For a long time it gave me nightmares...
...Having to witness an injustice like that.
It was a constant reminder of how unfair this world can be.
I can still hear them taunting him... "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids." How come they just couldn't give him some cereal?
For all the struggles over making sure normal television shows have "positive influences
", commercials seem exempt from this
Nowhere is this more obvious than in children's breakfast cereal commercials. Children are rewarded for being brats, for discrimination, for theft, and a number of other deadly sins
. Often times they even torture cartoon characters who only want a bowl of cereal, why? For their own amusement.
It's only a matter of time before they get rewarded for being cereal killers
The main message seems to be that, as long as it helps you acquire their cereal, the ends justify the means. Interestingly, the fact that it's the adults
who buy the kids the cereal is completely lost. This may be because they're expected to not be watching
The Aesop gets even more Family Unfriendly in that the cereals are usually portrayed as so addictive to the mascots and/or kids as to earn them a top spot on the Controlled Substance list. Hard drugs:
part of photographed next to this balanced breakfast!
Although the description above mentions cereal as an example, this trope actually applies to all commercials where this kind of behavior occurs.
For cases where the cereal itself
should be suspect to close parental scrutiny (but somehow isn't), see Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs
The opposite of this trope (sort of) is Delicious Fruit Pies
- "Apple Jacks" and "Cinnamon Toast Crunch" repeatedly has children mocking adults such as scientists, parents, life guards, etc. for being clueless and not understanding what the appeal of their cereals are. There was one Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercial where the adult guessed why kids loved it on the first guess, but the kids promptly ignored him. The moral seems to be: kids, your parents are stupid.
- Particularly egregious are the Apple Jacks commercials, in which various adults are confused by the fact that Apple Jacks "doesn't taste like apples." Except that it DOES taste like apples, as well it should considering it has little pieces of dried apple STUCK RIGHT TO THE CEREAL. It's right there in the ingredients list, for crying out loud. Neither the "stupid" adults nor the "smart" kids ever call this out. The moral here is apparently: kids, the world just plain does not make sense. Everyone around you— your peers, your parents, the marketing professionals who get paid good money to market cereal to you— is either stupid or crazy. Good luck navigating the rest of your life as the Only Sane Man in a Crapsack World of idiots.
- Commercials for CTC seem to promote cannibalism, as the cereal pieces are constantly trying to eat each other. This, along with the Krave cereal commercial, should really reconsider their message.
- Perhaps the most egregious example of this is "Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats" during the 90's. The commercials would cut between adults praising their children for eating a whole-grain cereal, and those children mocking them for not realizing it's really the frosting which turns them on. Nevermind that they're called "Frosted Mini Wheats" for a reason. So the moral is... adults are too stupid to realize that a cereal called "Frosted Mini Wheats" has frosting in it. Sometimes, these commercials would show the kids pointlessly doing pretty cruel and outlandish things, such as hosing the very adults who are praising their eating habits.
- The kids in "Trix" ads take delight in making certain the Trix Rabbit never gets any of the cereal. If he ever gets a box, even if he bought it with his own money, they take it away from him, telling him "silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!". In one early, early, EARLY commercial, he actually got away with the pilfered cereal by hiding it — "And sometimes for tricky rabbits!". There have been events where people could vote whether he could have some. He's always won, but often, he still only gets to enjoys a couple of spoonfuls before the kids take it away again - either that or he eats it all in one go, only to find the kids won't let him get any more. In some ads, he doesn't even try to steal it or do anything wrong, but the kid's actively go out of their way to remind him he's not allowed to have any.
- A brilliant Bait and Switch commercial had a disguised Trix Rabbit buy a box of the cereal from a convenience store, and then go into his kitchen late at night, removing the disguise, and pointing out that all the kids are asleep and he can finally get a bowl of delicious Trix! Cue him pouring the milk, which has only a single drop. Rabbit does a subdued wild take, complete with whimper, then a black screen: Got Milk?
- The rabbit's constant failures have made fans depict him as becoming violent, sadistic, and lethal, after being denied the cereal for so long. One video, "Silly Kids, Trix Are For Rabbits" depicts the rabbit being denied the Trix one last time, and sadistically kills both kids, ending with an inversion of the old tagline, and a maniacal laugh.
