement with little basis in fact. Certainly, people's individual moral compasses are shaped by the prevailing mores of their youth. But it seems to me that the majority of people tend to shift with the times -- often without even noticing that they are shifting. The huge swings on gay marriage and medical marijuana we've witnessed in America over the past 15 years have partly been driven by demographics, sure, but I'd say the bulk of it had been due to adults changing their own opinions as they witnessed society changing around them. The drive to conform with our society is very strong.
posted by Diablevert at 7:21 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why do those bigots under the age of 40 get a free pass?

I like to think that it is still not too late to reach them
posted by Renoroc at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

Really? That surprises me on the face of it. There has been far more racist fearmongering about the evil black man preying on the poor defenceless white woman than about black women stealing the hearts of white men. If I were to imagine a protest against a portrayal of a white-man/black-woman TV couple I don't so much picture froth-at-the-mouth older white dudes as black people concerned that it plays into the "black men are shiftless no-hopers, so if you want a stable partner get a white guy" topos.
posted by yoink at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's not impossible that super outraged "concerned citizens" would call for a boycott of all brands under the GM name.

Dump General Mills showed up last year in response to the company's public stand against Minnesota's anti-gay marriage amendment, which was defeated. The company's sales, profits and share price rose after the boycott was announced. Maybe that emboldened them to take this step, too.
posted by mediareport at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


The food donation bin at my grocery will be getting a few boxes of Cheerios from me. First time ever that I'll be buying something explicitly in support of a megacorp.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was recently able to educate my almost 60 year old mother on trans issues. Age has very little to do with it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:23 AM on June 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Having just checked the wiki page, possibly using the "accurate" word might not have been the best choice. But "mixed race" seems so clumsy. And I have fallen into a wiki hole.

But those stats from the south provoke.... seriously.
posted by Mezentian at 7:23 AM on June 7, 2013


Jesus fuckin wept. How is this ad a thing that needs to be defended in 2013?

It's interesting, because the fact is that I'm sort of multiracial--my mother is whiter-than-white and my father is dark-but-juuuuust-not-Black Puerto Rican--but since I was raised solely by my white mother and really inherited nothing but a year-round tan and a little curl in my hair from my father, I mostly "pass" as white and have never dealt with any of this nonsense. People are really horrible.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


men over 50 are just terrified at the idea of waking up covered in mounds of breakfast cereal.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2013 [40 favorites]


The next Kellogg's ad will feature a 3-foot-tall native American standing next to her Nigerian husband laying still in an iron lung. The machine hisses as it breathes in and out for him. Their adopted 3-year-old Peruvian daughter will walk up and ask if she can have some Frosted Flakes.

"No, honey. I can't reach them and your father has health problems."

Sad music plays in the background.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:25 AM on June 7, 2013 [35 favorites]


The funny thing is that TV is full of the ultra-successful products of biracial relationships. Blake Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Michaela Conlin... maybe the Youtube commenters are afraid of a super-race of tall, handsome people constantly posterizing them?
posted by selfnoise at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Anti-miscegenation laws (although unenforceable in practice) were on the books in Mississippi until 2000.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2013


.... and then they will brush their teeth with Darkie Darlie toothpaste?

Yep. Still a brand sold in stores.
posted by Mezentian at 7:27 AM on June 7, 2013


The YouTube comments section for the ad, which had been viewed more than 1.7 million times as of midday Monday, was disabled late last week

In other words, it took General Mills NINE years to catch onto John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: Normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad
posted by filthy light thief at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel like nobody is focusing on the important part of this commercial, which is that that little girl has Shirley Temple-level charisma. I WANT TO SNUGGLE HER ALL UP. This whole Cheerios series with kids giving their parents Cheerios to keep their hearts healthy has made me smile because they're all pretty adorable, but this child is the cutest one.

My fave recent progress! ad was JC Penney has two dads for Father's Day. I am also fond of ads that show competent dads. I realize advertising is not a great force for good in the world and that its entire purpose is to be manipulative, but it's sort-of nice to see ads that pander to ME and show egalitarian relationships, same-sex relationships, mixed-race relationships, etc., as normal, happy, fun, shiney advertising families, instead of the same-old white suburban incompetent-dad, put-upon-mom schtick that's so toxic and offputting and limited. I also like seeing tampon ads during NFL games. (And so many diaper ads during NFL games now! Like every commercial break!) Pander more to me, advertising!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

Really? One of the main story lines on the NBC show Parenthood features a mixed race couple with that composition (white man and black woman).
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


despite the fact that we have now elected a black president twice

Maybe someday, we'll even elect a president who -- like the child in the commercial -- has a black father and a white mother.
posted by Slothrup at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [45 favorites]


Oh man, just a few months and every damn time you go to your mailbox there'll be the AARP application forms

Holy crap this is the truth. My parents in their mid-70s tell me I should be happy because of all the potential discounts. Ugh.

Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Sadly, yes. It's also a factor in the wackadoo racist Obama hate in certain parts of the U.S., that his parents are a black man and a white woman.
posted by aught at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What, exactly, does it mean for a TV commercial to "test positively"? Does it mean "I enjoyed the commercial" or "the commercial makes it more likely that I will buy the product" or something else? Because while I am generally well disposed to kids, and I like Cheerios, I don't care for cloying commercials. If they change my buying habits at all, they tend to make me irritated at the product.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

MeFi has had this discussion multiple times from each direction. I think that the racists hate all "race-mixing" more or less equally, and we only assume that all the other examples that the racists aren't currently hating on must be somehow different -- "Oh, they're not yelling about this example, so it must not be a problem" or "Oh, they're not yelling about that example, so they must not have heard about it."

But no, they're just lazy. See one thing, yell about it, see some other thing, yell about it, rinse, repeat.
posted by Etrigan at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's odd is that in all the articles I've seen on this, I haven't seen a single screenshot of the shitty comments that were in the video before comments were disabled. Like... obviously there's tons of shitty people out there, especially on Youtube, and lord knows interracial couples still get shit on by people, but there's a part of me that wonders if it wasn't at least partially a stunt by GM.

But hey, you know what? If a major brand sees anti-racism as a good way to drum up publicity, maybe that's a kind of progress too.

Having just checked the wiki page, possibly using the "accurate" word might not have been the best choice. But "mixed race" seems so clumsy.

'Interracial' is a perfectly fine word to describe the couple.
posted by kmz at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone needs to get Nichols, Shatner and Nimoy on this issue.

Because the 1960s was a long time ago, and, by god they look old now.
posted by Mezentian at 7:32 AM on June 7, 2013


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

About 15 years ago, I was told by a co-worker that he didn't believe in creating "half-breeds." He said this with full knowledge that Mrs. Deadmessenger and I are of differing races, and our daughter was exactly the kind of person he didn't believe in creating.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:33 AM on June 7, 2013


I'm over 50 and male. I saw this commercial and thought "hmmm, Dad is black, that's unusual" and then promptly forgot it since we haven't bought Cheerios since my daughters were toddlers. I was a fool to think others would do the same.
posted by tommasz at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2013


This is so common in the UK that nobody notices it anymore. So much so that I only specifically remember one advert with a mixed family - they don't stand out to me and I watch ALL the adverts - which annoyingly isn't on YouTube. I wonder if this ad ran in the US?

A lot of UK ad campaigns are shot in South Africa - partly because it's cheap, and partly because the ethnic mix means it's easy to cast actors that are representative.
posted by mippy at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the main story lines on the NBC show Parenthood features a mixed race couple with that composition (white man and black woman).

As did The Jeffersons, circa 1975.
posted by Gelatin at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

Bingo. I snark a lot when I watch tv, and one of my stock snarks for the last couple of years has been that interracial couples (when they're black/white) are usually not married, and always black female white male. So, there's a sense in which this doesn't surprise me much.

Also, lots of people are assholes.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:35 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Disclosure: I work in advertising and worked on General Mills for a while, though not on TV and not on Cheerios. I do know people who've worked on this account though. I'm glad they made this commercial and there wasn't pushback at the agency or brand team.

I thought this controversy was pretty surprising though honestly, I really thought people were moving past that. It's like things can happen in society but if it's reflected in media that's "endorsing" something that shouldn't be.

Also:

This "story" confuses me. People are racist jerks on the internet, that's news? People leave terrible comments on Youtube videos, that's news?

This kind of comment is frustrating to me. Maybe if it doesn't affect you it's easier to be "confused" if people want to discuss negative reactions to inclusive representation in the media.
posted by sweetkid at 7:36 AM on June 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


Maybe it's baggage from my own upbringing, but commercials where kids making a mess is made out to be absolutely adorable make me all stabby. If any child over the age of two in my family deliberately poured cereal on the couch, I'm not sure what her punishment would be, but it would certainly be more than a wistful smile.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:38 AM on June 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


As did The Jeffersons, circa 1975.

It should be mentioned that in a case of art imitating life Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis, was married to Sy Kravitz and is Lenny Kravitz's mom.
posted by tommasz at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


We had a similar controversy about an ad here for Heinz Deli Mayo. The story was that this mayo was so authentic that the 'wife' in the domestic setup took the form of a short order cook, sending the kids on their way and giving the husband his kiss goodbye whilst wisecracking.

