Tag Archives: Dr. Montreaux

Dr. Montreaux: The Post-Post-Modern Angst and Crisis of the Trix Cereal Rabbit

Serner

(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.

Dr. Herbert Montreaux: The Hyperagressive in Lite Beer Ads

Serner(The following excerpt comes from Dr. Montreaux’s lecture at the Conference of Theatrics at Black Hills University in Spearfish, SD, December 9th, 2012…)

 Domination and Coercion: The Exalted Hyperagressive in Beer Advertising

 (“). . . .I’d like, at this moment, now, time permitting, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, to look to a rather, if I may say so, concrete (that is to say, glaring, blatant) example of this reactionary hyper masculinity, this exclusionary hyperagressivism.  This is a very recent commercial for Miller Light: observe:

Of course, a few very obvious and, indeed, rather garrulous (thematically at least) things leap out from the projection screen, screaming loudly and with a vivid and intense energy: namely, this is, perhaps, one of the most brutal commercials ever aired on broadcast television.

We first see a man covered in some oddly weighty and viscous liquid, drenched and dazed, slumped and quivering; it pours down his face, over his eyes, in large, globular, and goopy clumps.  Suddenly, a snarling mouth, glared teeth clenched tightly, mouthing some slurred, monosyllabic message which, given the rigidity of its lateral pterygoids, we interpret, on some subconscious ‘fight or flight’ (as it were) level of our instinctual psyches, as a threat.  Just as rapidly, a white cloth is twisted, gnarled and squeezed by two hands, this same liquid wringed from it in a deluge; dragged across the dazed man’s mouth, his lips puckering as the cloth whips off from them.  Now a bottle of Miller Lite is thrust into his face, the gruffs and grunts turning now to shouting- we still can’t be sure if it is in anger, praise, encouragement, what?

The protagonist appears, now, after this ferocious shouting, to gain some sort of resolve- again, the cinematography remains vague as to the action that is to be taken, or, perhaps, has already been taken: are we in media res or the epilogue of some horrible and violent confrontation?  Is this man lauded or punished?

But of course, we mustn’t forget that we are viewing a beer commercial, and as our field of view expands with each cut we realize that we are in that realm of hyper-hyperbole that so dominates common linguistic expression: he is eating chicken wings- very spicy chicken wings.

He pivots in his chair, having before leaned away from his task, now facing toward his task, a single wing on a plate smeared with sauce that is, somehow, given the ambiguity of the preceding diegesis, seemingly, not a sauce; slightly too red, slightly too viscous yet again, and slightly too much of it pooled at one portion of the plate.   But no matter: in three gnashing bites it is finished, the partially chewed wing strewn atop a pile of consumed wings, an abnormally vast amount of wings stacked nearly 30 cm into the air, the man fallen back in his chair, a strange dark stain having appearing, from nowhere, on the front of his wife-beater.  The bar tender and his smarmy and foreign chef exchange a glance of mute submission to the young man who has succeeded in his arduous and violent task; bar keep tosses a shirt to the man in that noble and understated way of ‘the old pro’, emotionless and stoic; the chef, his blank, reptilian, calculative expression never changing, simply heads back into the kitchen.  The shouting mass of twenty-somethings is now clearly elated, propping up their friend, smiling, laughing, carousing: victoria pertinet ad virum justum.

Now, that is to say actually, just a moment ago, we have sat through what is, I’m sure, even without my synopsis of its diegesis, a tedious commercial- of what significance ought we attach to this?

Let us begin, at the outset, for our ease, by recognizing that this commercial consists of two entirely separate events: there is the commercial proper with its conventional and troublesome foibles and that violent and coercive and threatening section comprised of the first ten seconds of the commercial.

The later commercial proper is ostensibly a rather ‘straight-forward’ oeuvre of “Guy” Schlock.  However, troubling implications arise from this section.  There must be something said for so much genuine admiration given to something as banal as eating a large number of very spicy chicken wings; this is not an ironic commercial- nothing in the diegesis would suggest as much.  The young man is physically exhausted, his friends sincerely ecstatic that he has eaten a large number of very spicy chicken wings; this is a feat of strength, a display of prowess, the 21st century Western “Guy” performing at a high level in his sphere of domination; a sacred rite of fraternity as the commercial’s unseen narrator intones, “battles aren’t just fought by the man in the ring; they’re shared by the men in his corner”.  We ought not laugh at this; we ought admire it.  This is the Hero of the 21st century, eating every spicy chicken wing with aplomb, flanked by his comrades, a circle of trust and support and emotion displayed as it ought to be: amidst action and battle and carnage.

However, I’m sure all of you, my esteemed colleagues, gathered in this auditorium, noticed immediately how hollow this ode to the ultra-masculine appears despite its flashy cinematography.  On a basic level, one oughtn’t compare the consumption of very spicy chicken wings to a boxing match or any real conflict.  Furthermore, the bar is empty, a few passive spectators merely glancing disinterestedly at the group of twenty-somethings sitting alone, no real audience but one another and some esoteric aura or essence of their masculinity, their prize a cheap t-shirt that reads “Demon Wings”.  Indeed, when we reexamine the plate, perhaps, as I am doing now, pause and count, we see that there aren’t quite so many wings: a dozen at best.

It would seem then that the thesis we ought to gleam from this oeuvre is a seemingly savvy acknowledgement that the ritualized male gorilla-fest (to borrow a colloquialism, if I may so indulge) is-indeed has always been a silly endeavor, adding as corollary it is the bonding and camaraderie that is important; especially, perhaps, in this new era of supposed challenge to phallocentrism: an oddly nuanced maneuvering of perilous psychological terrain?

No: for we mustn’t forget about that beginning portion of the commercial, churlish, aggressive, threatening.  It is divorced from its purported content, a series of rapid shots of distress, exhaustion, and intimidation: it is inchoate rage.

But rage against what exactly?  Given the pseudo-savvy conclusion of the commercial, I cannot help but believe that this is rage against the very masiculine hollowness the second part of the ad admits to, a ferocious and bitter energy that motivates the camaraderie which proceeds from it; a destructive fury which is, we must assume, at the basis of Western ‘Guy’ life itself.

Further: this fury is directed at the very Hero who reclaims the value of ‘Guy’-ness.  The hitherto unidentifiable people flanking him are screaming at him, growling and hissing, sopping him in the mouth, gnashing and wringing that oddly viscous fluid from a towel onto his face.  They snarl, bully, and coerce him to finish the task he has undertaken, a task they have identified as akin to battle.  They are instigators and drivers.  Indeed, even when the Hero is triumphant, it is these other men who prop him up, draping the Demon Wings tee over his chest: the Hero has no agency whatever, the victory isn’t his.  Rather, it is the domination and coercion that is exalted, the entire spectacle more a sacrifice than fraternal bonding.  They have subdued the Hero, blunted him, reduced him to meat with a mouth, utterly objectified him for their own sadist enjoyment; they are themselves the very neutering force they supposedly are rallying against by undertaking these feats of strength.

So the weltanschauung promoted by this Miller Lite Beer Adverstisement is not the slightly intriguing one that sits in front of our cognition but a sinister one lurking beneath our immediate attention.  It applauds intimidation and coercion, lauding not “the man in the ring” but those who force him to be there, compelling him to each new round despite his swollen lips, black eyes, scuffs and cuts, and lack of consciousness.  It extols the fundamental betrayal of that which it claims to uphold.  And it is this pernicious and vicious attitude that is permeating, with distressing speed and intensity, the landscape of contemporary light beer advertisements.

Thank you. . .”

By Dr. Herbert Montreaux