Super Bowl Highlight: Celebrating Family
Who did you root for last night? Opting out of the spectator sport of watching men in spandex crashing into one another over and over, I chose to root for the commercials. And there was one that had a noteworthy journey to Super Bowl glory.
Think back to May, 2013. Do you recall a Cheerios commercial that depicted a sweet exchange between a little girl and her parents?
I’ll set the scene for you …
A young girl named Gracie is sitting at a dining room table with her mother. She asks if Cheerios are good for your heart and the frame changes to a shot of Gracie’s father napping with a mound of the cereal on his chest. The message was simply clear and heartwarming: Cheerios are heart-healthy.
However, some people of the internet world didn’t quite see the video so innocently. All they saw was what some deemed – at best – as a casting issue — a black father, white mother, and biracial child. Through shades of hate and bigotry, Cheerios’ Youtube comment section erupted with the most embarrassing side of human nature. The commentary was so racist and hurtful that Youtube disabled the option to comment at all, good or bad.
It’s easy to be a hater in an internet world inundated with information and veiled by anonymity. The era of social media has connected more voices than ever before. But making these connections is also generating a space for negativity to explode to a point where these trolls can flourish. Biracial families are a norm in today's society and it is about time that we got past the racism. In a world where it’s easier to throw slurs, this hate seemed short lived and sparked a growing optimism.
During the past eight months, a real dialogue developed about the growing and lasting presence of biracial families woven into the American cultural fabric. This Cheerios family represents a massive group of Americans. Census records from 2008-2010 report that interracial marriages have doubled since 1980 – from 6.7% to 15%. A photographer, Michael David Murphy and his wife, Alyson West, turned these numbers into a real reflection of family life. Inspired by the Cheerios commercial, They started a crowd-sourced website, We Are the 15%. The site is simply a feed of images celebrating real interracial families across the country. In an email to the Huffington Post Murphy said, “We're not just reacting to negativity, we're boosting representation, elevating the conversation and hopefully giving context that reaches beyond Madison Avenue. These families exist; we eat breakfast and walk our dogs and love just as hard as families in other cereal commercials.”
In attempts to prevent concentrated hate, YouTube has since updated their comment format. The comment strand has been adjusted, listing friends in your network and reputable handles with higher precedence. The video creator has more editing freedoms now as well. A notification is automatically sent to the video owner when trigger words are used, requiring manual authorization. Finally, we are starting to see steps made to rein in cold-blooded commenters.
This triumphant history leads up to last night: Gracie’s sequel. The thirty second ad begins with the father using Cheerios to describe the family – one for dad, one for mom, and one for Gracie. Instead of delving into the commercial’s complicated racial history, the father uses the cereal to announce one of the most basic family experiences, a new addition!
Cheers to you Cheerios for moving past the internet flack and continuing to acknowledge that this family is simply that; a family that grows, loves, and eats breakfast together. The YouTube post has broken 3 million views already and the comment stream is erupting with thoughtful discourse about puppies, gay rights, nutrition, and the interracial stereotype of a black man and white woman. This commercial family is good for our heart! We can’t wait to meet Gracie’s little brother and puppy!