A large section of the general public didn't see the metaphor, and instead saw two men kissing, and they didn't like it. Heinz pulled the ad before it went further.
posted by mippy at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2013


deadmessenger: "About 15 years ago, I was told by a co-worker that he didn't believe in creating "half-breeds." He said this with full knowledge that Mrs. Deadmessenger and I are of differing races, and our daughter was exactly the kind of person he didn't believe in creating."

I'm sure this is just my privilege as a white dude talking, but how did you not just flip your shit at this situation?
posted by boo_radley at 7:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


What, exactly, does it mean for a TV commercial to "test positively"? Does it mean "I enjoyed the commercial" or "the commercial makes it more likely that I will buy the product" or something else? Because while I am generally well disposed to kids, and I like Cheerios, I don't care for cloying commercials. If they change my buying habits at all, they tend to make me irritated at the product.

Maybe it's baggage from my own upbringing, but commercials where kids making a mess is made out to be absolutely adorable make me all stabby. If any child over the age of two in my family deliberately poured cereal on the couch, I'm not sure what her punishment would be, but it would certainly be more than a wistful smile.


Yes, because the real focus of the commercial is how annoyed it makes people feel. Way to keep perspective, folks.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who are all this abhorrent people, and where on earth do they come from? This was a bad week for my faith in humanity and the internet.
posted by moxie_milquetoast at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2013


As of 2011 (PDF), 33% of likely Alabama GOP voters and 46% of likely Mississippi GOP voters thought that interracial marriage should be illegal or were "unsure" if it should be legal.

I'm shocked that those numbers are so low, given the groups sampled.
posted by goethean at 7:44 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked that those numbers are so low, given the groups sampled.

Those are just the people willing to admit it, and to be honest I wouldn't be surprised if they're even higher now.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:45 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


What, exactly, does it mean for a TV commercial to "test positively"? Does it mean "I enjoyed the commercial" or "the commercial makes it more likely that I will buy the product" or something else?

Generally both. TV commercials go through a couple rounds of testing and there are a bunch of questions asked.
posted by sweetkid at 7:45 AM on June 7, 2013


I'm a male over 50, and I approved (of) this ad.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:47 AM on June 7, 2013


So, it's ok to hate on dudes over 50 now?

Just want to make sure I'm aware of the norms...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:47 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel like nobody is focusing on the important part of this commercial, which is that that little girl has Shirley Temple-level charisma. I WANT TO SNUGGLE HER ALL UP...

(I previewed!)

You know, the person I feel for the most is the little girl in the commercial. I wonder if she is seeing all this or if her parents are protecting her. Because, you know, she *is* a real biracial person, even if her actual family isn't black dad/white mom. I like to think that this little girl auditioned and was so adorable and charming that they cast her and then had the "courage" to REALISTICALLY choose actors that could be her parents. I really don't want to see this kid on the Today Show talking about the backlash, I mean, what is she, 7? Younger than that I think. Ugh.

A while back IKEA ran a series of super-progressive commercials in the US - white gay dads with a black child was one of them, I think. Right now there's a banking commercial in my area with a white dad/Asian mom and their children, and I haven't heard a peep about that offending anyone. But when a high school in Mississippi gets on the news for holding their first integrated prom in 2013, is it any wonder that this is playing out the way that it is?
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Zombieflanders, you are missing the point of those comments. The original post mentions that the commercial doesn't test well with males over 50. Several commenters in this thread seem to be interpreting that to mean that males over 50 are a bunch of haters, specifically the racist kind. I maintain that there are plenty of reasons to dislike a TV commercial, starting with the fact that TV commercials in general are a blight upon the land. So I asked what it means to "test positively," because I genuinely do not know what this vague phrase means, and I would like someone with experience in the field to tell me.

Thanks, sweetkid.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:50 AM on June 7, 2013


So, it's ok to hate on dudes over 50 now?

Nobody is doing that here....except for maybe a comment or two that suggested those over 50 can't learn new things.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:50 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kinda suspect the "one drop" rule still applies culturally. After all, not many pundits get press by comparing our president to Dorothy Gale.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:53 AM on June 7, 2013


you know, she *is* a real biracial person

She probably is, but she might not be, unless there's an article about her specifically. I mean she might not be black/white biracial. You can't always just tell by looking - a lot of people when I was growing up and still now have thought I am black/white biracial or Hispanic because Indian girl with super curly hair doesn't read as a real thing to them.



his little girl auditioned and was so adorable and charming that they cast her and then had the "courage"

Also, like I said I don't work in TV advertising specifically but from the little exposure I've had, I doubt they had one script called INTERRACIAL FAMILY and cast accordingly. The director probably just found these people and the agency and brand OK'd it. I could be wrong.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nobody is hating on the over 50 male crowd?

Lighten up, men over 50.

General Mills can probably afford to wind up the over-50-white-male segment ...

It depends on how fired up the haters are, I think?

It seems to me that if we are to have a society of people living 100+ years, in which they are only capable of learning in the first 20 or 30...

Plus the commenters who seem to feel the need to state that they are over 50 and don't hate the commercial so please don't be mad at them. Yeah, there's some broad-brushing going on here.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:54 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Would it affect General Mills' heart-healthy claims if a pack of bigots start dropping from commercial-induced coronaries?

Now I'm picturing an aging racist lying on the floor shouting at his friend to pour Cheerios over his torso as they wait for the EMTs to arrive: "No, on my left side, you're getting it all over the damn place - goddammit, Merle, not the Honey-Nut, you know I got that bee allergy!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:55 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Have you seen Multigrain Cheerios?! I mean look at all those different shades of colors all mixed up together!! All bathing in the same milk!!!

IT'S OKAY. THEY ARE ALL CHEERIOS.
posted by Kabanos at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Sadly, yes. I'm a white woman and I'm married to a black man. When we got married, an elderly relative of mine was horrified that we would create "zebra babies." I mean seriously, it was freaking 2010 and he was talking about ZEBRA BABIES. I was thrilled to see this cheerios ad, because I don't often see commercials that represent my family, but I was not at all surprised at the reaction.
posted by crankylex at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Nobody is doing that here....except for maybe a comment or two that suggested those over 50 can't learn new things.

Fair enough.

I find the suggestion annoying...but I find hypersensitivity annoying too...damn!
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2013


Several commenters in this thread seem to be interpreting that to mean that males over 50 are a bunch of haters, specifically the racist kind. I maintain that there are plenty of reasons to dislike a TV commercial

...including the fact that it includes a child at all, which AdAge points out is one reason that demographic sometimes doesn't like a commercial regardless of the child's race.

It's possible that race is more a factor for that demographic, but far from certain. As a 45-year-old white male myself, I didn't intend for anyone to make that assumption. I should add that though the ad generally tested positively among other demographics, certain segments of those also will have disliked the ad, and also possibly for racial reasons.
posted by Gelatin at 8:00 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Parent company General Mills says it is has no plans to stop airing the spot or to take it down from its YouTube channel.

This is heartening. I was just mentioning to a friend yesterday that it seems like big companies are starting to lighten up on not folding to the phony outrage of ignorant fringe groups. Like the "I shipped my pants" KMart commericials.

Funny story: I was in the grocery store, and there was a lady nearby talking on the phone to who I think was her husband. They were doing that thing where they chat about what they need. "Oh, cookies, what kind of cookies do you want me to get." She gets to the cereal aisle and says something like "We don't need cereal, do we? No, I didn't think so. Oh wait, you have a cholesterol test tomorrow, I'll pick up some Cheerios."
posted by gjc at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus the commenters who seem to feel the need to state that they are over 50 and don't hate the commercial so please don't be mad at them. Yeah, there's some broad-brushing going on here.

I did that (mention I am over 50) only because the FPP mentions males over 50...with a disclaimer that points out that demographic might not like the commercial for reasons other than race. So it was a relevant comment. I would not have done that if age was never mentioned.

As I said, I don't think there is a lot of "hate the olds" here, but I agree that there is some broad brushing going on here with the "can't teach an old dog new tricks" comments.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2013


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

Bingo. I snark a lot when I watch tv, and one of my stock snarks for the last couple of years has been that interracial couples (when they're black/white) are usually not married, and always black female white male.


You said "bingo" and then stated exactly the opposite of the comment you were replying to. Either I'm confused or you're confused.

Also, Brad and Jane Kerkovich-Williams would like to have a talk with you.
posted by kmz at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I doubt they had one script called INTERRACIAL FAMILY and cast accordingly.

We're basically saying the same thing. If they cast the kid first (entirely supposition on my part, but I do know a bit about advertising) it would follow that they cast the parents so as to realistically represent her heritage. I also said, "even if her parents are not black dad/white mom" because of your other point - I don't know WHAT the girl is, she could totally be part Latino or something else, and I don't think that the word "bi-racial" is exclusively for black/white combinations. "Mixed race" is more inclusive I guess, but calling people "mixed" has really fallen out of favor.

horrified that we would create "zebra babies."

