The issues of gay marriage, civil unions and gay rights in general entered the cereal aisle recently as General Mills announced its Lucky Charms mascot would be coming out of the closet—complete with a “special friend” in the form of another male leprechaun.
The boxes feature the cereal’s iconic cartoon character “Lucky” the leprechaun with his new companion who has yet to be named.
New boxes of cereal started coming out in major retail chains over the weekend, in advance of Monday’s official announcement from the company itself.
Kendall J. Powell, General Mills CEO, said the company will hold a contest whereby kids can nominate and vote on a name for Lucky’s new “companion.”
“The issue of gay rights have gone mainstream. What better way to acknowledge this fact and help explain it to kids than by slowly introducing Lucky’s new relationship,” Powell said. “Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional in California and Washington state recently approved a gay marriage law. It looks like gay rights are here to stay.”
An ad campaign, to be launched later this week, will introduce the new character and invite kids to help name him. It will feature a storyline where Lucky will eventually come out of the closet and the relationship with his new friend will become more apparent over time. The two characters will eventually get married but a date has not been set.
Unfortunately for the company, this effort to reach out to the gay and lesbian community could wind up backfiring in both directions—from gay-rights supporters and their opponents. Mike Thompson, acting president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the company was pandering to a stereotype and his organization would call for a boycott.
“Sure I ate Lucky Charms and Froot Loops as a kid, but I also ate Cheerios and Wheaties. Why is it always the fruitier cereals that are perceived as being gay? Why not Cocoa Pebbles or Cap’n Crunch?” Thompson said. “My favorite cereal was Sugar Corn Pops because back then it had a cowboy on the box but there’s no need to get all ‘Brokeback Mountain’ in the cereal aisle.”
Reactions among shoppers were mixed. At the Kroger grocery store in East Peoria, Ill. Valerie Johnson said it was irresponsible for the company to promote “the homosexual agenda” and that she would no longer feel safe taking her kids shopping.
“I’ve had a hard enough time explaining to my eight-year-old how come some kid in his class has two mommies,” Johnson said. “Now I gotta explain why there’s two men having breakfast together and they’re not related and why is this guy always sleeping over at his friends place? What’s next, will Snap Crackle and Pop run off with Tony the Tiger? You start messing with the laws of cereal nature, there’s no telling where it could end.”
There was a much different reaction at the Rainbow Grocery Co-Op in San Francisco. The store usually doesn’t stock sugary cereals but made an exception in this case. Shopper Bruce Anderson bought several boxes with the intention of sending them to his extended family members in Oklahoma.
“My sister has been struggling to give her kids an answer on why their uncle Bruce isn’t married and how come his ‘friend’ Larry is on his Christmas card every year,” Anderson said. “I haven’t been back there for years but maybe this cereal will pave the way for a visit, although frankly I was always more into Trix when I was a kid. Just love those rainbows.”
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