The Pet Peeve: Talking Food

by

I don’t like talking food. Not one bit.

It all started when I was a very young child.

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I’m watching television one day. I guess I was about seven. And across my television screen comes a commercial for StarKist tuna. There’s an animated character named “Charlie.” He’s trying to convince an off-screen narrator that he should be chosen by the StarKist folks to be included in their superior product.

The fish went on and on about how high class his tastes were. And the narrator says something like, “we want tuna that tastes good. Not tuna with good taste.”

Get it? Ha ha.

Except. That’s not funny! I hated Charlie the Tuna because he seemed to not understand one very important thing: StarKist would kill him, slice his skin off, cut him into tiny pieces and then can him. And then he’d end up on my sandwich.

I could not understand why the people at StarKist would roll out a commercial with a talking version of their product. It made no sense!

It was completely illogical to me. And besides that, it was freaky. I don’t like companies attempting to sell me food by making it talk to me!

It didn’t end there. If anything, the saga of talking food has become a mainstay in our culture. Anyone remember Twinkie The Kid?

If you take off my hat, boots and kerchief, I make a great snack!

If you take off my hat, boots and kerchief, I make a great snack!

I may be one of the few people on Earth who has never had a Twinkie. Not once in my whole life. When I was growing up, Twinkies were made with animal shortening and pork was a no-no in my house. Even after I dabbled in Pop Tarts, marshmallows and other random items that may have contained gelatin, I never got down with Twinkies. That filling seemed over the top. It made my teeth hurt just looking at it.

But of course, an auxillary reason for my distaste of Twinkies was the logo. A twinkie dressed up like a cowboy? Why is he smiling? Does he want us to eat him? How is watching a live-action form of a snack cake supposed to make me want to eat it?

I didn’t get it. And I still don’t.

I don’t mind talking animals who shill for products.

I don't eat cereal. I prefer humans. They're GRRRREAT!

I don't eat cereal. I prefer humans. They're GRRRREAT!

I’m not sure what the Rice Krispies mascots are supposed to be. But they don’t bother me either.

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Turns out these dudes are elves. And they were created in 1933! Oh. And in Germany they’re called Knisper!Knasper!Knusper! Totally fine with me. Just don’t sell me food by having the product talk directly to me about how delicious it is.

Have you seen the latest commercials for Frosted mini-wheats?

A “baby” mini-wheat is about to accompany a kid to school to help her “focus.”

And just how is the mini-wheat going to do that? By sacrificing her eight layers of whole grain goodness. It’s a death mission!

One of the worst offenders is the M&M campaign.

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The m&m characters are completely humanized. They talk. Interact with humans. Wear white go-go boots. On the M&M website, they even tell you their mottos. (Green’s motto? I melt for no one.)

Well, that’s not true Green M&M. You would melt for me. If I bought a pack of M&Ms right now I guarantee I could eat you and you would MELT. The talking M&M commercials make me want to throw things at the television.

Okay, so there’s this one commercial. Two M&Ms are invited to a party.  The host puts them in a “chair” that turns out to be a candy dish! So wrong! And then, there’s another commercial where two candies end up in a grocery bag at the store. The dumb m&m picks up the receipt and says, “hey, here’s the guest list.” And the other candy says, “no, that’s the menu.” WRONG!

And then, the worst offender is the “sultry” green M&M, (voiced by Cree Summer).

So the Green M&M is sexy? What are they selling me here? Seeing her gyrating across the screen, dipping her white glove into a vat of chocolate, does NOT make me want to eat that candy! Ick.

And then there’s Chips Ahoy.

There’s an entire series of these commercials. The cookies are humanized. They walk, talk, drive and live a completely normal existence. Except they’re often snatched up by an offscreen hand and presumably eaten. It makes me sad. There’s one commercial where a few cookies are driving along in a red convertible, innocently singing along to “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League.

And one by one, an off-screen hand snatches them away. And they DIE.

In another clip, A Chips Ahoy cookie goes to a birthday party and asks, “so where’s the cake?”

If this doesn’t make you feel bad for that poor cookie then you have no soul.

Okay. Now some of these commercials can make me laugh. Here’s one for a product called Pepparami. It’s Britain’s version of a Slim Jim.

Now, a food product who fights back?  I can support that. I can not support  a food product that doesn’t seem to realize its food. Or food that does know it will be eaten. But can’t do anything about it.