This. We are black woman/white man thinking-about-kids over here, and I look forward to some fuckwit one day asking if I'm my child's nanny. Oh, I can't wait.
posted by polly_dactyl at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm no expert on breakfast cereals but aren't the Uk "default" Cheerios the Multi-grain ones whereas those are a sub-type in the USA? See - we have mixed bowl Cheerios, embrace the cross cultural melding pot.

My wife is British of Indian heritage, I am British of White heritage. No one, literally no one, has EVER commented on us or our children being mixed-race. I know that there is still a very real racism problem here, but wow... the vast majority of people have moved past considering mix-race to be a thing. It always shocks me to see how taboo it still is to many Americans.
posted by samworm at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2013


We won't have true integration till they put regular Cheerios and Honey Nut in the same box.
posted by jonmc at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


men over 50 are just terrified at the idea of waking up covered in mounds of breakfast cereal.

Who isn't?
posted by Aizkolari at 8:03 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a white woman and I'm married to a black man. When we got married, an elderly relative of mine was horrified that we would create "zebra babies." I mean seriously, it was freaking 2010 and he was talking about ZEBRA BABIES. I was thrilled to see this cheerios ad, because I don't often see commercials that represent my family, but I was not at all surprised at the reaction.
posted by crankylex at 10:56 AM on June 7


I had a friend in high school who thought interracial marriage was a bad idea because people would call the resultant children "milkshakes." The racism was sad, but the idea that people would pick such a bizarre and nonsensical slur was a little hilarious.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:03 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


You said "bingo" and then stated exactly the opposite of the comment you were replying to. Either I'm confused or you're confused.

Yes...that comment confused me as well.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:03 AM on June 7, 2013


it would follow that they cast the parents so as to realistically represent her heritage.

Unless you know the girl and her parents, I don't think you can say this at all. This child could easily have two black parents, a Hispanic parent, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What's news to me is that the PR department at a major company didn't know to disable comments on their Youtube channel."

My wife is convinced that this is all done on purpose. OUTRAGE makes for brilliant marketing, she says. I guess we'll never know.
posted by cccorlew at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


It always shocks me to see how taboo it still is to many Americans.

It really isn't. It's just that the small minority of people who think that way are loudmouths.
posted by gjc at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I find the suggestion annoying...but I find hypersensitivity annoying too...damn!

I think we've discovered the real source of the problem here. Everything pisses you people off.
posted by Diablevert at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2013


Now I'm imagining stripey babies galumphing across the veldt in herds, manes flowing majestically.... Zebra babies. Glorious.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [33 favorites]


I had a friend in high school who thought interracial marriage was a bad idea because people would call the resultant children "milkshakes." The racism was sad, but the idea that people would pick such a bizarre and nonsensical slur was a little hilarious.

Hrmm, then their "milkshakes" would bring all the boys to the yard and they'd have to provide snacks and juice to a neighborhood full of kids ....

Seconding "didn't know how to disable YouTube comments at first" as some load of hooey. It's a plan, man, it's a plan.
posted by tilde at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I doubt they had one script called INTERRACIAL FAMILY and cast accordingly.

We're basically saying the same thing


I don't really know what this means, I wasn't arguing against you or anything.
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2013


it was freaking 2010 and he was talking about ZEBRA BABIES.

I laughed more than I should have at that phrasing.
posted by Mezentian at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I think's neat is that the mainstream response to this 'social media blow-back' is "lol ignorant racists." Granted, it's not a perfect response, but it beats "damn right; coloreds and whites shouldn't mix."

The tide keeps rolling in, folks, and it's a joy to watch.
posted by Mooski at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I come from a mixed-race background--white dad from Northern Florida, Hispanic mother from Southern Texas--and I remember my mom telling me that people often thought she was my nanny because my skin color took after my dad. What makes me sadder is that even though he married a woman who wasn't white--they divorced YEARS ago for different reasons--is that he was always always adamant that the worst thing my sister and I could do was marry or date anyone black.
posted by Kitteh at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2013


It really isn't. It's just that the small minority of people who think that way are loudmouths.

I agree. The internet gives an international platform to anybody who wants to yell and be heard. I put more faith in a company like Kellogg, who wants to protect their brands, to know more about our racial sensibilities than internet haters.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2013


Meanwhile, AdAge reports that the TV spot tests positively with most demographics, "with the exception of males over 50," though they note that "babies tend to perform poorly with this demographic regardless of the race of the child."

Did nobody read the second half of that sentence? Or did you just stop at the part that let you blame this on men over 50?
posted by rocket88 at 8:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kitteh, I have a friend in New York City who has some Hispanic heritage, but her son is very light skinned. She is routinely (like on a weekly basis) mistaken for his nanny.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2013


I can't believe people don't want zebra babies. That would be awesome.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


I doubt they had one script called INTERRACIAL FAMILY and cast accordingly.

It's possible they did. Maybe they were sick of shooting separate black family commercials for broadcast in MS, AL and GA?
posted by gjc at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This. We are black woman/white man thinking-about-kids over here, and I look forward to some fuckwit one day asking if I'm my child's nanny. Oh, I can't wait.

On the off chance that we have children, I have to admit that I'm kind of looking forward to the day when some fuckwit asks me where my kids came from, and I can say "MY VAGINA" very loudly.
posted by crankylex at 8:10 AM on June 7, 2013 [37 favorites]


But also polly dactyl:

it would follow that they cast the parents so as to realistically represent her heritage. I also said, "even if her parents are not black dad/white mom" because of your other point - I don't know WHAT the girl is, she could totally be part Latino or something else, and I don't think that the word "bi-racial" is exclusively for black/white combinations. "Mixed race" is more inclusive I guess, but calling people "mixed" has really fallen out of favor.

Unless you know the girl and her parents, I don't think you can say this at all. This child could easily have two black parents, a Hispanic parent, etc.

Yeah this. You're "obviously she's biracial of some sort" read is kinda weird.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 AM on June 7, 2013


It's Friday, so I'm going to call down the Spirit of Vonnegut:

"There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind."
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't really know what this means, I wasn't arguing against you or anything.


I'm attempting to agree with you while qualifying my original comments. No one here knows the exact racial makeup of this child but I think we're getting a bit semantical.

On preview: Wow. I look at that child and see someone clearly of mixed race. I also think pinpointing her race is irrelevant to the discussion. We can't, and I'm not really trying to, not with any certainty.
posted by polly_dactyl at 8:15 AM on June 7, 2013


Yeah, no big deal, but I'm an Indian American woman and just last week had someone yelling in my face that they are "sure I am a mix" and they can "clearly see that I'm mixed" so.

You don't know.
posted by sweetkid at 8:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Now I'm imagining stripey babies galumphing across the veldt in herds, manes flowing majestically.... Zebra babies. Glorious.

"Unfortunately, they have stumbled into the territory of the Gingeraffes. Now a conflict is unavoidable."

/Attenborough
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:21 AM on June 7, 2013 [30 favorites]


rocket88: "Did nobody read the second half of that sentence? Or did you just stop at the part that let you blame this on men over 50?"

There were a lot of crazy comments on the youtube video from people self-identifying as older men, or having uploaded videos that identified them as such. It's not just the adage/ usa today stories.
posted by boo_radley at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Depends on where you are and how you look at it. Attitudes about it have definitely shifted for the better in my lifetime (born in '69). I can remember as a child, it being kind of a big deal to see in public, and I grew up on the pretty liberal west coast. By the time I started getting interested in dating myself, it was much less taboo among my peers, but you could still see how a movie like "Jungle Fever" would kinda be a big deal. As an adult who has had a pretty diverse dating and social life, I think it's reached the point of public acceptability.

I wouldn't think twice about driving across country with a with a White girlfriend. Not to say that some people don't still have backward attitudes, but an errant stare or backhanded comment is nothing compared to reactions that one could have expected in the past. It's something I would have thought twice about 20 years ago.

In my experiences dating people of other races (which is such a non-issue to me that it sounds weird even saying) the only problems have been worrying about the response from parents or grandparents. That older generation, just came up in a different world. Even at the most progressive end of the spectrum, I don't expect anyone who lived in Jim Crow America to see things the same way as those of us who came after.

I also think that we should get rid of the terms bi-racial, mixed etc. And they shouldn't have to pick a side either. If any group deserves to just be called "people" its this one.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've seen that advert a few times and I can honestly say that I didn't pick up on the race of any of the actors. Instead, I saw it as one of those many ads these days that's based on someone being dumb and getting things confused. It's normally a man, but in this case it was a kid. The only thought I had was "there's no way that kid's so dumb to think that dumping out the cereal on to her dad would help his heart." Err... so that's a little insight into my psychology, my obsession with tropes and how I take things absolutely literally.
posted by ob at 8:24 AM on June 7, 2013


The other day I noticed that some public health ads in Toronto promoting getting the flu vaccine had quietly used an interracial couple with a biracial child. I thought, that's nice.

