Recently a Cheerios commercial was released featuring an interracial family with a white mother, a black father, and a mixed race daughter. The young girl, after finding out Cheerios are heart healthy, places Cheerios on her father’s chest while he is napping. The commercial had the same adorable and heartwarming qualities that Cheerios commercials are known for. The commercial can be viewed here.
This ad in itself is an oppositional text that challenges the hegemonic idea of American families as all being within the same racial group. Cheerios inserted this opposition as a well to challenge these common ideas by showing an alternative idea of families.
Many people interpreted this text in a way to return it to the hegemonic systems saying the interracial family was disgusting. Many people aimed to reinstate the hegemony by refereeing to common stereotypes of marginalized groups by saying it was surprising a black father would stick with his family. So many racist comments were posted on the youtube video of the commercial that Cheerios had to disable the comment feature.
A way to perform a negotiated reading of the text would to be examine the fact that, while interracial, the family is still constructed of hegemonic family roles such as two, opposite sex, heterosexual families. Many American families have a single parent, same sex parents, other guardians, no children at all, etc.
Cheerios maintains that they created the ad to reflect the typical American families, and lots of American families are now comprised of multiple races. However, many people are reading this text in a very different ways.
Many people had an oppositional and negotiated decoding of this text. Oppositional decoding is when the viewer understands the intended message of the text but interprets it in a completely contrary way. Negotiated reading is when you understand the intended message but apply it to other situations.
While the intended message of Cheerios and what many people saw was a simple representation of an American family. But some people interpreted the commercial as an attempt to get attention and make a political statement.
Many people, however, took the message exactly as Cheerios claims it intended it. A particularly adorable example is these children.
These children see nothing wrong with the representation. Of an interracial family in advertising. These values are becoming more common in younger generations and more widely held in the US. Perhaps one day, representation of interracial families will not be found so offensive.