It’s wrong. And when I run for president of the world, I’m running on a campaign to stop the abuse of snack foods.

And the first person I’m coming for is Steve Angel.

Steve Angel is the co founder, director and animator of Head Gear Animation, based in Toronto.

His firm created a campaign for Pop Tarts.

In this parallel universe, Pop Tarts live among us. And they wear jaunty Parisian berets. They are not spicy like Pepparami. They don’t fight back. They’re sweet. And happy. They even come to your house during the holidays and sing Christmas Carols! And what is the reward for this?

We EAT them. We put them in hot ovens and eat them.

(If you can, I urge you to play this commercial again. And watch carefully. At :11 seconds in, you’ll notice the sprinkled Pop Tart says, “please don’t eat us! How sad is that?!)

I got Steve Angel on the phone to find out why in the name of processed snack foods his sick and twisted mind would create such a campaign.

ASK: The pop tart commercials do NOT make me want to eat them. It make me want to buy a box of them to protect them from the world!

SA: But wait. You said it makes you want to buy a box. Then it works! [Laughs]

ASK: Steve. It’s wrong! I feel bad for them! Why did you decide to humanize the food and then have them eaten?

SA: Well, I can’t take credit for the concept. That’s the advertising agency. They came up with the concept. My job is to make it look cool. I think the concept was to tap into a kid’s fun and sneaky side. Kids like that kind of stuff…watching sweet treats suffer.

ASK: Are you sure about that?

SA: I think the idea is that when you create a character it allows people to identify with the product. Whether it’s lovable or devilish or funny. It’s about creating an emotional connection to the product. We’re making it quirky and funny.

ASK: The worst one ever was the the Christmas caroling one…
SA: [Laughs] That was the swan song. The last commercial we did for that campaign.

ASK: When the Pop Tart gets led into her house to “warm up” his face is so sad!

SA: Yeah! We had a lot of back and forth about that! Should he be sad? Should he be resigned to the fact that he will be eaten?

ASK: Awful. You guys have twisted minds.

SA: It’s true. And let me tell you. The client wants everything happy and nice. And creative wants creepy and disturbing.

ASK: So Kellogg’s didn’t want him to be sad?

S.A.: No, they wanted him to be happy about you know, being a good snack for a kid.

ASK: Oh jeez…

S.A.: We wanted more of a complex reaction….he knows he’s gonna die.

ASK: So. In this world, the PopTarts are aware that they are food?

S.A.: No. they think they’re people. But they know their lives are in constant danger.

ASK: Oh god! Don’t tell me that!!

S.A.: Sorry. It’s true. They know death lurks everywhere…

ASK: People think this stuff is funny?

S.A. Sure! This is the history of slapstick…people have been laughing at other’s people’s misery for years. We’re tapping into dark humor.

ASK: Is there anything you wanted to do with these spots that Kellogg’s didn’t like?

S.A. Tons of stuff I had to pull back on. First of all, we could not show the kids actually eating the pop tarts. We tried to do one spot with a Pop Tart in various degrees of mutilation.

ASK: Oh goodness…

S.A. [laughs] Yeah, we couldn’t run that one. We had a pop tart with one leg hopping and half an arm and one eye. And of course, there’s a trail of crumbs coming out of his mutilated body. We even wanted his filling to ooze slowly out of his body. [Laughs]

ASK: You’re sick.

S.A.: If they would have let us run it, kids would have loved it.

ASK: What are you working on right now?

S.A.: We’re doing a long standing campaign for the dairy farmers of Canada.

ASK: Any talking cows?

S.A.: We just might…

ASK: What else are you working on?

S.A. We’re actually doing a campaign for, of all things, a hospital in Baltimore.

ASK: Talking corpses?

S.A. I love it. I’m doing it.

ASK: Thanks Steve, appreciate your time…

Dear readers, be honest with me. I can take it. Am I an absolute weirdo for hating talking food? What’s your position? Creepy or no big deal? Maybe there’s some other kind of advertisement that creeps you out even more? (Like my cousin Allison and the talking teddy bear from the Snuggle fabric softener commercials. She had nightmares about that thing…)

I’d love to hear from you…

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14 Responses to “The Pet Peeve: Talking Food”

  1. Kanisia Says:

    Are you a weirdo for hating talking food? No! To me its not a big deal these type of things doesn’t really bother me. What would bother me is the pop tart with one leg hopping and half an arm and one eye. A guaranteed nightmare. I would never watch that commercial. My nephew would definitely say KayKay I scared.