I've lived in the UK, and noticed that interracial couples were more common there - in the media as well as on the street - than in North America - and the UK has a smaller non-white population (proportionately) than Canada or the US. Maybe the good racial integration in the media (fiction and non-fiction) has helped make it much less of an issue - or maybe the media are just reflecting integration that already happened. Interesting question.
posted by jb at 8:32 AM on June 7, 2013


Aside from the test spots, is there any indication that anyone who comments on YouTube is over the age of 14?

Probably not, but it's still pretty sad that even 14 year olds would think such vile comments are acceptable in a public sphere, and it's REALLY sad that they're obviously getting those attitudes from adults somewhere, who might know better than to say such vile shit publicly, but obviously are saying it around 14 year olds.

Even if the medium this time is just "lol, who cares, youtube comments", wherever the message is coming from is still a problem.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually a little proud of my self that I saw this commercial, remember groaning at the saccharine sweetness of the dad/kid interaction, but it didn't even register in a memorable way that this family was multi racial. I had no idea that they even were until I read this FPP.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a male over 50 (in fact, over 60, get off my lawn right now), and I think this is a great ad.
posted by languagehat at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


General Mills can probably afford to wind up the over-50-white-male segment ...

Nope. The over-50 segment is actively courted by General Mills because the over-50 club is typically well-off and a big consumer of breakfast cereals. And don't forget the whole Fiber craze. Who likes fiber? The over-50 segment! Lots of money in predictable pooping.

(Inside the campus walls, General Mills is a very socially progressive company.)
posted by lstanley at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I'd wager money my former stepdad is one of those youtube commenters. We always used to say that the best thing that could ever happen to him would be for his daughter to bring home a black man, and his son...to bring home a black man. Sigh, bigots.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:35 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Some of these territories aren't very open about what skin colours they want on their TVs. I've been in meetings where a perfectly talented black actor has been on the table for a role, and the agency producer will say as upfront as you like 'Forget it, he'd never play in Turkey or France' or whatever. That kind of casual racism's commonplace."
posted by eykal at 8:38 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


That kind of thing (plus a lot of the sexism/gender essentialism commercials still play on) make me glad I'm a digital producer, even though I don't get to go on location, because location is "anywhere there's WIFI!" which usually just means the office.
posted by sweetkid at 8:41 AM on June 7, 2013


I should point out that friends don't let friends read youtube comments.
posted by cccorlew at 8:43 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


> The over-50 segment is actively courted by General Mills because the over-50 club is typically well-off and a big consumer of breakfast cereals.

I can believe this, because my parents eat a lot more breakfast cereal than I do... but that's partly why I specified white, male, and over 50 -- the sort of traditional-values old man who believes in segregation is, I would imagine, one who believes that shopping for food and preparing it is a woman's job.

Which is me doing stereotyping of my own, I guess.
posted by ardgedee at 8:43 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There were a lot of crazy comments on the youtube video from people self-identifying as older men, or having uploaded videos that identified them as such.

How many? What percentage of overall comments?
posted by rocket88 at 8:45 AM on June 7, 2013


The over-50 segment they are looking for is probably not necessarily "well off" though. Just sayin. It's probably over a range starting with middle income.
posted by sweetkid at 8:46 AM on June 7, 2013


That kind of casual racism's commonplace.

It may be racism. Or not.

Just this evening I saw some stupid ad for something (and I can't say what for) which featured an obviously American family (with black mother and child, I am not even sure if the mother was in it, and if she was I didn't take note) in an obviously American household (yep, you can tell) with an Australian overdub.

It isn't racism to say that kind of sloppy advertising won't play well. And yet, they still use ads like that. I assume for branding/cost reasons, but there was a time when there was a hilariously bad disconnect in local ads with obviously US actors (and at the time the casts appeared to be painfully multi-racial) and badly dubbed voice overs.

The reasons black actors may not 'play' in places like Turkey (and it is on my list to see) is that the "beautiful african-american" actors cast look nothing like anyone locally.
posted by Mezentian at 8:47 AM on June 7, 2013


Yes but the thing is that white people play well anywhere and that's a problem.
posted by sweetkid at 8:50 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


rocket88: "There were a lot of crazy comments on the youtube video from people self-identifying as older men, or having uploaded videos that identified them as such.

How many? What percentage of overall comments?
"

(1) they've been taken down (2) I am not your personal researcher (3) what would you do with the answer after you got it? Maybe just outline something for broad scenarios.
posted by boo_radley at 8:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Attitudes and stereotypes seem to be easier to change when evidence to the contrary is right in one's face. America is a place where one can find a place where attitudes and stereotypes are barely challenged at all. And being such a large place, it's easy to choose one's own reality.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:58 AM on June 7, 2013


Probably not, but it's still pretty sad that even 14 year olds would think such vile comments are acceptable in a public sphere

In the case of 14-year-olds, I think it's more that they know full well these kinds of comments aren't acceptable, and that's why they're making them. It's the internet, you know?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:59 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really want to go looking for it (I'm sure it's there to be found) but I am sort of idly wondering what form the negative comments on the YouTube video took. The USA Today story is pretty vague about it.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:59 AM on June 7, 2013


I had a friend in high school who thought interracial marriage was a bad idea because people would call the resultant children "milkshakes." The racism was sad, but the idea that people would pick such a bizarre and nonsensical slur was a little hilarious.
As a mixed-race person of color who legally changed my middle name to Cupcake, this is actually kind of awesome to me (minus the racism). Self identifying as a milkshake from now on.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:59 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I want to like this but I'm having a hard time believing that the advertising agency didn't put this ad out precisely because they thought that progressives would jump on how progressive it is. There are more progressive dollars than racist ones these days so it makes this advertisement just what it is; a play to the most money. If tomorrow we all went back to hating blacks and gays then white wasp families would feature predominately. Advertising follows it doesn't lead. So this commercial is a good indicator of social progress generally but not really of GM's views specifically; they just know which way the wind is blowing.

Also eating refined carbs first thing in the morning mashed together with a vitamin pill isn't exactly healthy. We're not horses.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 8:59 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to like this but I'm having a hard time believing that the advertising agency didn't put this ad out precisely because they thought that progressives would jump on how progressive it is.

No, they definitely did not do this.

Cheerios' agency of record is Saatchi and Saatchi btw.
posted by sweetkid at 9:02 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I just consider marketing and advertising people to be a bit more calculated than y'all, but I think it's just freaking adorable that anyone could think that the casting of possibly the first interracial family in a nationally televised commercial is just some lucky thing that happened.

I'm not saying it's that much less admirable. But this decision is absolutely the product of hours and hours of board meetings and focus groups, with extensive market research reports exploring in painstaking detail the question, "Is this the right time for us to cast an interracial family?"

They probably argued for hours over what color shirt the little tyke would be wearing. You think that what color the people are escaped scrutiny? Don't be naive.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


GM may have been a little surprised by the vehemence of the reaction from the knuckle-dragging faction, BUT they have no choice but to keep airing it now. It's excellent PR and would be a titanic shit-storm if they pulled it besides. This is not going to hurt sales one bit, might actually give 'em a boost. So hooray for a case where doing the right thing is also doing the right thing in a business sense.
posted by Mister_A at 9:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are several people in this thread who work in marketing and advertising just BTW.
posted by sweetkid at 9:07 AM on June 7, 2013


Science has proven that eating carbohydrates is correlated with racism. Gary Taubes wrote an editorial about it in the New York Times. Paleo man didn't eat cheerios and he didn't suffer from racism. You can't explain that. Enjoy your diabetes, racist grain-eaters.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want to like this but I'm having a hard time believing that the advertising agency didn't put this ad out precisely because they thought that progressives would jump on how progressive it is.

This didn't become a story until the racists made it into one.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I just consider marketing and advertising people to be a bit more calculated than y'all, but I think it's just freaking adorable that anyone could think that the casting of possibly the first interracial family in a nationally televised commercial is just some lucky thing that happened.

I was going to snark about this earlier but I just made myself sad.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:09 AM on June 7, 2013


sweetkid: "There are several people in this thread who work in marketing and advertising just BTW."

Then I better go ahead and skip the Bill Hicks quote. (I keed.)

Sincerely, though: I should probably clarify that I didn't mean to say "calculated" in terms of insincere. I'm not saying the advertising team that made this ad didn't do a nice thing for which they deserve credit. But my understanding is that advertising professionals are highly detail- and context-oriented people who do their very best to leave nothing to chance. I highly doubt they accidentally did something groundbreaking.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


As others have mention, regardless of the food content GM has a decent track record on social issues, and from what I remember, is considered a pretty good place to work. So I'm not surprised by this story.. except mildly at the racism.
posted by edgeways at 9:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


....men over 50 are just terrified at the idea of waking up covered in mounds of breakfast cereal.

Not this one. I like Cheerios, and if I woke up with a pile of them on my chest, it would save me a trip to the kitchen.

Also, I saw that commercial, and I didn't even notice the race of anybody in it. Of course, I live in the state whose governor is Deval Patrick. Did you know he's not actually Irish?