- The kids in "Lucky Charms" are constantly robbing a leprechaun blind of his possessions. He seems to be enjoying this. It helps that Lucky has magic powers to fly away or rescue his cereal if he doesn't want it taken, though he'll often bungle these spells resulting in the kids getting his cereal anyway. He's sometimes shown making new Lucky Charms marshmallows for the kids' enjoyment.
- Sonny the Coocoo Bird shows an almost drug-like addiction and reaction to his cereal, and encourages others to explode in sugar-propelled hyperactivity. Early Cocoa Puffs commercials even had children pushing the cereal on him like little dope men. In the earliest adverts, it's his own grandfather pushing the stuff on him.
- Nowadays he's seriously trying to kick the habit. But unfortunately Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere, and are ridiculously persistent. Seriously, who writes an opera about a friggin' cereal?
- It's gotten to the point where he's trying to get the cereal legally distanced from him, only to find out that the entire court he's appealing to is also addicted to the stuff. It's so sad to see how much the world has conspired against him.
- Barney and Fred of The Flintstones fame hawk their various "Pebbles" brand cereals. Typically Barney steals Fred's cereal through deceptive means, and Fred chases Barney and screams threats. Barney, apparently, is meant to be the one you root for. Barney gets his annual bowl of the stuff at Christmas when Fred is scolded by Santa.
- This seems mostly done justifiably, since their relationship in the actual show is Barney as the good-natured goof, and Fred is the oblivious hothead.
- Disturbingly, Fred seems to be the only one in the Flintstones universe with Pebbles cereal — and Pebbles is also the name of his daughter. Is Barney's crime really cereal theft, or kidnapping?
- Some of the commercials even inverted thing scenario and showed a huge double standard. In them, Fred would be the one trying to use deceptive means to steal his cereal back from Barney and Barney would always see through him and completely humiliate him instead.
- Fred is tasked for not sharing, yet somehow, Barney's attempts at larceny, including deception and making accomplices of their pets and children, are let go without a peep. I'm old enough to remember when these commercials started; Barney *may* have once asked for the cereal; he quickly became a klepto, addicted to the thrill. (IIRC, the first Pebbles' commercial had them all on a houseboat, saying how great the cereal was)
- Later on they noticed the campaign was wearing thin and have dropped the theft; now Fred cheerfully shares his cereal and describes the proper consumption technique, while Barney experiments and discovers that not eating the stuff in exactly the right way results in wild and unpredictable transformations.
- As The Nostalgia Critic noted in a video featuring retro commercials, Barney's schemes often cost way more money and planning then it would take to just go buy a box of cereal. The one in the video involved him throwing a live rock and roll concert. The Critic even role-played as Fred lecturing Barney about his constant attempts, and mentions Betty has turned to stripping because of this.
- While originally, the Cookie Crook and Chip were punished for their attempted thefts of "Cookie Crisp" by the Cookie Cop, Officer Crumb, Chip has been replaced by a wolf, and the commercials are more or less the same shtick as the Trix. Some countries use a panther instead.
- Earlier commercials featuring the Crook and the Cop played this trope straight by having the Crook actually outwit the Cop. Later on, they made the Cop catch the Crook frequently because they feared the previous ads were sending their wrong message to children. Though the Cop would be nice and give the two some cereal in the Christmas commercials. Unlike the Pebbles commercials, the Cop does this on his own initiative.
- And even earlier commercials had the Crook trying to steal the cereal from a wizard (who was apparently the source of chocolate chip cookie cereal, according to the ads).
- Cap'n Crunch had a habit of crashing his ship through the walls of children's homes to deliver cereal to them, usually when the stupid/evil adults are forcing them to do something they don't want to do, like school.
- The Kool Aid man seems to take a very similar approach when crashing through walls as the Cap'n. Although, it's more like The Juggernaut. (A similarity between the two not lost on the Interwebz).
- During the 60s Looney Tunes ran a stint with Kool Aid, usually involving Bugs Bunny trying to nab Elmer Fudd's Cool Aid in his usual trickster methods. As per usual in their shtick, Bugs usually succeeded, though Elmer got at least one Team Rocket Wins victory where he got to keep it to himself (with the jug even mimicking Bugs' peck on the lips).
- The Madness is spreading to adults. Cheet-oh's "Orange Revolution" commercials have a mystical sorta Asian Chester Cheetah corrupting adults into doing things to people who annoy them, like empty a Cheet-ohs bag into a rude woman's load of whites at the laundromat, or stuff Cheet-ohs up the nose of someone snoring.
