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"They're crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and they don't have a single natural ingredient or essential vitamin to get in the way of that rich fudgy taste!"—Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes, performing a mock advertisement for his favorite cereal
In fiction, breakfast cereals marketed as "for kids" are invariably loaded with ridiculous amounts of sugar and contain virtually no nutritive value whatsoever. This stands in contrast to the cereals marketed for adults, which are depicted as being about as healthy (and tasty) as eating a cardboard box.
Common ingredients of these ridiculously-sugary kid cereals include:
- Sugar as its primary ingredient;
- May do something when combined with milk (make popping noises, change colors/flavors, etc.)
- A box with loud, vibrant colors (reds, blues, yellows) designed to draw a child's attention faster than a television set on Saturday morning;
- A name that sounds exciting and action-packed; why settle for a box of "chocolate frosted flakes" when you can have "chocolate frosted sugar BOMBS!" ?
- More sugar.
- A cartoon mascot (frequently a Talking Animal or Superhero who's subject to a Cereal Vice Reward)
- Commercial advertisements that depict said mascot engaged in exciting, wild adventures (and usually with the cereal shown Adjacent to This Complete Breakfast);
- Hidden toys/trinkets in the bottom of the bag, and/or mail-in offers for toys or trinkets;
- And even more sugar.
Given all this, it's a mystery why parents even buy these cereals for their children in the first place; perhaps it was just a way to appease them when shopping for cereal, as the child will no doubt demand to have it.
There is a limited Truth in Television to this trope, as kids have a natural disposition towards sweets (which sugar definitely qualifies), and presweetened cereals quickly became popular when they were first introduced in the 1950s -- with sugar as their selling point. However, it's also a Discredited Trope due to the ongoing studies of health risks associated with long-term sugar overload. Modern kid cereals may still make popping noises or turn the milk chocolate, sport kid-friendly mascots in neon colors standing proudly under explosive wordplay, and sugar may still appear high on their list of ingredients; but the cereal itself is intentionally designed with a respectable portion of vitamins and minerals, comparable to many adult cereals; in fact, sometimes a given kid-friendly cereal can be more healthy than an adult cereal (though to be fair, there are extremes both ways).
See also Unfortunate Ingredients, on which sugar frequently appears.
- In one Sam and Max strip, "The Beast from the Cereal Isle", all cereals are like this, with only one exception: In the oldest corner are brands so old that "they contain wheat" (and not as an allergen warning).
- "Woody's Roundup", the Show Within a Show in Toy Story 2, is sponsored by Cowboy Crunchies, "the only cereal that's double frosted and dipped in chocolate".
- Since the Goodkind family owns so much in the Whateley Universe, it's no surprise that Overclock's favorite cereal is Honey Nut Goodios. He's a bit obsessive about them. In "Ayla and the Great Shoulder angel Conspiracy" he decides to drive a girl insane and kill all of her friends because she ate the last of the Honey nut Goodios in the school cafeteria.
- In Dinosaurs, the family's kid-friendly cereal is known as "Sugar Frosted Booboo Bears".
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Miles, a local conspiracy theorist, declines Sabrina's breakfast offer, citing government processing. He does, however, make exception for "the cereal that turns the milk purple".
- In the classic Saturday Night Live film short, John Belushi is unaccountably proving an Olympic track and field star, rather like a hippo being a gazelle. The punchline is a commercial where he endorses a Wheaties like cereal, but the product is "Little Chocolate Doughnuts," Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- The original "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs" comes from Calvin and Hobbes, where the cereal is sweet enough to choke on, yet Calvin proudly eats multiple bowls a day and collects the box tops for prizes. Sometimes he even adds more sugar, thinking the cereal is "kinda bland" without it. One strip implies that "Buzzy the Hummingbird" is the cereal's mascot.
- The subject comes up occasionally in FoxTrot, usually to contrast against Mom's own health-craziness Running Gag:
- When out shopping, Jason tries to find a cereal that Mom will approve -- one whose first ingredient is not sugar. Jason cites a box where the last ingredient is sugar -- actually, sugar was its only ingredient.
- Another strip had Peter reading from a cereal box, "Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, Sugar..." and so on, finishing with, "...Sugar, Sugar, Sugar... Flakes."
- A third has Jason admitting that while his "Sugar-Frosted Honey Flakes" are gross enough to turn his milk into purple ooze, he'll still eat six bowls every morning to get a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur stickers offer. Paige, reading the ingredients, remarks, "Actually, I'm a little surprised you don't glow in the dark by now."
- Fallout 3's kid cereal is called "Sugar Bombs", whose pieces are shaped like miniature nukes. A ghoul will buy them off you since they can apparently be used to double to potency of a particular drug (useful for ghouls who are much more resistant to them).
- The best food item in Twilight Heroes is called "Frosted cocoa-fruity marshmallow blasts", and in case the name didn't make the cereal's nature obvious, the description tells us it has "a powdery white coating of frosted goodness that instantly dissolves in milk, turning the liquid into something nearly as sweet as soda, because if it didn't the unsweetened milk would seem downright sour compared to the rest of the cereal".
- Spoofed in Homestar Runner with the "Cheat Commandos...Os" Sugar Cereal, which includes an advertisement where the word 'nutritious' is crossed out and replaced with 'delicious'. (In an unrelated short, Strong Bad explicitly points out several traits associated with kid cereals and special offers in general.)
- In Darkwing Duck, Darkwing occasionally wonders whether Goslyn's favorite cereal (a ridiculously sugary brand) is responsible for her acting hyperactive.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Springfield is declared America's fattest town. Marge notes how unhealthy everyone's diet is, including the sugar-loaded cereal.
- The Powerpuff Girls has Lucky Captain Rabbit King cereal, with a mascot who's some weird mashup of Lucky the Lucky Charms leprechaun, Cap'n Crunch, the Trix rabbit, and King Vitaman.
- Arthur featured such cereals including "Crunch" (whose mascot was a singing cereal nugget wearing sunglasses and a tuxedo, who sings the cereal's jingle) and "Golden Honey Squids."
- A Rugrats episode in which Grandpa and Tommy go grocery shopping features Reptar Cereal: "They're round, They're mean. They turn milk green!" For adults, there's Corrugated Bran Puffs.
- ↑ This avoided the need to add sugar yourself, possibly over-sugaring it