Yesterday, I watched the movie The Help. This post reminded me that 1963 was not in the distant past.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


men over 50 are just terrified at the idea of waking up covered in mounds of breakfast cereal.

EXT. SHOT of the LUXURIOUS MANSION of major movie producer JACK WOLTZ. It is morning. All is quiet.

CUT to INT.: WOLTZ'S BEDROOM. PAN along bed's length to WOLTZ himself, who is just waking up after a restful sleep. He stretches his arms, but stops midway. Something is WRONG. He feels around his legs. His EXPRESSION shifts to one of SPEECHLESS HORROR. He pushes the COVERS up, revealing his FAVORITE LUCKY CHARMS dumped ALL OVER THE SHEETS.

EXT. SHOT of the LUXURIOUS MANSION. WOLTZ screams in DESPAIR.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:18 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Listen, billyfleetwood, after years of "halfbreed", "mulatto" and not being able to identify with white or black, "mixed" and "biracial" are glorious, affirming, and I am quite happy with them thank you.
posted by windykites at 9:19 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't say people work in marketing and advertising who are posting in this thread because I don't want people to offend them, I'm saying you and other people are saying things that are sort of true when maybe you don't really know.

It's entirely possible to understand how advertising works and also think that they might have just cast this family because they liked them. Both things can be true. Seriously.
posted by sweetkid at 9:19 AM on June 7, 2013


The fact that there would be a racial backlash from the mouth breathers doesn't really take a brain science degree to cogitate. With how desperate ad people want to go "viral" these days it is definitely a valid hypothesis that putting an interracial family in their commercial was a cynical ploy to get us all to talk about how wonderfully progressive Cheerios is.

Which we're all doing.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2013


It's cynical to put an interracial family in a TV commercial? So we shouldn't?
posted by sweetkid at 9:22 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


General Mills can probably afford to wind up the over-50-white-male segment

Who said they were white? Not ad-age.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:23 AM on June 7, 2013


men over 50 are just terrified at the idea of waking up covered in mounds of breakfast cereal.

It's more likely that men over 50 are terrified at the idea of waking up to their children (of any stripe) still being under 10. Had the nanna-napping father in the ad been a much older man, then viral.
posted by de at 9:26 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I think's neat is that the mainstream response to this 'social media blow-back' is "lol ignorant racists." Granted, it's not a perfect response, but it beats "damn right; coloreds and whites shouldn't mix."

The tide keeps rolling in, folks, and it's a joy to watch.
posted by Mooski at 8:07 AM on June 7 [1 favorite +] [!]


Yup. I don't feel surprise that ignorant racists exist, I feel wonder and joy at the changes that have taken place in my lifetime. My dad, now deceased, used to enjoy telling an "amusing" story that involved him angling his car so he could spit into the open window of a mixed-race couple in another car. I'm as cynical as the next Mefite and have no doubt that GM's casting decision was purely profit driven but that fact in itself is immensely encouraging.
posted by HotToddy at 9:27 AM on June 7, 2013


With how desperate ad people want to go "viral" these days it is definitely a valid hypothesis that putting an interracial family in their commercial was a cynical ploy to get us all to talk about how wonderfully progressive Cheerios is.

It would be a valid hypothesis if that had happened regardless of the racist contingent, but unless you've got a bunch of stories where people are talking about how wonderfully progressive GM was before the racists jumped in, your hypothesis doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:32 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


...to get us all to talk about how wonderfully progressive Cheerios is.

I don't think the comment here is necessarily wrong, but it's not like GM is switching corporate identity in any way in actually doing this. So I'd be pretty hesitant to ascribe it completely to a cynical marketing ploy. Because, well the counter to that is, lets never have a bi-racial couple on advertising because it is just always cynicism and can not be done with pure intentions ever. Newsflash, there are no pure intentions in advertising, or most human activity, but movements towards reflecting society at large are a hell of a lot better then some Norman fucking Rockwell racial purity now and forever advertising landscape, and I tend to think given their history there might be at least some part of this down to someone saying oh for fuck sakes lets not be such bed wetters and actual make a mom and dad be different 'races', it'll be good for us and could create some buzz as well, plus it's 20fucking13 already.

In a way I'd wonder more, if the pitch being a subtle play towards AAs who are apparently at greater risk for heart disease.
posted by edgeways at 9:34 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombieflanders

You're precluding the idea that people often define their ideas in opposition to ideas they don't hold as a process of abhorrence. The stronger the reaction of the racists the likewise stronger reaction of the progressives in reaction. So in order to gather support from progressives it would be useful to goad the racists to acting hateful so progressives would rally in opposition.

This mechanism seems pretty straightforward to me. After all, showing a family where the woman works, for example, would not generate as much press because it isn't controversial these days even though it is an idea the left espouses.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2013


sweetkid: "It's entirely possible to understand how advertising works and also think that they might have just cast this family because they liked them. "

That's a nice thought. And I don't meant to discount the possibility that perhaps wonderfully progressive people just did the casting, then sorted out the ramifications later.

However...

Being that family in this as is actually a trio of unrelated actors chosen through three entirely separate casting calls, even a non-marketing/advertising person can see that's maybe not super likely.

Even if it is the case, even if they just sorted through three groups of people and were open-minded enough to sort three performers they liked into an interracial family, the idea that this might have gone through without discussion, that they might have done something virtually unprecedented without giving pause to consider how it would play out from a commercial angle... that would suppose that the people behind the ad were fearless idealists who didn't worry about market share. I'm thinking if they work for companies like General Mills, they probably give things like that serious reflection as a matter of basic professionalism.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2013


"There were a lot of crazy comments on the youtube video from people self-identifying as older men, or having uploaded videos that identified them as such.

How many? What percentage of overall comments?"

(1) they've been taken down (2) I am not your personal researcher (3) what would you do with the answer after you got it? Maybe just outline something for broad scenarios.


They've been taken down...how convenient. So you cited unverifiable "facts" to justify blaming all this on a specific demographic. Should we just trust that what you claim is correct?
posted by rocket88 at 9:39 AM on June 7, 2013


The point here may well be that with more and more of the audience turning from traditional tv and thus tv ads, the trick is to make your ad controversial or cool enough to make a spash on the internet to hit a broader audience.
I would have never seen this were it not for the fpp.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:42 AM on June 7, 2013


When Megyn Kelly on FOX News delivered that smackdown last week to Erick Erickson, she mentioned the "science" on the inferiority of interracial marriage, and the discarding of said science, as an example of how far society has come.

Well, that was nice to have for a few days, at least.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:45 AM on June 7, 2013


General Mills has come out and said directly that valuing diversity and inclusion is good for the economy, so I could be convinced that there is more targeting in this specific ad than there would be in a more "traditional family" ad.
posted by lstanley at 9:46 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


When we say this was calculated or planned in advance, we don't have to mean it's insincere or done strictly to drum up word-of-mouth or press.

But there's just no way that people who painstakingly craft carefully targeted messages for a living cast an interracial family without a second thought and then went, "Oh, gee, is that like, a big deal or something?" It's preposterous to even suggest.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:49 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


But they do it in the UK all the time. Casting directors try to make things inclusive and represent diversity, so there this that element of planning, but you see mixed-race couples and family scenes all the time here.
posted by mippy at 9:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anti-50 prejudice has deep historic roots. Consider Byron's Don Juan:
     Wedded she was some years, and to a man
       Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
     And yet, I think, instead of such a ONE
       'T were better to have TWO of five-and-twenty,
     Especially in countries near the sun:
       And now I think on 't, 'mi vien in mente,'
     Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
     Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.

...

     She thought of her own strength, and Juan's youth,
       And of the folly of all prudish fears,
     Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
       And then of Don Alfonso's fifty years:
     I wish these last had not occurr'd, in sooth,
       Because that number rarely much endears,
     And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
     Sounds ill in love, whate'er it may in money.

     When people say, 'I've told you fifty times,'
       They mean to scold, and very often do;
     When poets say, 'I've written fifty rhymes,'
       They make you dread that they 'll recite them too;
     In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
       At fifty love for love is rare, 't is true,
     But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
     A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.

posted by yoink at 10:02 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


elizardbits: It depends on how fired up the haters are, I think? GM also does Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Pillsbury, Green Giant, &c. It's not impossible that super outraged "concerned citizens" would call for a boycott of all brands under the GM name. I think it's unlikely, though.
No, there will definitely be a call for a boycott. It might start small, but FB reposts (mostly by liberals and anti-racist conservatives) will give it a thunderous stage presence. Gawker and Jezebel will repost it; HuffPo may even "break" the news. In response, sales of Cheerios will bump noticeably up for 2-3 months.
The Underpants Monster: Is "miscegenation" (a term I'd not heard until a while ago when it turned up being offensive) still that big a deal in the US?

Anti-miscegenation laws (although unenforceable in practice) were on the books in Mississippi until 2000.
For the record: they were unenforceable and violated federal law (which state law is forbidden to do in the Constitution), but they were still on record, and that fact points to the humongous, entrenched population of racists in that state.

