I was asked to write a compare and contrast essay for one of my classes. My classmates were choosing topics such as Mac vs. PC, Yoga vs. Meditation, Soccer vs. Football and this list goes on. However, I decided to dig deep within my soul to find a topic that has perplexed me for a few years now. One that is really near and dear to reasons of who I am today. I even sacrificed my health for the sake of properly researching this topic, so my readers could truly feel I did my homework. I decided to bring to light a taboo little gem that most youngsters today have no clue existed. I chose to write about how the experience of eating cereal today SUCKS in comparison to the cereal we had available back in the 80’s (and even before that). The amount of cereal I consumed for this paper almost put me into a diabetic coma. But hey, you do what you have to for the sake of making a VALID point. It also left me feeling completely excited that I grew up during a time before parents stopped taking responsibility for being a disciplinarian and just choose to sue cereal giants for their kids being overweight.
So please, sit back, grab a bowl of Fruit Loops and have a read. You’ll be awoken to some 80’s nostalgia you had no clue your brain still had a full compartment of. I’ve attached photos at the end of some of those cereals and even some of the kick ass toys that were once buried beneath the sugary kibble.
Cereal Is an Experience
As consumers stroll down the cereal aisle in this day and age, they might find it hard to narrow down their choices from what seems like a pretty hefty selection. There are many different styles to choose from, and that can become puzzling. However, back in the eighties when I was a kid, the selection was twice what it is today and ten times better to choose from. This is one of the many differences that make the experience of eating cereal today less enjoyable than it was in the eighties.
Those who were a kid in the eighties and were allowed by their parents to pick out their cereals know that aisle was their own personal heaven. Boxes were splashed with eye-catching colorful artwork that displayed various kinds of Saturday morning cartoons, blockbuster hit movie characters, and superhero icons. No matter what contemporary Saturday morning cartoon one might have been obsessed with, chances of a cereal being made after it were very high. There was this spectacular way that the boxes were graphically designed to catch a kid’s eye from halfway down the aisle. The vibrant colors danced around and would follow any unsuspecting person like moving eyes on a painting. In the eighties one can even remember a special edition Ghost Busters Cereal that had a moving 3-D hologram sticker of the popular ghost Slimmer placed into the center of the box. Nowadays, the designs of cereal boxes are boringly tame and are barely a whisper of their eighties’ counterparts. There aren’t many eye catching characters luring anyone into their tempting worlds of cereal goodness. The font barely clings to the box like a dying leaf on a tree branch in the fall. The cereal aisles of today in comparison to those of the eighties are just shy of having wild-wild-west tumbleweeds bouncing aimlessly up and down them.
Like its graphics, entertainment of today’s cereal is nothing comparable to the toy prizes, puzzles and games from the cereal of the eighties. In the eighties, we could spend countless hours taking turns as to which activity from the back of the cereal box would occupy our time as the cereal turned into a soggy mush. There were mazes to be explored, word puzzles to be solved, and completely obvious shapes that pretended to blend into the artwork on the back of the box that begged to be found. I have to admit, I feel sorry for those today who have to eat their Honey Nut Cheerios without the luxury of being able to play the puzzle game, Atari Asteroids, on the back of their cereal boxes the way we privileged ones were able to do so back in the eighties. Not to mention the oh-so-tempting excellent toy prizes that were buried and twisted within the crunchy cereal bits waiting to be claimed by whoever got to them first. There were many squabbles amongst siblings in the eighties over who got to the keep the cereal’s toy prize because generally there was only one per box. Sometimes when you purchased a box of Sugar Smacks, you would find immersed within the cereal morsels a secret decoder ring that helped crack the code of a mystery on the back of the box. I personally loved when my favorite cereal, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was giving away free Ninja Turtle bowls with each purchase of their cereal. I never felt cooler than when I ate the cereal of my favorite cartoon out of a cereal bowl in the shape of the Ninja Turtle, Donatello. Today, kids would be lucky if their favorite cereal box told them more than just the inadequate fiber facts located on the top right-hand corner.
Another contrast between cereals then and now is the topic of nutrition, which dominates so much of the discussion about cereals and other foods today. As childhood obesity in America began to rise, so did the shame for buying and eating these sugary cereals. Parents were quick to blame the cereal moguls for peddling and preying upon their children with free toy prizes and childhood favorite cartoon characters. These same parents claimed that these overly sugary cereals were a significant reason as to why children of today were and are on a fast track to becoming morbidly obese. Also, it wasn’t only the average, health conscious parents that began to rise up and demand that these cereals stay away from their kids. Celebrity parents, such as Michelle Obama, began a campaign called “Let’s Move!” as a way to bring awareness to help raise children of today in a much healthier way. Let’s face it. There’s no room on a food pyramid for the sugary cereals that claim they’re loaded with high fiber, rich in calcium, and ten essential nutrients. However, the last time I remember, it’s the parents that are ultimately the ones buying the food for the children. I’ve personally never seen a child holding a parent at gunpoint in the cereal aisle demanding that they get their Cap N’ Crunch. The cereals of today compared to cereals in the eighties definitely have far less sugar. Cereals in the eighties were never there to trick anyone as being the most healthy breakfast choice. This was a known fact and no one was trying to sue the cereal kingpins for deceiving the children back in the eighties.
Sugary cereals have been around since the fifties, and only until recently have they been mercilessly blackmarked as one of the biggest causes for childhood obesity in America. I can remember when I was growing up, my family always had at least three different kinds of boxes of sugary cereal sitting in the cupboard. We also had a pantry filled with lots of two liter soda bottles. However, our sugar intake was monitored by my health conscious and concerned parents. We were only allowed to have soda on special occasions, and all candy was limited. Our favorite cereals were probably the only thing not monitored in my household because all other sugar intake was. We were also highly encouraged and pressed to get out of the house to stay fit and active. Now, I can hear all the naysayers when they bring to light that not all children have parent at home to watch them as they go out and play. I can honestly reply I didn’t either. Both of my parents worked. My siblings and I were latchkey kids. After school, we let ourselves into the house to get a snack of our choice. We were then allowed to play outside for one hour, and afterwards we had to go inside to do our homework. My parents made sure that our meals were always balanced and nutritious. Also, our lunches were always packed every day with the four basic food groups so that we weren’t tempted to eat the not-so-healthy food from the school cafeteria. Personally, I don’t blame the sugary cereals; I blame today’s parents of the young cereal eaters.
There are many reasons as to why the experience of eating cereal today is nothing compared to the way it was in the eighties. It’s unfortunate that so many people of today don’t get to wake up, watch their favorite Saturday morning cartoons, and eat a bowl of their favorite cereal that just so happens to be the character they’re currently watching. Today, cereal boxes barely tell anything more than the “nutritional” facts, much less give a fun word puzzle to solve. America is overweight and out of shape due to many reasons. However, to place the majority of the blame on sugary cereal is just ridiculous. Even though those overbearing health conscious parents took away my own personal enjoyment of being able to find a toy prize in my morning cereal, I’m at least very thankful that I had the awesome experience of being able to grow up in the eighties when cereal eating was truly an experience.
by: Star Dell’Era ©