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Cheerios: Hard for Racists to Swallow

NY Times, Jan. 31, 2014

By Francis X. Clines

Never mind the point-spread, New Jersey weather, momentum shifts and Newtonian replays. Just keep an eye out for the Super Bowl’s first unscheduled time out, when the huge television audience can catch that famous Cheerios commercial family — the one that so enraged racist Americans several months ago, featuring a manly black actor as father, a serene white mother and their charming interracial seven-year-old, Gracie.

The three, in all their multi-hued glory, did a gentle, 30-second pitch last May about cereal, health and family love. It triggered such a torrent of hatred on line that General Mills had to disable the comment feature on YouTube, disinviting further reactions from the web’s anonymous snipers.

But the ad stayed on the air, rallied by a larger dose of popularity, and now comes an in-your-face celebration of the nation’s multi-racial evolution, however slow. Cheerios is returning to the biggest TV stage with something even harder for racists to swallow: a commercial that includes news of a baby brother on the way.

The Super Bowl’s TV commercials have long been its grand cultural sideshow, usually hinting at something or other about America. Selling cereal remains the priority in the Cheerios ad, but Gracie and her growing family heighten the message. With a black President in the White House and an interracial family in New York’s City Hall — on the considerable power of American vox pop — it is safe at last for racial progressivism to flash as a selling point in TV ads.

Cultural critics might also want to tune in to the coming Winter Olympics, during which Chevrolet will air commercials that portray assorted families happy in their minivans. They include not one but two same-sex couples — one male, one female. The pitch to the nation is: “The new us.”

© 2014 The New York Times Company

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