As someone once famously said, "Change comes when the old guard dies off."
posted by IAmBroom at 10:02 AM on June 7, 2013


Two things:

1. A friend posted a link about this on Facebook and I was SURE it would be that State Farm commercial where the little baby gets pissed off because a mime is talking. When I clicked on the link I was like "WWWHHAAAAATTT there are TWO COMMERCIALS airing right now that feature an interracial family and one of them is an Asian man and a black woman???? SCORE" and then I googled the State Farm commercial and realized it wasn't a family, the Asian guy is an insurance salesman. Soul-crushing. :(

2. Totally agree that it was a very conscious decision to use an interracial family, but the decision I find really interesting is to introduce each family member in a different shot instead of having them all walking down the street together or something. A few weeks ago I was in Golden Gate Park with some friends, and an obviously older (like grandparent-age) black couple walked by with twin blonde, blue-eyed babies in strollers. One of the guys I was with went "Okay, did ANYONE just see that?" after they had passed and I was like "WTF YOU LIVE IN SAN FRANFUCKINGCISCO IN 2013 AND YOU ARE TALKING TO A MIXED-RACE PERSON RIGHT NOW HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BE CONFUSED BY THIS." I mean, you may laugh, but there are still people who genuinely do not understand what is happening when they see an interracial family without all members present (hence the "nanny" comments) and I really like that this commercial fucks with their minds a little bit.
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, so I remembered which advert it was I was thinking about - a Boots one from last Christmas which has a mixed family - and one of the links with it in was titled 'GENOCIDAL PROPAGANDA', so make of that what you will.

I don't remember anybody having a single complaint about the racial element of that ad, but apparently it is GENOCIDAL PROPAGANDA. Same goes for this Sainsburys ad with a mixed family. Crazies gonna craze.
posted by mippy at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as a non-conscious decision in marketing and advertising. Everything is carefully premeditated, and they are well aware that audiences respond powerfully to markers of identity.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:11 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Been through too many PPM's (commercial preproduction meetings, where casting is one of the most fundamental, discussed-at-length issues) than I can remember and: DirtyOldTown et. al. have it.
posted by progosk at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Longtime Listener: What, exactly, does it mean for a TV commercial to "test positively"? Does it mean "I enjoyed the commercial" or "the commercial makes it more likely that I will buy the product" or something else? Because while I am generally well disposed to kids, and I like Cheerios, I don't care for cloying commercials. If they change my buying habits at all, they tend to make me irritated at the product.
It's charming that you genuinely believe that: that you, unlike every other human ever tested, is completely immune to the nuanced psychological forces of advertising.

Now tell us how going without sleep doesn't affect your decision-making process...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I clicked on the link I was like "WWWHHAAAAATTT there are TWO COMMERCIALS airing right now that feature an interracial family and one of them is an Asian man and a black woman???? SCORE" and then I googled the State Farm commercial and realized it wasn't a family

That just cracked me up, seriously thanks. (The fact that it upset you is NOT funny, which is why I cut it off there, if that's OK.) This thread is making me all sweaty mostly because I want to keep arguing my points with sweetkid even though I know that would be counterproductive.


But there's just no way that people who painstakingly craft carefully targeted messages for a living cast an interracial family without a second thought and then went, "Oh, gee, is that like, a big deal or something?" It's preposterous to even suggest.

QFMFT.
posted by polly_dactyl at 10:17 AM on June 7, 2013


It's hilarious to me that some people here think it's cynical of a company to use advertising to draw attention to its products. Where you been, and do they not have TV there?
posted by rtha at 10:20 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


... "black men are shiftless no-hopers, so if you want a stable partner get a white guy" topos.
posted by yoink


Favourited just for using the word "topos" instead of "trope" here.
posted by RobotHero at 10:21 AM on June 7, 2013


but the decision I find really interesting is to introduce each family member in a different shot instead of having them all walking down the street together or something.

Also, great observation -- it adds to the sort of 'emotional punch' I think (racist) people are feeling - like, it takes a second to register that the dad is black and then to think back to the last scene and remember that the mom was white. It might be working both ways though, because others are saying they didn't really notice the races and I think that's partially because they weren't all together in one shot. Hmm.
posted by polly_dactyl at 10:22 AM on June 7, 2013


Man, I work at a super-progressive non-profit, and just the other day one of my coworkers was complaining about this ad and the idea of "mixed race" people, and having mixed race babies. The dude is mixed, and feels that it's just irresponsible to put that weight on kids. And I'm like, "But you turned out fine, right?" and he got all grumpy about "I just don't think it's right, that's all!"

He's the same dude who went off on how people in America should all speak English because it's the official language. Except, it's not, and he's bilingual and talks to people in Spanish all the time.

He gives me the major o_0 nonplus.
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


it takes a second to register that the dad is black and then to think back to the last scene and remember that the mom was white

I think it's more that (to racists and/or clueless people, anyway) the kid reads black, so in the first scene where she's with the mom they're all WHARRGARBL RHUBARBRHUBARBRHUBARB I DO NOT UNDERSTAND and then when dad comes in they're like, oh wow, that was really ignorant of me! It makes it more noticeable, if anything. I like it.

(Apparently I cannot talk about these things without caps)
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because while I am generally well disposed to kids, and I like Cheerios, I don't care for cloying commercials. If they change my buying habits at all, they tend to make me irritated at the product.

It's charming that you genuinely believe that: that you, unlike every other human ever tested, is completely immune to the nuanced psychological forces of advertising.


You don't think that people can make conscious choices about products based on their advertisements? Longtime Listener isn't claiming immunity, he's saying that he feels a certain way about things. If advertising affected "every... human" universally and precisely, there would only be one company selling anything. There are certainly psychological forces that advertising exploits, but they're not absolute and inviolable.
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]



A small derail, but it gets me thinking. So we're all mixing and merging with each other, how long will it be before we're all such a mix of different races and backgrounds that we all settle into a single race? I mean at some point, being homogenous is going to really stand out, right?

Here's an article that meanders along my same train of thought.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:29 AM on June 7, 2013



Did nobody read the second half of that sentence? Or did you just stop at the part that let you blame this on men over 50?

I initially thought that they were saying that babies didn't ads with mixed raced parents which left me a bit confused.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 10:31 AM on June 7, 2013


I think it's more that (to racists and/or clueless people, anyway) the kid reads black, so in the first scene where she's with the mom they're all WHARRGARBL RHUBARBRHUBARBRHUBARB I DO NOT UNDERSTAND

Stating it this way sort of just blew my mind. I can't even really elaborate except to say that damn, good on GM for making this AND making it national.
posted by polly_dactyl at 10:37 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"It's charming that you genuinely believe that: that you, unlike every other human ever tested, is completely immune to the nuanced psychological forces of advertising. Now tell us how going without sleep doesn't affect your decision-making process...

Huh? I specifically said that it does affect my decision-making. Certain types of commercials generate negative associations with the product. Other types generate positive associations, though I didn't get into that because my point was about the commercial NOT testing positively with a certain demographic.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:46 AM on June 7, 2013


I think they ran the numbers, took at look at the massive piles of demographic data they had available, and realized that they had much more to gain by pitching an ad that represents a growing population of millions of people, who are friends and family members of millions more.

I feel the same way about a certain family member's reaction to optional Spanish-language menus on telephone systems. It's not there to piss you off. It's there because an accountant realized that the costs of building that menu branch were less than the costs of miscommunication or transferring them to a Spanish-speaking agent.

A small derail, but it gets me thinking. So we're all mixing and merging with each other, how long will it be before we're all such a mix of different races and backgrounds that we all settle into a single race? I mean at some point, being homogenous is going to really stand out, right?

There's a fair bit of science fiction that goes there. I'll put a light plug for Slonczewski's Highest Frontier in which the Kennedy heir apparent is half-Cuban, at least in part because Florida and Cuba both swing states in her future. More interesting to me lately was Karen Lord's Best of All Possible Worlds which uses the Caribbean as a model for discussing ethnicity and culture, as opposed to the more common metaphors of Space Western, Space New York, and Space Vietnam.

But yes, the writing on the wall is that non-Hispanic Whites like me are already a demographic minority in some regions, will become a demographic minority in several states in my lifetime, and quite likely will become a demographic minority in the U.S. as a whole.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:54 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


non-Hispanic Whites

Which I've always thought of as an interesting term, because "Hispanic" is, itself, sort of meaningless. Like "Jewish" as a "race," it's based on culture (and language) more than anything else.

For S&G, I had my genome sequenced by 23andMe a couple months back and ... it's been interesting. There are so many Puerto Ricans on 23andMe that I've got an enormous roster of not-so-distant relations whose probable "admixtures" I can examine.

And it looks like "Hispanic"--even 100%--can mean 90+% European, or it can mean 50% African, or it can mean 30% American Indian, and anything in-between. And even the "European" in a lot of Latin Americans is highly mixed--it could be Iberian, sure, but how many Dutch, Irish, French lived in the Caribbean? Turns out, lots.

