Jenee Osterheldt

Cheerios commercial showing mixed family comes with nuts

Updated: 2013-06-13T15:25:02Z

By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

The Kansas City Star

When Cheerios posted a commercial online this week, the point wasn’t to make a social or political statement.

It’s a sweet ad about a little girl trying to understand how the cereal helps the heart. Her mom tells her it lowers cholesterol. So the little girl pours Cheerios on her dad’s chest, right over his heart.

I’ll admit I get the warm and fuzzies from family-friendly commercials, like the AT&T kids roundtable and the E*Trade babies. But I was especially happy to see Cheerios portray an everyday family that just happened to look like my own as a kid: white mom, black dad, mixed daughter.

A mixed family on TV shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s 2013. We have a biracial president. We’re decades past Loving vs. Virginia, the case that legalized interracial marriage. But the backlash against the commercial ( youtube.com/cheerios) was so swift and sour, that by Thursday the comments section on YouTube had to close.

One troll online said the mother was a single mom in the making. Another said mixed families are weird. And on the Cheerios Facebook page, a commenter said he would never eat the cereal again and called the company “dirt swillers.” What?

Thankfully, Cheerios isn’t backing down. Camille Gibson, the brand’s vice president of marketing, told Gawker: “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”

Maybe if more TV people thought like Cheerios, the reactions wouldn’t have been so beastly. How many interracial families do you see in movies and on prime time? Multicultural casts are huge — but interracial families aren’t as common on screen as they are in my life.

When I linked to the commercial online, people immediately said it was cute. But the first comments came from people who readily identified with the commercial.

“This is our America,” Devynn Moore, an Independence mother of a mixed son, says to the racists. “It always has been this way. You’re just now paying attention.”

My friend Amanda Campbell said she had to go back and view it a second time to try to understand the uproar over the family that closely resembles her own here in Kansas City. She doesn’t get it.

She and her husband, Kenton, have been married for almost two years. They have a mixed daughter and an adopted son from Haiti. Why be mad when a TV family is mixed?

Kenton liked the commercial and was disheartened by the comments about black men not sticking around to father their children. That’s a stigma.

And racists were so fired up over this charming commercial that when they could no longer troll it, the hate poured over to a Cheerios commercial featuring a black father and his two sons. Commenting had to be disabled on Friday.

Jennifer Doering said we need more commercials like these. The diversity is not crammed in anyone’s face. They’re families, living and loving like any other.

She and her husband, Jeff, have been married for 10 years and together for 16. She’s black. He’s white. The Olathe couple have two beautiful daughters. And she says people today are still foolish about color. It’s hard to find greeting cards, children’s books and the like that show everyday multicultural families.

“It is about time that retailers start representing their real-life client base in their advertisements. Target does so, in a more subtle way than this Cheerios commercial. Kohl’s has mannequins that are in wheelchairs.

“It is past time for retailers to depict people’s lives. Where are the Mother’s Day cards with the Caucasian mother and the Asian child? The anniversary cards with an African-American bride or Indian-American bride and the Caucasian groom? This is real life. People will continue their negative stereotypes as long as the pretense of these families not existing or being more dysfunctional than traditional families is promoted.”

At the end of the Cheerios commercial, the screen flashes yellow. And the word “love” appears.

Really, what’s there to hate about that?

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/jeneeinkc or follow her on Twitter @ jeneeinkc.

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