Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Commercial Break: “Felicia…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 17, 2008

Gonna be honest–never liked Cheetos. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit, when I evidently had much lower standards for my snack food, but since I graduated to the 65 cent snacks in my middle school vending machine, I don’t think I’ve popped a single one. The paste in itself isn’t terrible, I guess–though I can think of a million cheese-flavored bite-size foods that taste much, much better–but it’s the substance underneath of which the Cheetos consist that bugs me the fuck out about it. I don’t know how to explain it–how would you even describe the taste of that substance? It’s too soft-feeling to really be crunchy, definitely too hard to be chewy, too stale to be satyisfying sober and not nearly indulgent enough a guilty pleasure to be enjoyable intoxicated. Even in the most sparse of available snack line-ups, there’s no circumstance in which they’d be an acceptable purchase.

Consequently, Chester Cheetah has never been a favorite food spokesperson of mine. Sure, he had the vivality of a Tony the Tiger or a Hamburger Helping Hand, but to me his spaced-out enthusiasm and Joe Cool costume seemed totally empty and forced, since there was no way anyone could possibly be that jazzed about Cheetos (and no way someone who claimed to be could possibly be considered a legitimate tough guy). Family Guy, in one of their last truly classic “Remember That Time When…” or “That’d Be Like…” type asides, nailed this sort of sleaziness perfectly in their sendup of Chester as a Rush-loving cokehead (or, more accurately, cheesedusthead), and though I’m not sure I appreciate the anti-Peart implications, it’s my favorite appearance of Chessie in all Pop Culture to date.

That is, until recently. I’ve only seen this commercial once on TV–it appeared to me out of nowhere, an oasis in a desert of Cadillac fetishes and “WAKE UP PEOPLE!!” demands. A woman is shown eating a bag of Cheetos washing several loads of clothes in a laundromat, causing a rude customer to snap at her, “You know, other people are trying to do their laundry too…” The woman, insulted but unsure of a comeback, is suddenly beckoned by a low, sonorous, vaguely British-inflected voice from across the room.

Felicia…”

She turns, surprised but intrigued, and sees the source of the voice. Lo and behold, it’s Chester Cheetah, sitting across from an old man at what appears to be a dinner table. Must be one of them laundromat/diner combos I keep hearing about but never actually seem to stumble across. The woman now riveted, he offers:

Those ARE her whites in the dryer.

Felicia looks at him again, to verify that he’s suggesting what she thinks he’s suggeting.

Chester nods slowly.

Felicia reaches into her bag of Cheetos and removes several, putting them in the dryer with the rude woman’s whites. She then closes the dryer and starts up the machine. Wanting further explanation, she turns back to Chester. But Chester has disappeared, leaving only the old man at the table. Felicia stares intently, and pops another Cheeto into her mouth, never unfixing her eyes. Suddenly, a message:

JOIN US: OrangeUnderground.com”

I don’t even know what to think. Companies don’t just start making awesome commercials after decades of shitty, low-class advertising–I mean, imagine if you turned on the TV tomorrow and the funniest ad you saw was for a Swiffer, or for Two and a Half Men. It’s that kind of shocking. But not nearly as shocking as the way they have re-invented Chester Cheetah–in one 30-second clip, he’s gone from being a grating, unreliable hype man to the Hannibal Lecter of the snack world. Even more intriguingly, the ad seems to suggest that Chester does not sport his trademark shades at all locations because he’s just that bad-ass, but rather because he either can’t see or has no eyes at all–what else could be inferred from a Chester that now has a white beard, hangs out with other old, dark-shaded dudes, and appears to have the voice of Ben Kingsley?

And to cap it with a final mind-blower, there’s the “JOIN US: OrangeUnderground.com” teaser at the end. If you go to the website, there’s a predictably surreal video that plays, where a Cheetos executive (scientist? officer?) informs you of the mission of the OrangeUnderground–to perform RAOC, or Random Acts of Cheetos. It’s a sort of mix between LOST, a bad spy movie parody and the plotty parts of a Resident Evil-type VG series. Elsewhere on the website, you can read a set of suggestions and instructions for such acts (including filling your boss’s car with Cheetos and making a Cheeto Blow Gun), or you can join them on their MySpace-ish page on YouTube, or you can even read their blog about the real-life performances of such demonstrations. “The 60s were a blast,” they say. “But they ain’t got nothin’ on what’s to come.”

Will young adults buy into this evolution of one of the most recognizable symbols of their childhood? Will ad companies actually be able to balloon ROACing into a real-world phenomenon? Do Cheetos actually taste edible all of a sudden? Truly, it’s a brave new world out there in the convenience stores and vending machines. I, for one, can’t wait.

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7 Responses to “Commercial Break: “Felicia…””

  1. Victor said

    How can you not like Cheetos? Are you missing some essential human gene?

    The puffed maybe, but the crunchy ones are so deliciously addictive that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were seasoned with crack.

  2. Andrew Unterberger said

    If Cheetos dust is what crack tastes or feels like, then I guess I finally understand why everyone’s so down on it.

  3. Wolfgang said

    I never understood Cheetos either. It’s just like, kids had to go nuts for Cheetos and why? I’ll take cheddar chex mix any day of the damn week.

  4. I think the ad is terrible!! Is Cheetos trying to appeal to the vengeful, jerk that lurks inside all lovers of crappy snacks?? No thanks.

  5. Cheet01 said

    Thanks for the kind words, Andrew.

    Sounds like you’re a perfect candidate for the Orange Underground! Join us!

    What Dear Advertiser fails to realize is that the entire Purpouse of the Orange Underground is to encourage the world to loosen up a bit, have some fun, and not be so… well, like Dear Advertiser.

    In time, when the ‘disdain’ and ‘hate’ on DA’s blog wears off perhaps the true meaning of vengeful and jerky will be revealed.

    In the mean time…smile…laugh…play…be young at heart … and give yourself permission to be a little mischievous.

    You’ll be happier and live longer.

    RAoC!

    Thanks again,

    Cheet01

  6. daniel said

    You guys have your head up your asses!!! I hope some cheeto eating punk fucks your stuff up good. Way to go cheetos, teach the kids if you don’t like someone’s attitude just distroy their property. Well done jag offs!

  7. TV Junkie said

    It’s a chess table meant to pass time between loads, not a dinner table. I thought that was obvious by the chess pieces on it.

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