  2. Tanisha Says:

    I’m with you Aliya! I think things that talk that shouldn’t be just disturb me anyway. Food, dolls, cars. I think it started when my cousins made me watch the movie ‘Magic’, about the killer puppets back in the day. The ‘Chuckie’ movies did the same thing. I barely got over a rat cooking delicious food in Ratatouille without saying “this is disgusting” over and over.

    The Geico stack of money eyes are weird too. They follow you and stare. It doesnt make me want to be insured by a stalking stack of money.

  3. Aliya S. King Says:

    @tanisha: did you say killer puppets? not. cool. And TheHusband and I kept looking at each other while watching Ratatoiille and saying, “are they serious?!.”
    re: geico money. don’t like that either. not one bit.

  4. Hanif Says:

    I love the Cows, who are trying to Convince people to eat chicken for Chic-Fil-A, somebody was smart enough to realize that a chicken shouldn’t be promoting itself being slaughtered.

    I don’t know about anybody else but when I was a kid, (and maybe this morning) I used to pretend I was a Giant and I was eating all the the cereal people who were going for a swim. They would scream, some would jump off the spoon back into the pool, and others would hide at the bottom of the bowl. But I found them all and ate them whole.

  5. Tanisha Says:

    @ Aliya

    Look at the box; even that was scary. And it was directed by a future knight of England! Magic probably has a lot to do with my distrust of clowns.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077889/

  6. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Tanisha: why. why did you post that? and why did I click on it? good lord.

  7. Aunt Janna Says:

    I was just getting ready to write about Allison and that damn Snuggle bear! I really have issues with that Geico commercial with the eyes, especially the one where the woman and her mate are sitting in a restaurant and she is sitting there making goo-goo eyes at the money and the waiter comes over and says, “You could have had Geico,” or something like that. It seems obscene to me, as tho she and the money with the eyes are planning to off her husband!

  8. FreshMLK Says:

    Dude your buggin! It’s make-believe! Yet it does speak to our day and time and the mentality we have about conquering things. In every one of those ads except maybe the M&M’s and the Pepperami, all of the food looks weak and we love to spare no expense on it’s doom. Never really payed attention but it is kinda weird. What do I know though….

  9. la negrita Says:

    This post reminds me of a Sprite commercial my friend LOVES. I imagine this is how some people feel about talking food:

  10. clove Says:

    Your thinking is totally logical. It’s funny that people don’t really realize their foods are talking to them lol. A couple of these commercials, like the mini wheat one, actually boggled my mind when I saw them. like, um why are they so happy they’re about to be eaten?? but it didn’t go much deeper than that lol. I like that you spoke to Steve to see the thinking behind it and how why they ultimately think these ideas will work

  11. BDP Says:

    I don’t think I have as much a problem with talking food as I do with bears trying to sell me toilet paper!!! That really bugs me out!! I thought they used cute little white bunny rabbits to wipe their ass!!

  12. Jovi Says:

    Absolute weirdo.

    Like your Aunt Janna I don’t like the Geico commercial. THOSE EYES. THOSE EYES.

    When I was young I had a stretch armstrong doll. We cut him open and tried to eat him. Supposedly it was to taste like a candy apple. But I could not image seeing a commercial of some one cutting him open and the candy oozing out.

  13. A-O Says:

    I love your blogs..I be at my desk cracking up. I know this an old post but i had to comment. I feel the same way. Especially that frosted mini wheats commercial. It’s too weird like um little wheaty you about to die and you all happy. LOL..this was a good post.. Oh and I’ve never ever ever ever has a twinke either. They look and smell like disgusting.

  14. Envy661 Says:

    You’re not a weirdo, your just a moron for going off about this of all things.
    What about the war in Iran? Talking food is so horrible, but you are just fine with ACTUAL PEOPLE getting killed every day?
    Sort out your priorities dude. We all know corporations are sick bastards who will do literally anything to sell their product to consumers. People who DON’T know that, are politicians, the people who believe the holocaust was a lie, and the retarded. Wait, I can’t say that. Thats just too big of a diss to the retarded, because even THEY know about corporate greed! Politicians however, they either don’t know, or are so in love with that bathtub filled with 100s that they just don’t care.

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