Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kids, Race and Cheerios: The 6:59 Second Descent Into Mediocrity

By now everyone has heard about the Cheerios commercial with the interracial couple. It got a lot of flack from racist twits. Cheerios had to disable commenting for the video, on YouTube, because the comments were violent and over-the-top, but the company held fast with the commercial and it still runs on TV, at least in America.

I don't think anything needs to be said about the commercial itself. It's all been said. What I would like to address, though, is a video that was done to illustrate the lack of prejudice in children. A great idea.

(I'm in that place where people will want to latch on to what I think of a commercial depicting an interracial family. That's not what I'm writing about here, but, just to be clear, I'm fine with it. They look like a nice family, and that's all that matters to me.)

What I do latch onto, as a communicator and as a writer/writing teacher, is the content and construction of the video I am about to post; the one mentioned above.

It was a great idea, but it should have ended at 1:59, exactly.

But, since we, in current culture, have lost the ability to sense when enough is enough in this age of ever-flowing information; since we have lost the ability to let audiences come to realizations by interpreting or inferring -- realizations that would be powerful because they were, in fact, reached by the audience him or herself -- since we, in schools, have reduced education to facts and figures and forgotten that Bloom encouraged us to reach for synthesis and creativity as the highest cognitive functions; since we have done all that, this video echoes the results. It is mediocre where it could have been profound and all that was required was a quick edit and a sense of story.

Imagine how powerful it would have been if it had stopped at 1:59. Imagine how it would have resonated if it had stopped there. Instead, it goes on and on (we need more bang for our buck in 2013) as we listen to these kids spout out cliches, however true and just those cliches might be; as we watch them go from sincere, unpretentious (and shatteringly beautiful) reaction and into patterns of speech and physical expression that they learned from Nickelodeon characters and from people around them.

Imagine if all you were left to ponder, after having watched this video, is how foreign the idea of judging a family based on race is to these kids.

Imagine, if, after sitting awhile. You were left to feel the formation of an idea you already know to be true and that was perfectly illustrated by children in their innocence: kids don't become racist unless we teach them to. The idea is nothing new, but the illustration of it is profound. Unless, you let the video run too long and impact is given time to dwindle into just one more chatter video.

Watch this, stop it at 1:59 and think for a minute; then, start it again and see how the impact quickly diminishes:

That's it. You do the rest. I trust my audience's intelligence.

1 comment:

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