Saturday, September 24, 2011
Food labeling in the United States is horrible. For most people this isn't a problem. As long as they can sound out the word Cheetos, or recognize the Cheetah, their decision making process for what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is complete. Sometimes I wonder, lost in thought in a near-catatonic-state, paralyzed by the endless aisle of false decisions, what it all means -- in the heavy sense of the phrase. Marketing and the decades of product development, the senseless narratives and fantasies that float around these products that populate every aspect of our waking lives. Who is Chester? Why is he so obsessed with being cool, or I should say, the cool equivalent of 1991's coolness. Chester, it's 2011, and Zach Morris is no longer the apex of rad.
I'm not normal or at least not typical enough to be a good, proper consumer. Rather than accept Chester as the gracious, giving icon of cheesy, corn-puffed snacks, I take him for the humanity that might be hidden in such a satyr of a post-capitalist wilderness. This is the disease of anthropology, or of an anthropological outlook on meaning. The menagerie of creatures and mythic beasts that populate the foreground of the market begin to slump in their dance and game. The magic is gone, blowing out the Bacchic fire at the center. What remains are the taut strings of human tinkering. You stop taking things as they are; you contextualize everything, even a cartoon character, in the framework of pertinent histories, of psychological necessities and the pulsating baseness of human desires.
You wonder, with a twisted sense of humor, if the guy that invented Chester knew that Cheetos, or corn-puffed snacks in general, were originally developed as cheap animal feed for zoos. Big surprise: most of the animals fed Cheetos died from malnutrition. Animals are no longer fed Cheetos (excluding pugs). There's a pretty good chance that Cheetos began its legacy with the potential murder of Cheetahs. What kind of sick joke was it to put a Cheetah on the bag?
When you're a kid, you don't realize any of this. Chester helps to further solidify your body's love of simple carbohydrates, blasting straight through your bloodstream into your brain, giving you that neuro-chemical fix. You were going to eat carbs anyway, but you eat these Cheetos because they also pack in the secondary quality that they're cool -- cooler than rice at least. And Cheetos were cool for a kid in 1991 when Zach Morris was cool and the idea of a cheese-dusted Cheetah skateboarding was cool. It didn't take you very long to realize that Cheetos were not conducive to athleticism and skateboarding, hanging your head in shame, standing on a broken skateboard that gave way under your engorged corn/cheese-filled body.
You look at Chester now and the magic is gone. All that is left is the icy clockwork of humanity rife with tragedy or humor --depending on your mood.