The idea that "Hispanic" is any kind of singular "race"--even in places like Mexico, where the population probably runs a whole lot more toward mestizo, on the whole--is pretty silly.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:13 AM on June 7, 2013


The family in this commercial looks a lot like my little family -- except rather than waking up to Cheerios on my chest, I'm far more likely to wake up from being smacked by a plastic sword, or hit by a marshmallow fired from a marshmallow gun, or by having a dog chewing on my dreads.

But this commercial delights me even if, as others have noted, General Mills likely simply ran the numbers and saw that it was a safe play to make and air it.

And the commercial also reminds me that one of the most pernicious forms of racism in a capitalist country is when the corporations don't even consider you worth wringing money from: see, for example, the absence of people of color in commercials for certain products, the curiously low number of memorable black female characters in speculative fiction, certain businesses not setting up in or near certain ethnic communities even though there's a market for them, etc.

So, yeah, on the one hand I know it's all about the ducats for GM, but on the other hand, respect.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


2. Totally agree that it was a very conscious decision to use an interracial family, but the decision I find really interesting is to introduce each family member in a different shot instead of having them all walking down the street together or something.

The first time I saw the ad, it was posted on facebook with the only reasoning being "awesome!" I watched the video trying to figure out what the "awesome" was. Clearly, this person did not just say awesome about a cheerios commercial because it's heart healthy. It wasn't until I went back a second time that I noticed the family makeup. I'd like to think it's because I'm oh so accepting and open-minded about things. Truth is, I'm just not. Well, I am those things, but not so much that I don't notice when things are not as they usually are (or not as they are usually presented). So my reaction to the ad was more along the lines of "ooo they tricked me!"

Fascinating little bit of psychology in that presentation. I'm sure it was designed to a) show the interracial family (and get the earned press from that) while b) mitigating any damage to the casually viewing audience who wouldn't put all the pieces together (and follow the outrage online). And maybe a touch of c) subconsciously planting the idea that "hey, this is a fun & adorable family... even though it might not be exactly what you think of when you think "family" but maybe it's about time you started."
posted by imbri at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2013


For some strange reason, the "men over 50 demographic didn't like the ad" thing made me think of the Brginning of the "Filthy Pictures pt1" episode of WKRP, when they are all in Carlson's office. I believe that episode aired in 1979.
posted by marienbad at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2013


as others have noted, General Mills likely simply ran the numbers and saw that it was a safe play to make and air it.

Food companies all have Consumer Insight divisions staffed by statisticians with PhD's. Consumer Insights gather and run numbers and their recommendations drive Marketing and Research & Development.

Remember as well, Cheerios is the main brand of a $16 billion dollar, multinational, 35,000 employee food juggernaut. The best people, with the biggest budgets, work on the Cheerios consumer insight and marketing teams internally, and the advertising companies doing the ads leave nothing to chance - not on a Cheerios commercial.
posted by lstanley at 11:28 AM on June 7, 2013


yoink: "Really? That surprises me on the face of it. There has been far more racist fearmongering about the evil black man preying on the poor defenceless white woman than about black women stealing the hearts of white men."

Yeah, I was going to say exactly this. In fact, I came to this thread to say I was pleasantly surprised that the depiction was of a black man and a white woman.
posted by brundlefly at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Which I've always thought of as an interesting term, because "Hispanic" is, itself, sort of meaningless. Like "Jewish" as a "race," it's based on culture (and language) more than anything else.

Well race is primarily a political and cultural construct in the United States. That we treat fair skin as the default and put all people of African ancestry (even one grandparent!) into one group on the basis of skin and hair color is biologically absurd.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:25 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well race is primarily a political and cultural construct in the United States. That we treat fair skin as the default and put all people of African ancestry (even one grandparent!) into one group on the basis of skin and hair color is biologically absurd.

Skin color is a (relatively) easy way to indicate certain genetic traits that also tend to cluster with other genetic traits (e.g., sickle-cell disease). That's not to say that Americans (well, humans generally) have built up way more baggage around race than it deserves, but it's not entirely without basis that we classify some people one way and other people another.
posted by Etrigan at 12:34 PM on June 7, 2013


Well race is primarily a political and cultural construct in the United States. That we treat fair skin as the default and put all people of African ancestry (even one grandparent!) into one group on the basis of skin and hair color is biologically absurd.

Skin color is a (relatively) easy way to indicate certain genetic traits that also tend to cluster with other genetic traits (e.g., sickle-cell disease). That's not to say that Americans (well, humans generally) have built up way more baggage around race than it deserves, but it's not entirely without basis that we classify some people one way and other people another.


Isn't race mainly a convenient method of in-group and out-group sorting?
posted by ogooglebar at 12:54 PM on June 7, 2013


Isn't race mainly a convenient method of in-group and out-group sorting?

Mainly, yes. But not to the point that it can be called "biologically absurd."
posted by Etrigan at 12:57 PM on June 7, 2013


I think the Coen brothers deserve some credit for making the word "miscegenated" as hilarious as they did in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. I can no longer hear it without laughing, which can only be to the good.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:57 PM on June 7, 2013


(I do think that when confronted with casual racism in conversation, mockery is much more effective than outrage.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:59 PM on June 7, 2013


But not to the point that it can be called "biologically absurd."

Have you seen the American Anthropological Association Statement on "Race"? I may be missing their point, but they seem to say that "race" as a biological concept is completely useless.
posted by ogooglebar at 1:09 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the context of anthropology, I agree; but medicine has shown that there are a lot of conditions that tend to cluster along lines that we associate with race and ethnicity. Again, I'm not saying it's not largely a pointless construct of society, but it's difficult to deny that there are diseases and conditions and suchlike that appear more frequently in certain genetic populations, and these genetic populations often match what we call "race."

We shouldn't hold race up as deterministic, but we can't dismiss it entirely either.
posted by Etrigan at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2013


FYI, General Mills is a Minnesota company and you may remember that Minnesota was one of the states that had an anti-gay amendment on the ballot last November. GM also made news then (and drew anti-gay protesters to their corporate headquarters) for its staunch support of gay marriage, saying:

"...the marriage amendment is a question of business, not politics. 'We see it as a business issue that's not good for our state, our employees and our company. We did not do it as a public relations move.'

The company, which made its position public in June, has said that "diversity and inclusion" are in the best interests of its employees and the Minnesota economy, and that the amendment champions neither."

posted by triggerfinger at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It should be mentioned that in a case of art imitating life Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis, was married to Sy Kravitz and is Lenny Kravitz's mom.

It also should be mentioned that Al Roker is Roxie Roker's cousin.

I really don't have anything (else) to contribute only to say, as many others have, that I will buy GM products even though I don't use any of them. Give 'em to neighbors or something.
posted by xetere at 2:52 PM on June 7, 2013


A white woman and a black man is acceptable in TV-land. There's still an enormous amount of reluctance to show a black woman with a white man.

This seems to be backed up by the 2010 census. Number of married interracial couples:

1) White man / Asian woman - 529K
2) Black man / White woman - 390K
3) Asian man / White woman - 219K
4) White man / Black woman - 168K
5) Black man / Asian woman - 39K
6) Asian man / Black woman - 9K

The census though, does not report on Hispanics, so that is one big gap. Pew's 2008 report indicates that Hispanic's do intermarry a lot, mostly with Whites.
posted by FJT at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Skin color is a (relatively) easy way to indicate certain genetic traits that also tend to cluster with other genetic traits (e.g., sickle-cell disease). That's not to say that Americans (well, humans generally) have built up way more baggage around race than it deserves, but it's not entirely without basis that we classify some people one way and other people another.

Well, let's define some terms here. When I talk about a biological definition of race, what I mean is that race should map well to statistical analysis of human genetics. Phenotypes can lie about ancestry because multiple genotypes can produce similar phenotypes. The genes probably don't lie.

So, sickle cell and African ancestry is something of a spurious correlation. Sickle cell evolved independently four different times in Africa and once in India. So you can't use the presentation of sickle cell to infer common genetic lineage because you're talking about four different mutations.

The same is true of skin color. Dark skin color is shared by all of the genetic groups currently in Africa, and a fair number of descendants of L3 who are believed to have founded most human populations outside of Africa. Depending on how you run the statistics, you have as many as six lineages within Africa, one of which is inclusive of all the human populations outside of Africa as well.

The bottom line is that Africa is an amazing and diverse place, both genetically and culturally. That we flatten all of that diversity into a single demographic category is entirely a product of historical and contemporary racism.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Man, I work at a super-progressive non-profit, and just the other day one of my coworkers was complaining about this ad and the idea of "mixed race" people, and having mixed race babies. The dude is mixed, and feels that it's just irresponsible to put that weight on kids. And I'm like, "But you turned out fine, right?" and he got all grumpy about "I just don't think it's right, that's all!"

He's the same dude who went off on how people in America should all speak English because it's the official language. Except, it's not, and he's bilingual and talks to people in Spanish all the time.


That's kinda like Michelle Malkin's "children of immigrants shouldn't automatically be citizens" rant. I got mine, screw the rest of ya'll.

