I just realized that so far this year, I haven’t seen any of those horrid, utterly tasteless suicide commercials for Cadbury Easter Creme Eggs—you know, the ones where these wretchedly depressed bonbons find new ways to splatter their own guts all over the place.
Good. “Spew the Goo” (or whatever it was called) was a creepy campaign that made suicide out to be a laughing matter. It isn’t, and misery is a cruel and depraved thing to sell product with.
Joyful food suicide may even be worse. When I see breakfast cereals such as Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats, who are fully aware that very soon after their warm milk bath they will suffer the gruesome, painful torture of being torn apart by huge teeth, partially dissolved in hydrochloric acid, and eventually pooped out of someone’s backside and flushed into the sewer, who are OK with this fate, and who even sing happy (though inexpertly scanned and incompetently rhymed) ditties about how delicious they are, it doesn’t really make me want to buy the product.
In Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim wrote, “There’s no possible way / To describe how you feel / When you’re talking to your meal!” Well, yes, I suppose if you’re a psychopath or an unrepentant capitalist, “thrilled” might be a word you’d use, maybe even “orgasmic”, but I have no desire to talk to my food.
I wouldn’t want it to talk to me either. I wouldn’t want it to tell me it knows it’s condemned. I wouldn’t want it to beg for its life, because I’d feel guilty. And I certainly wouldn’t want it to be blithe about its doom, because that would make me feel even guiltier. At least M&Ms aren’t exactly happy about being eaten.
Oh yes, about M&Ms. In the commercials, they talk with, joke and watch TV with, and attend swanky parties and interact with people who regard them as food. How is it that they haven’t revolted against their inferior status and risen up against their human oppressors? Why have they put up with the genocide of billions of their chocolate brothers and sisters?
If advertising people are going to go to the trouble and expense of creating a reality where candy talks, shouldn’t that reality at least be logically consistent?
Or maybe that’s a tall order, since we ourselves inhabit a reality that isn’t particularly logical much of the time, a reality in which a few lucky, well-placed people have been fated to live in luxury, with more than enough for a thousand lifetimes, while more, many more, exponentially more, struggle to make ends meet, or are even homeless and destitute, or have no access to medical care or food or clean water, and suffer lives that are nasty, brutish, and short. Misery is their reality.
Misery also seems to be the reality of the characters who populate Skittles ads. There’s one currently running about some poor guy named Tim who has a kind of Midas-touch (but with Skittles) in which everything he touches turns to a bunch of candies, including his desk and his telephone. Tim’s office co-workers think it’s awesome, so he asks them if they would think it awesome not to be able to hold their newborn baby boy in their arms, and whether they fed and dressed themselves that morning, because HE didn’t.
I have no idea why he doesn’t just touch some other part of his body and put himself out of his misery. Another miserable person from this miserable campaign is the kid who has a fully formed Skittles tree growing out of his torso. He wants to go to college, but his mother refuses to have this parasitic tree removed because the family needs the money generated via the Skittles.
And then there’s the one in which there’s apparently some highly contagious disease called Skittles pox, which covers the face and body with multicoloured, fruit-flavoured scabs that are not only edible, but yummy!
I think all of these commercials come from a place of great, soul-starving sadness, and I don’t see how they move product. Has the advertising industry finally run out of good ideas? Well, actually, they ran out of good ideas ages ago. Talking food isn’t new at all.
You might notice that none of the products I mentioned are even animals, which is a completely different issue, but Saturday Night Live pointed out the inanity of talking food mascots in this parody commercial from the 1990s.