- Sugar Bear was always stealing Sugar Crisp from the factory, and the security guard trying to stop him was portrayed as evil.
- American Sugar Bear is much more sinister. He often flat out steals cereal from an old lady with magic powers, going as far as to go back in time to make sure she doesn't get any cereal. And this is just in the early 90s. In the 80s, Sugar Bear outright committed assault and battery and manslaughter to get his Golden Crisp. He was basically Popeye with cereal instead of spinach.
- Speaking of Popeye, for a short while in the late 80s he did commercials for Quaker Oatmeal. The commercials were mini Popeye episodes — Someone or something would cause Popeye distress, Olive Oyl would offer spinach, and Popeye would say "Can the spinach! I want a Quaker!". He would eat the oatmeal and beat up the problem. The commercials stopped after real life Quakers complained about their name being associated with violence.
- Another non-cereal example can be seen in Eggo commercials; everybody, from the child to the mother to the announcer is out to prevent the father from obtaining the product, even when he builds a machine to make his own. Sometimes the father's tactics get rather underhanded as well.
- Honeycomb cereal apparently transforms the child into a small, feral, hairy dog-like creature with stubby limbs and wide, manic eyes (and of course an insatiable craving for Honeycombs). He's called "The Craver", or something like that, and he comes out when the kid wants Honeycomb (complete with Catch Phrase...wait for it..."ME WANT HONEYCOMB!"). So it's not desirable...it's inevitable.
- Honeycomb commercials from The Eighties featured large people (including some famous professional wrestlers) breaking-and-entering into the Honeycomb Hideout, demanding a big cereal to match their stature. They were rewarded, not with an arrest warrant for trespassing or a frightened hideout-owner shooting the intruder, but with a song assuring them that Honeycomb is not small, no no no.
- The Onion used to have an article parodying this, wherein Bill Gates crashed into the Honeycomb Hideout and demanded, "I'm the head of a biiiiig software company! And I want a biiiiiiig cereal!"
- Several episodes of Codename: Kids Next Door feature The Delightful Children From Down The Lane kidnapping a large number of children in order to torture them by having a birthday cake in front of them - and not sharing. The main characters frequently stop the Delightful Children from eating the cake, thus invoking the trope themselves, but with the reasonable justification that their goal is to share the cake with the captives... and also to rescue them from their kidnappers, of course.
- A straighter example was Op. MUNCHIES. The kids and their villains spend the episode at the supermarket fighting over the last box of Rainbow Munchies cereal.
- Kellogg's Crunchy Nut adverts, unusual in that they're targeted at adults, which portray Crunchy Nut eaters as addicts desperate for a fix.
- Those freaking Toon Town commercials. Kids will be running talent shows, baseball games, martial arts contests, etc. Cogs will attempt to join the fun and do not seem to be doing anything particularly underhanded. Joining the talent show results in death by anvil, joining the baseball game means pies are thrown to humiliate the poor Cog, and the kids cheat using a hose in the martial arts contest. The Cogs' only crime seems to be... ugliness. Well, the Cogs are actual villains in the game. They're trying to make Toon Town all grey and corporate. Those bastards!
- The Dolmio for kids adverts are like this, with the father and oldest son (or whatever their relationship is) try to take some while the mother and the children manage to stop them. It's slightly justified, since they are specifically trying to get the children's Dolmio rather than just eating the normal stuff.
- Another crossover to adults: Twix used to have "Two For Me, None For You." Basically, the message is: "Hey, just because we were stupid enough to put two units one one pack, that doesn't mean you should share it. Quite the contrary!"
- One Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ads literally calls sharing stupid. Like Twixes, Reese's Butter Cup packs contain two units. You get the impression that someone at advertising really has a problem with that combination...
- The kids in the "Leggo my Eggo!" commercials go to unbelievable and often insanely complex lengths to keep their parents from ever having even one bite of Eggo waffles, even when the kids have already eaten their own.
- Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?
- There's an ad circulating for Tony Hawk sports gear (mostly bikes) which feature kids on a tour of the factory suddenly break formation, hop on something with wheels and ride it out the door, much to the chagrin of their "lame" tour guide. Nevermind the fact that this is robbery, nevermind the fact that "don't touch anything" is a perfectly legitimate request when you're on a tour, mostly for this exact reason, nevermind the fact that this dude was nice enough to give them a tour of his fracking factory. Stick it to the man! Also the economy, ethics and everything your mother ever taught you.
