Friday, June 14, 2013

Cereal bigotry

A couple weeks ago, controversy erupted over cereal. Well, not cereal, but a commercial for one: The makers of Cheerios posted on YouTube a commercial called “Just Checking”. It was a cute commercial, but not a particularly big deal. Except, it was.

The ad featured a child and her bi-racial parents and the racist comments became so extreme that comments on the video were shut down. To be honest, extreme and/or offensive comments on YouTube are nothing new; in fact, they’re more common than not. But these were apparently particularly vile, even by normal YouTube standards.

The video above is one response. Called a parody, it’s more accurately a re-imagining, and designed to take on the haters. I think it works really well.

As I’ve often said, I like the use of clever humour and sarcasm to confront bigotry and hatred; getting mad at bigots only feeds their egos, but mocking them—as long as it’s clever, not childish—belittles them and their hatred. This would make them even madder, if they understood irony, but haters generally aren’t bright enough for that, so this instead reinforces for normal people that bigotry is not okay.

This video is a lighthearted response, but my initial reaction was not at all lighthearted. In fact, In this case it was a good thing that I was too busy to blog about it at the time; my words would not have been kind.

Others had more reasoned responses. For example, Roger Green posted “TV: controversy over a Cheerios ad?”. Roger made excellent points, such as “Of course, you KNOW what the real problem is for some people with that ad? It suggests that black people and white people were – hold onto your hats – having SEX!” Too true.

Another perspective is from Meagan Hatcher-Mays who wrote on Jezebel that the ad “also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people.” And so it does.

I reacted so viscerally to the disgusting racism in the comments because I’m half of a biracial couple: I take it rather personally when people attack the very idea. And, the fact that the response video above features a same-sex couple made it resonate with me.

What also struck me about this is the importance of all sorts of people being reflected in popular culture, including commercials. GLBT couples and families portrayed in ads or TV shows or whatever draw every bit as much hatred—but the mainstream newsmedia almost never notices, let alone turns it into something that good people can feel even better about themselves when tut-tutting the bigotry on display.

Hatred and bigotry are around us every day. Mostly we don’t notice, or we choose not to notice, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s good when people do notice and react with disgust, like they did against the racism directed at the Cheerios commercial. I just wish this was the common reaction to all bigotry, and not just at what the mainstream newsmedia tells us is shocking.

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