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"Innocence Lost: Elderly Folk Come Under Fire"

(Published December 20, 1996)

On a recent afternoon, while I was in the middle of soaking up my typical two-hour dosage of Saved by the Bell, I noticed an alarming trend in commercials. A trend more despicable than the never-ending battalion of NBA players who endorse products that they themselves would not purchase even to stock an auxiliary nuclear disaster-preparedness kit. A trend which, over time, could become as exasperating as those smarmy Sprint commercials with Candace Bergen. I'm referring to the anti-senior citizen propaganda which has lately been peppering advertisements like so much paprika.

Consider: One Kellogg's Corn Pops commercial allows the viewer to "listen in" on an elderly woman's thoughts. However, far from being typical old-person thoughts like "I'd better get back from Bill Knapps before my stories are on" or "I hope it's not malignant," Grandma is revealed to be an evil, manipulative woman who delights in stealing her grandson's cereal.

Ratchtech ads, from the bargain-bin footwear company known as British Knights, feature an old woman being driven to the brink of insanity by the clicking cacophony those shoes make when fastened. Two youths are down in the alley beneath her apartment, having a high old time putting their shoes on, and she shouts for them to keep it down. This, of course, leads the lads to simply undo their footgear and tighten them again to spite her, and she actually clutches at her heart at the end of the commercial! This sends the message, "Old people are worthless curmudgeons who must be irritated and eliminated."

Waffle Crisp cereal has unleashed two entries into the retiree-smear campaign to date. The first envisions a sort of sweatshop for the aged, where the old women staff an assembly line to painstakingly manufacture Waffle Crisp. The work force is reduced to little more than machines as they apply syrup to each individual square. One can infer, from the dowagers' expressionless faces and the rhythmic, slave-ship-like cadence with which they perform their menial tasks, that this Waffle Crisp factory operates 12-hour workdays and its laborers earn less than $1 per day. Or maybe I dreamed this one.

I am, however, sure that the other Waffle Crisp advertisement exists in the temporal world, and believe me when I say it's unsavory. It involves militant and deceitful Grannies posing as young, attractive teen girls (this requires masks, of course) in order to gain entrance to a clubhouse. Inside the clubhouse, two adolescent males are enjoying their Waffle Crisp and, blinded by lust, they offer some to their visitors.

Once they get their mitts on it, the old women tear off their disguises and flee, leaving their victims with no breakfast and, no doubt, deep psychological scars and/or a flip-flop in their sexual orientation. While the elderly characters do emerge victorious in this TV spot, it's designed to foster suspicion for those over 50. This, I daresay, could lead to a McCarthy-esque witch-hunt of epic proportions: "You never know who might secretly be an old person!"

Eggo waffle commercials again depict Grandma as an untrustworthy member of the family who will steal your breakfast given the slightest opportunity. The similarity between this ad and the Corn Pops ad should come as no surprise; both foods are manufactured by Kellogg's.

And, finally and perhaps most appallingly, the Golden Crisp commercial has the ever-cool Sugar Bear breaking into an old lady's house in search of that awful cereal. Once he locates it and practically wrestles it away from the woman, Sugar Bear somehow banishes her to Cyberspace, like some sort of geriatric Lawnmower Man.

However, if you mention this to an actual old person, chances are they will have no recollection of having seen evidence of Madison Avenue's prejudices toward the elderly. Sure, Alzheimer's might be to blame for this blissful naiveté, but even old folks with their faculties intact don't know that this is going on. Why? Because the sponsors who cooked up these inflammatory ads never air them during The Price is Right, Matlock, or other shows geared toward the rest home set. The brainwashing "Old is stupid" commercials are only shown during television programs that no one over the age of 13 can stand to watch, such as Family Matters or the aforementioned Saved by the Bell. This ensures that retirees will be caught completely unaware when the intended revolution finally comes to pass.

So please, force any seniors you know to watch these preachy, pandering, intellectually dormant shows, and to absorb these commercials to be come familiar with the younguns' tactics, such as noisy-shoe warfare. This will hopefully prepare them for the inevitable demographics-related age war. If not, I can only say that I weep for the future.


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