- In a "Pepsi-Cola" ad students ransacked their teacher's stash of Pepsi-Cola and wouldn't confess, so the teacher threatens to kick them all out of school. One brave soul stands up and says "It was me". Following the logic of the moment, another student stands up, as if to follow his comrade's example, and says..."That was him." All the other students proceed to tell on the first one as well.
- Beautiful aversion: Jack Links Jerky's "Messin' with Sasquatch" ads, wherein a bunch of douchebags play cruel and gratuitous pranks on the sasquatch. It never ends well for them, in amusing ways.
- There is a Starburst commercial which has a guy eating some Starburst when he sees his friends in the park. The candy tells him they'll want him to share... but what if they weren't his friends? It then tells him to throw his friend's ice cream, dump their things onto the grass, and rip their clothes.
- Inverted in a series of ads for a line of jello marketed to adults. The parents come up with various ways to punish their children for stealing their snacks, such as terrorizing them with a 'Chocobeast' or a thinly-veiled threat presented as a tale of a little princess whose favorite things disappear forever. One commercial is simply an Imagine Spot where the boy pictures being turned out onto the street over stealing the dessert.
- At the same time, Jello is also running a series of ads called "Get your pudding face on", where stealing and eating pudding gives the thief a distorted, smug grin. Here, the thief is never shown being punished, despite freely admitting that they're not the least bit sorry about what they've done.
- A macaroni commercial has the adults behaving badly and being rewarded, such as sending their kids to bed without dinner so they can enjoy extra mac-and-cheese.
- This entry's more of a "hamburger vice reward", but this Steak & Shake commercial otherwise fits quite well. It shows a weird-looking man surrounded by his wife's (frankly pretty creepy) collection of penguin memorabilia. He accidentally breaks one such statuette, and gets shocked looks from his two even weirder-looking younger kids, as well as the older daughter, who seems to be smiling cleverly like she wants him to get in trouble (must be getting a head start on the "moody ungrateful teenager" phase). Then it cuts to the family of weirdos sitting at Steak & Shake, and this tagline comes up: "Broken Penguin + 4 Meals Under $4 = What Broken Penguin?" Thank God for TIVO.
- And speaking of hamburger vice rewards, there is always ... McDonald's The Hamburglar. He lives for McDonald's hamburgers, and the only way he knows how to get them is to steal them. He's been arrested by Big Mac so many times he doesn't even bother changing out of his prison uniform. And still, he can't beat his addiction. He must. Have. More. Hamburgers. (They always say most of the prison population these days is in for drug-related crimes....)
- Parodied by The Onion with The Hammurderer, "a mischievous, homicidal imp who kills McDonaldland characters and takes their sandwiches."
This is not the first time a McDonald's character has stirred controversy for its violent nature. In 1982, the company introduced "Shakes McJunkie," an emaciated addict who robbed characters of their possessions, which he then sold to buy McDonald's shakes. He was later reworked as "The Machead," a homeless, wild-eyed Big Mac addict who turned to panhandling and gay prostitution as a means of supporting his severe burger habit. The Hammurderer is quickly becoming regarded as the worst-received advertising mascot since Kool-Aid's 1989 discontinuation of "The Grapist," a huge purple monster who sodomizes thirsty children
- Another one where it's the parents keeping the kids from getting the cereal: UK commercials for Nestle Oats & More, which started off with the dad lying to his kids about the cereal and insisting they wouldn't like it, and eventually escalated to him building a secret room for it under the kitchen.
- There's a series of Pop-Tarts commercials in which kids are shown getting away with murdering sentient Pop-Tarts.
- Toucan Sam and his nephews will steal Fruit Loops from someone - a Yeti, a pirate, some character themed for a contest - and be chased after by the person they stole from. They will be caught and return some of the Fruit Loops, and the character they stole from will immediately be willing to share.
- "No one's gonna lay a finger on my Butterfinger!"
- The ads for Halos (a brand of seedless mandarin oranges) have kids acting like brats just because their parent wants to try some Halos, and the kids want them all to themselves. This brattiness includes throwing tantrums in public, threatening to reveal embarrassing secrets about the parent, and (in one commercial) even having the family cat attack the parent for trying to eat the last orange. The slogan is, "If you don't have Halos, they don't have Halos."
