Rice Krispies - Snap, Crackle, and Popgun

Here’s something we don’t see any more: overtly aggressive wartime ads. In 1943, it was all about the war effort. WWII wasn’t an ambiguous war, or one that was hard to sell to the American public. Hitler was a guy who was very clear about wanting to take over the world. This made it very safe for advertisers to depict their mascots as angry killers.

Here, we see Snap, Crackle, and Pop with rifles, tearing across the water in a shore craft, ready to fight for the American way of breakfast. It’s okay to stare. We haven’t seen anything like this in sixty years. Even considering the “all for one” attitude that was prevalent at the time, it’s hard to think that nobody looked at this ad and said “Hey, settle down, guys. It’s just cereal.”

But wait there’s more. Easily missed in the lower left of the illustration is a little fish, fleeing the Rice Krispy guys. The fish is an obvious caricature of Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan from 1941-44. Is it possible to draw a caricature of someone from a different racial background without resorting to racism? I think it is, and this illustrator definitely took the easy way out. Of course, at the time, the U.S. wasn’t really worried about being racially insensitive to the Japanese, considering the whole Pearl Harbor thing. But from a modern perspective, it’s just really weird to see major advertisers putting this kind of stuff in cereal ads. Actually, the fish could be almost any Japanese caricature. This is pretty much the standard WWII method to draw any Japanese person. Lots of old wartime cartoons depicted the Japanese exactly like this. Even after the war, it would be a few decades before everyone decided that it wasn’t cool to be casually racist for the purposes of light humor.

This ad features one of my pet peeves: Intentional misspelling for an easy trade mark. “Crispy” is spelled with a “C”, see? But you can’t put a trade mark on a single word unless it’s a new nonsense word you made up. So, spell “crispy” with a “K” and you can stick your flag in it for exclusive advertising use. This is fine, so long as the victim- err… consumer knows better. Otherwise, the advertiser is just teaching ignorance to a population that is already made up of terrible spellers. Dodge once made a version of the forgettable Neon compact car called the “Expresso”. Do you know how many people think the italian coffee is actually called “expresso”? MOST people! Once and for all, it’s called ”espresso”, and Dodge wasn’t helping people to seem less stupid by mangling the word for the sake of a trade mark. This phenomena is still in heavy favor, especially with the letter “Z”. “cray-zee”, “boyz”, “fanz”. Fortunately, nobody thinks these words are properly spelled this way… yet. That’s America for you: always willing to spread a little ignorance to move some product. “YOU EZZ AY!” YOU EZZ AY!”


Phil said...

When I think of Americans with poor English skills, I think of former PreZident George W. Bush. He would probably spell 'crispy' with a 'Q'. His greatest repeat offense: newk-yoo-luhr.

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