Is Kraft Really Making a Statement on Biracial Identity In New Milkbite Ads?

June 11, 2012  |  

It sounds completely ridiculous, I know, and in some ways it sort of is, but after watching a few of Kraft’s new Milkbite advertisements you get the impression the company is going a little too hard on this mixed identity thing.

Milkbites are cereal bars that are part milk and part granola, which make for a convenient morning treat for people on the go, but in Kraft’s melodramatic commercials, one milkbite named Mel is quite depressed about not being able to find his place in the world, struggling to fit in with milk and not totally fitting in with granola either. As we see the little character in therapy or on dates or moping around the house, you can’t help but think about real people who are biracial and how they feel they’re not totally accepted by whites or blacks or Latinos, etc., and therein lies some of the controversy.

In an article for The Huffington Post, Jermaine Spradley writes:

“The campaign harkens the age-old tragic mulatto stereotype which has its roots in 19th century abolitionist literature…. The problem with this sort of homogeneous characterization has always been that it oversimplifies the complexities of what it means to be biracial by painting the characters biraciality as a constant source of stress and anxiety. That in turn reinforces the notion that miscegenation, and the children born of it, are inherently unhealthy.

“[W]hen you’re talking about a product that a multibillion dollar company is trying to sell, when you’re talking about a Milkbite struggling with the fact that his mom is a glass of milk and his dad is a bowl of granola, you begin trivializing the lives and experiences of millions of biracial folk everywhere.”

I hardly believe Kraft thought that deeply about it—which you could argue is part of the problem—but I actually think they just got carried away with a good idea. Had the commercials been a bit more upbeat or even had a positive connotation to the dual identify, which I would think would make consumers want to purchase them more anyway, this would be a non-issue. But the commercials lean way too heavily on the serious and assumed depressing side of this reality to not draw parallels between human situations and his fictional one, which is why there’s all this racial controversy discussion—particularly when Mel describes being “mixed” as a prison and being questioned by a human about why he looks one way but claims to be something else.

Apparently Kraft has issued some direct responses to people who have called them out on Facebook but that’s as far as they’ve gone in terms of damage control. Spradley believes they should pull the ads altogether but I’m not sure that’s warranted in this situation. The more commercials you watch, the more you do get the sense that the issues biracial people deal with are being trivialized in this campaign but we also keep sliding further and further down this slippery slope of there being no room for any artistic expression that could possibly be interpreted by anyone on the earth as an inappropriate play on race. There has to be a way to find balance without racism being the go-to response in these cases and corporations getting a pass when they shouldn’t.

Check out a few of the ads here and tell us what you think abut them. Are they bi-racially insensitive?


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// Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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