Parody or referential examples:
- Cracked made a parody video depicting what would happen if the cereal mascots got serious about stealing the cereal. The video starts with a group of cereal mascots (i.e. Lucky, the Trix Rabbit, Cookie Crook, Barney Rubble, and Tony the Tiger) being brought together at Cap'n Crunch's mansion. The cap'n proposes that they all work together to rob a cereal distribution center in the greater Midwest. We are walked through the planning stages, though they are interrupted by bickering about each mascot's different ways of stealing their cereal, which ends with Lucky saying that there are a lot of things not covered in the plan. We then promptly cut to after the job is pulled off......and in a scene parodying Reservoir Dogs, Trix Rabbit is bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to the chest and the others wonder what went wrong, and just as Tony is about to say something, the police riddle the car, and it crashes, killing the cereal mascot thieves.
- The webcomic Breakfast of the Gods revels in this trope. Sonny is a pathetic, psychotic junkie and the Trix Rabbit and Sugar Bear have both kicked their habits and are desperately trying to stay clean and sober. Count Chocula and Franken Berry are leading the forces of darkness, and Tony The Tiger and Cap'n Crunch are the pillars of good.
- In Drawn Together they were sort of half-cult, half-mafia instead. Lead by Frankenberry once again.
- The use of this trope in candy, rather than cereal, advertisements is parodied in this Cyanide and Happiness' strip .
- Family Guy had a parody Asian Trix commercial, where after the kids say the line, the rabbit angrily responds "You share!", kills them and runs off with the Trix. So satisfying to watch...
- In the episode "Let's Go To The Hop," about a drug craze running through the kids' school, in what is also a parody of The Breakfast Club, a group of cereal mascots with real addictions was used, such as Tony the Tiger:
Tony The Tiger: "You know what I got for Christmas? It was a banner freakin' year at the Tiger house; I got a carton of cigarettes! Old man grabbed me and said 'Ey, Smoke up Tony, they're GRRRREAT!'... bastard."
- Parodied in an episode of Invader Zim, when Dib encounters Turkey Neck, who complains about those darn kids who are always after his "lucky neck meats".
- Parodied in The Powerpuff Girls. A random, no-name crook escapes them by sheer dumb luck, only for the jewel he stole to fall into a box of cereal...that ends up at their house. He dresses up as the Trix rabbit parody, but they insist he try to trick them into giving him the cereal as per the commercials. He becomes the mask in short order and forgets all about his original goal. After one failed attempt too many, he breaks down and wails that all he ever wanted was some cereal. Bubbles, being the kind and sweet Artificial Human that she is, offers him a box. The overjoyed rabbit gleefully enjoys it... revealing that he was really the crook that the girls were looking for. Cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- This trope was parodied in an episode of Robot Chicken, where cereal mascots re-enact Scarface (1983). They make a living smuggling sugar — which they inhale. At one point, the "Stix Bunny" says, "Do you know how rich I'm gonna get selling all this cocaine- I mean, sugar! I meant to say, sugar. Okay?"
- Robot Chicken also parodied the Flinstones' "Pebbles" commercials: "Dammit Fred, all I wanted was some of your fucking cereal!"
- The "last Rolo" advert was referenced in The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, when Adrian gives Leonard his last fruit gum in thanks for accidentally deflating a Large Ham preacher, and adds "Greater love hath no man..."
- In the same vein as the above, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time has a computer voice brainwashing a local community to do Nefarious' bidding, with lines like "Dr. Nefarious is wonderful." One line in particular is "If you were down to your last stick of gum, and Dr. Nefarious asked for it, you would give him the gum."
- The above Apple Jacks ad is parodied in this xkcd, where the entire strip was a goofy commercial dad exclaiming, "Hey, these don't taste like apples!" and his son not even taking his eyes off a video game to answer, "Fuck off, Dad."
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has an advertisement in which a guy headbutts his way through a window to deliver some "synthotreats."
- Parodied in Rick and Morty in a commercial featuring a leprechaun with rabbit ears talks about how he hopes no one will take his cereal while he's eating it. Right after he finishes however, two kids show up and strap him down, cut him open and eat the cereal out of his intestines.