LIE Long Link: Stereotypes and white supremacy in Kraft’s Milk Bites campaign

From Balancing Jane

I truly can’t believe that I have to write what I’m about to write. Via a Sociological Images post by Bradley Koch, I found out about a KRAFT campaign for their new MilkBites, a snack that is “part milk, part granola.”

The campaign uses an anthropomorphized version of the MilkBite, a little male MilkBite named Mel. The series of commercials, which appear to be both TV spots and online-only “diary” entries to better introduce Mel, set him up as a confused character who “has issues.” Here’s his introduction.

His very first line, as he looks in the mirror is, “Who are you? What am I?” It’s followed by an introspective, “Maybe you’re nothing,” as he sits alone on a park bench. He tries to convince himself that’s not true: “I’m valuable.” But that positive assertion is immediately undercut when he is ignored by a waitress as he tries to get a refill. “Mel has issues” pops up on the screen, and then he’s back in front of the mirror. “Are you milk? Are you granola? What are you?” he asks himself. There’s a shot of him sitting on a couch and looking at a bowl of granola and a glass of milk (his parents, we’ll find out in a future commercial), then he’s back at the mirror. “I don’t know.”

The campaign is clearly setting Mel up as a biracial character, and its using that biracialism as a source of anxiety and confusion. As Koch writes:

The problem with a marketing campaign like this is that it trivializes the experience of people with multiple racial/ethnic identities who are still often met with derision and confusion. The first ad above perpetuates the self-fulfilling prophecy about “confused” identities. As a child, I remember family members telling me that they didn’t have a problem with interracial couples but worried about how others might react to their children.

I completely agree that those are problematic aspects that are blatantly present in this campaign, but I’m also going to go one further. Not only does KRAFT use the construction of a biracial identity (of which there aren’t really a lot of pop culture displays to begin with) in a way that perpetuates stereotypes about “confused” identities and the tragic mulatto myth, but–upon a closer examination of the commercials–I also think they’re using that trope to perpetuate a narrative of white supremacy.

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