(Excerpted from Dr. Hibbert Montreaux’s lecture at the 29th Cereal Symposium at Northern State University of South Dakota, April 23rd, 2013)
Silly Rabbit, Tricks are for Hos!
One of the more curious aspects of children’s cereal marketing campaigns is the relative shrift given to the fact that mascots are clearly addicted to their products. They exist purely as advertorial entities, forever hawking the only thing they’ve ever bothered to ingest, loving every second of it. But they are addicted: the wide-eyed wonderment at the various textures, nifty shapes, ingenious reshaping of sugar-infused marshmallow; the expressions of utter and unending bliss, eyes looking down from the front of cereal boxes, inveighing those short enough to look up to join in the rapture and enter nirvana; lives consumed entirely in the procurement and consumption of sugary breakfast cereal.
This is largely overlooked or at least glossed over due to stronger elements of mutated and transmorphed theoretical issues: Tony the Tiger can barely contain his enthusiasm for frosted flakes, but the cornflakes themselves are but a vehicle for his philosophical and spiritual machismo, an insistence on and a mythologizing of physical activity and fitness, a sort of feline Teddy Roosevelt; Toucan Sam constantly puts his nephews in physical danger to find newer flavors of Fruit Loops, yet we are distracted by the more troubling and reactionary perversion, in a Post-Colonial context, of a native rainforest Toucan speaking with the arid and stingy accent of an English colonial agent, revealing what are often portrayed as local religious idols to voyeuristic Bourgeois eyes, stealing them, extracting Fruity flavor from them, repackaging and selling them; Barney Rubble’s constant attempts of theft of Fred Flintstone’s Fruity Peebles is easily contextualized within suburban-melodrama, envy, distrust, adulterous overtones oozing from Barney’s frequent nighttime home invasions; Sonny the Cuckoo Bird embraces his all out physical dependency on Cocoa puffs, but this fits nicely within a hyper-consumerist culture verging on a nihilism of the endless present: the cereal is synecdoche for a broader philosophical conception imposed upon the consumer.
But one cereal slumps off to the side, its message befuddled, uninspired, more or less depressed and dissatisfied with itself: Trix Cereal. Its mascot is unnamed, a simple white rabbit with wide, sad, pleading eyes, and flaccid, nondescript ears. He is dissatisfied with eating carrots and lettuce- indeed, with being a rabbit. He has never had Trix before, desires them only because he has seen commercials and overheard children discussing them. He schemes not to steal the cereal, simply to have but a single bowl; these schemes are always pathetic, easily discovered by those huge, floppy, useless ears inevitably poking through his flimsy rouse. He is a cuckold, the desperate gambler going double or nothing after three consecutive craps, a total loser.
What are we to make of this? Often the Anthropomorphic Trix Rabbit Mascot is portrayed, in Cultural Cereal Studies, as a Sisyphean figure, endlessly denied time after time: this is too simple an explanation due to the preposterously thin disguises and ill-conceived plans; the Trix Rabbit, in his whiny voice and supplicant posture, doesn’t even believe it will work. Others in Cereal Studies paint the Rabbit as a martyr, always without Trix so that no child might be deprived: this is so foolish as to not merit a reply.
However, let me proffer to my colleagues this conceit: the Anthropomorphic Trix Rabbit Mascot is, intentionally or not, the penultimate metaphorical figure for the Post-Post-Modern Man: the mini-dramas played out on children’s television are depictions of a crisis in masculinity. For here is a rabbit, expected to enjoy carrots and lettuce, yes, but also mate copiously and indiscriminately. Yet this doesn’t feel right to him: he knows somehow that given his powers of speech, the mindless existence of a typical rabbit or hare is beneath him, that he could be more elevated and dynamic on a spiritual and intellectual level.
But in what context? He isn’t like jingoist Tony the Tiger, doesn’t necessarily adhere to the pseudo-mythic animism of Lucky or Toucan Sam, the unbridled obsessiveness of Sonny and Barney are exactly what he’s trying to escape: so he wanders, confused and unsure, trying to find selfhood in a drastically segmented and demographic-centric society. For whatever reason, he wishes to have some Trix cereal. The taste? Texture? One has doubts. Perhaps some desire to attain that idyllic state of endless possibility and creation that is the mind and heart of a human child that he has read about and seen in commercials. Yet this is denied him.
This all leads to a paradox of being, an ouroubus of desire: there’s no way Trix is that good, yet being denied the experience of something so simple and silly elicits a bland obsession. Yet the rabbit knows that this is the very simple reason he wants Trix cereal; but this circular existence quickly becomes the only tangible thing he has: a desire to be thwarted; acquiescence and passive resistance to the ludicrous notion that Trix are only for human children; a self-imposed prison of simulacra. Woe to we he do not learn the lesson and unclasp the tail from the snake’s mouth.