The census though, does not report on Hispanics, so that is one big gap. Pew's 2008 report indicates that Hispanic's do intermarry a lot, mostly with Whites.

To combine this and the above statement, "Hispanic" is almost as non-specific as "African" or "Asian."
posted by gjc at 4:45 PM on June 7, 2013


"It seems to me that if we are to have a society of people living 100+ years, in which they are only capable of learning in the first 20 or 30

I know people who are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s(!) who are actually capable of learning new things."

Yes, but are they capable of having nostalgia for what they learn after age 30? SLYT
posted by RuvaBlue at 4:48 PM on June 7, 2013


When I talk about a biological definition of race, what I mean is that race should map well to statistical analysis of human genetics.

There's a difference between "race doesn't map well to statistical analysis" and "biologically absurd." There are medical conditions that are more common within what we think of as racial categories, regardless of when the mutations happened. As I've carefully pointed out three times now, that means that these theories of "race" that we have can be useful. I'm not saying "Africa is not diverse"; I'm simply saying that off-handedly dismissing race as "absurd" is essentially dismissing genetics as well.
posted by Etrigan at 5:05 PM on June 7, 2013


Sloozy! Obamamama!
posted by XMLicious at 6:14 PM on June 7, 2013


The census though, does not report on Hispanics, so that is one big gap. Pew's 2008 report indicates that Hispanic's do intermarry a lot, mostly with Whites.

To combine this and the above statement, "Hispanic" is almost as non-specific as "African" or "Asian."


Absolutely true. Hispanic can mean a lot of things.

Both my wife and I are products of that type of intermarriage. My mother came to the US from Nicaragua (from an affluent family) on a student visa and became a citizen. My dad is a white farm boy from rural Kansas. Growing up, I thought it was really cool that my mother was from another country, so one day I shared that information to some 5th grade classmates. One of them decided to be an asshole about it and asked me "if my mom was a n****r from N****ragua." Thus began the first fight I ever got into. I have yet to hear a more absurd comment in my life.

My wife's father's family has been in Texas since it was New Spain. To call him Mexican isn't really accurate. For generations, his family were migrant farm/ranch hands, until his father was able to settle in one place and put all of his kids through high school. My wife, her siblings, and her cousins of that generation, were the first generation go to and graduate from college. Serious "American dream" stuff.

So, both my wife and I are half-white/half-Hispanic. Neither of us speak Spanish fluently. We both have Spanish names, but present as white. Our [future] children will also, technically, be half-white/half-Hispanic and will probably present as more white than we are.

Assimilation... it's a thing.
posted by Groundhog Week at 6:29 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Etrigan: There's a difference between "race doesn't map well to statistical analysis" and "biologically absurd."

I don't see a difference. You can't have both human evolutionary biology (which describes the distribution of sickle cell) and the biological definition of race as people sharing a common genealogical line.

There are medical conditions that are more common within what we think of as racial categories, regardless of when the mutations happened.

Yeah. But in terms of evolutionary biology (the only theory that matters here, because we're talking about the distribution of genes across populations) sickle cell is a polyphyletic trait and therefore incompatible with the biological definition of race as people sharing a common genealogical line. It's like saying that birds and humans are the same clade because we both coincidentally happen to be warm-blooded.

As I've carefully pointed out three times now, that means that these theories of "race" that we have can be useful.

Well, so was geocentrism once upon a time. Do we have stronger theories that better assess individual risk of genetic disorders? Yes we do. To the extent that we must generalize across African Diaspora populations it's because they are the survivors of an oppressive political system that abducted people from across West Africa. That doesn't mean that we should consider immigrants from South Africa and Ethiopia--who are often seen as "black" by our political system--to have the same risk for sickle-cell.

I'm not saying "Africa is not diverse"; I'm simply saying that off-handedly dismissing race as "absurd" is essentially dismissing genetics as well.

I wasn't remotely off-hand about it. I specified the definition of race I consider to be falsified (common genetic line), pointed to the evidence as to why that's falsified (mDNA lineages), and explained why the convergent natural selection of sickle cell also falsifies that definition. Your response has been to off-handedly dismiss genetics as irrelevant.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:55 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, if you're going to talk about race as an epidemiological group (I don't object), that includes analysis of political, geographical, and economic factors, so it's not a purely genetic theory of race either.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:12 PM on June 7, 2013


Your response has been to off-handedly dismiss genetics as irrelevant.

Which response was that? The one where I said "Skin color is a (relatively) easy way to indicate certain genetic traits that also tend to cluster with other genetic traits..." or the one where I said "it's difficult to deny that there are diseases and conditions and suchlike that appear more frequently in certain genetic populations, and these genetic populations often match what we call 'race.'"?

Also, if you're going to talk about race as an epidemiological group (I don't object), that includes analysis of political, geographical, and economic factors, so it's not a purely genetic theory of race either.

Well, yes. Hence my saying things like, "I'm not saying it's not largely a pointless construct of society" or "We shouldn't hold race up as deterministic" and my carefully couching all of my discussions of genetics with things like "more frequently" and "tend."

For... jeez, I'm losing count here... let's just call it the multiple-th time, I'm not saying that race is this easy-to-categorize thing where black people are like this and white people are like that and obviously, that means that they're fundamentally different. I am agreeing with you that it's "primarily a political and cultural construct" but taking issue with the lengths to which you took the idea when you called the concept "biologically absurd."
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 PM on June 7, 2013


I'm biracial and that Cheerios ad is a big fucking deal. (SLJZBL)

FINALLY! I've been wishing for ages that people would flag Gawker links like they do Youtube ones, but only because I fucking loathe that company. Their stories are usually decent enough, but their fucking business practices are atrocious. I gave your comment a like because I hate the link you posted.

I'm confused too. :|
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:49 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


FJT: "This seems to be backed up by the 2010 census. Number of married interracial couples:

1) White man / Asian woman - 529K
2) Black man / White woman - 390K
3) Asian man / White woman - 219K
4) White man / Black woman - 168K
5) Black man / Asian woman - 39K
6) Asian man / Black woman - 9K
"

This sort of analysis always cracks me up. By which I mean the assumed "purity" of all those couple members. I wonder how the census is going to count the marriage between the daughter of a Asian Man and Black Woman and the the daughter of a White man and Asian Woman.
posted by Mitheral at 9:59 PM on June 7, 2013


Also all Asians aren't the same. I'm Indian American and if I married and had kids w a Chinese American plenty of people would consider that interracial.

Also as far as I know I'm more European than any other type of Asian besides Indian which is another reason "race" designations are befuddling.
posted by sweetkid at 10:05 PM on June 7, 2013


I wonder how the census is going to count the marriage between the daughter of a Asian Man and Black Woman and the the daughter of a White man and Asian Woman.

The Census is self reported and does have mixed race and multiple race options available, IIRC. I think allowing people to call themselves whatever they want is probably the most fair and correct approach.

Also all Asians aren't the same. I'm Indian American and if I married and had kids w a Chinese American plenty of people would consider that interracial.

I think in the Census Wikipedia article I linked to, they also mention some specific statistics in regards to Indian interracial marriage rates compared to Asians in general.

Also as far as I know I'm more European than any other type of Asian besides Indian which is another reason "race" designations are befuddling.

Well, it's befuddling because the way the government looks at race is different than what is usually understood. Once again to go to Wikipedia, the government views race as a social-political construct as opposed to a scientific or anthropological one. Part of the reason it does this is because the census is tied to how federal programs and public health related programs function.

And, finally, if you're separating Asians by genetic variation, you can get pretty specific, because you're dealing with 2.5 billion people. Within India and China itself are multiple ethnicities.
posted by FJT at 3:48 AM on June 8, 2013


Ertigan: Which response was that?

The one where you said, "... regardless of when the mutations happened." If you're going to drop the word "genetics" into every other sentence, you can't handwave the theories and methods that have been foundational to genetics since the 1980s.

So you're championing an entirely different definition from the one I called absurd? How is that relevant?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2013


"Dark skin color is shared by all of the genetic groups currently in Africa"

Berbers.
posted by glasseyes at 3:49 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


FJT: "The Census is self reported and does have mixed race and multiple race options available, IIRC"

Of course, I was just wondering where that marriage fits in the chart. Or say a marriage between a man with grandparents who were black and white, black and asian and a woman whose grandparents were white and black, white and asian. I mean do they put a stroke in the black man marries white woman column? One stroke in each column?

I find this kind of iterative progression classification during a time of turbulence and change fascinating. In a similar vein what do two people with hyphenated last names do when they marry? Do their kids end up being named Billy Mohammed Jesus Phuong-Washington-O'Hara-Hernadez? What happens when Mr Jonson-Smith Marries Ms Anderson-Johnson? Think of the poor children when Ms Phoung-Washington-O'Hara-Hernadez starts dating Ms Anderson-Johnson-Jonson-Smith.
posted by Mitheral at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2013


It is tribal thinking.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on June 9, 2013


Cheerios Parody "Just Checking" Response to Haters
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2013


I'm actually really upset that it took me until juuuuuuust before the cut to call the punchline.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:45 PM on June 13, 2013


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