I love Halloween. One of the many reasons I love it is because it’s a chance to take a step back and realize the deep, deep complexity of human society.
I was at a store and I saw a box of spooky Halloween cereal. Yay! Fun! But then I stopped and really looked at it.
It was a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes featuring Tony the Tiger dressed as Count Dracula and the cereal itself contained marshmallows shaped like a ghost, a bat, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster.
When I saw this box of cereal, I imagined the effort it would take to explain this to an alien. So I tried writing it out.
So, first, let’s just define the basic building block of this: Frosted Flakes.
In order to start our day with a healthy breakfast, we took corn–a thing that is already food we could just eat–and we smashed it into flakes.
But we still don’t want to eat that so we put a bunch of sugar on top of it. Then we pour milk on it so we can lie to ourselves and claim it’s healthy.
Now there are many different companies making these denial corn flakes and they are all basically the same product. So to make them seem different from one another, we invented a thing called branding.
We want to create a bond between the cereal makers and the cereal eaters so we created a mascot. Someone fun and friendly that people could relate to. Like a giant tiger.
A tiger is a large animal which, under the right circumstances, would happily kill and eat us. They require no branding to do this. Just hunger.
But this is not a normal tiger. This one walks on two legs and has a name. His name is Tony and he exists only to sell us things. He sells us things with the catchphrase, “They’re great!” Normally, shouting a biased subjective opinion about the quality of corn flakes is enough to make them fly off the shelves.
But not now. Not at Halloween. So Tony, a predator salesperson pretending to be our friend, needs to dress up as something scary. Normally, Tony the Tiger is nude with just a handkerchief around his neck. Like a bib for eating humans. But that’s not scary enough during Halloween.
So Tony is dressed up as another character named Count Dracula. Dracula is an undead rich person who wears a cape because he’s from Europe. Dracula is a vampire and he wants to hurt us. But not by eating us. He wants to suck our blood in a psycho-sexual ritual designed to steal our life essence so he can go on living for all eternity.
This is only barely a metaphor for what actual rich people do to us everyday. But during Halloween it’s fun because he has a cape.
Now, let’s move on to the Marshmallows. Marshmallows are pieces of sugar that don’t bother lying to us about what they are.
And these particular marshmallows are shaped like a bat, a ghost, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster. Let’s break those down.
First, a bat. In reality, a bat is a small animal that mostly means us no harm whatsoever and couldn’t eat a human if it tried. But somehow we have become more afraid of bats than a tiger. A bat is basically an animal that suffers from extremely inaccurate branding.
Next up, a ghost. A ghost is what happens when a human dies but their soul is trapped on the mortal plane. When that happens the soul wears a white sheet with eyeholes so the soul can watch Netflix, I guess. I don’t know. That one’s a mystery. The point is: this marshmallow is an opportunity to eat the undead souls of other humans.
And finally, Frankenstein’s Monster’s head. Oh, boy. This one would take a very long time to fully articulate. So real short version. A woman named Mary Shelly invented the concept of science fiction by writing a novel about a dude who could not accept death so he made a fake man using body parts and lightning and since then we’ve told hundreds of stories about this monster being lonely and having a hard time making friends. We’ve told so many stories about this large lonely man that as a culture we can instantly recognize JUST HIS HEAD rendered in crude marshmallow form.
So that’s basically it. If you encounter an alien wanting to understand the spooky limited edition Halloween Kellogg’s Chocolate Frosted Flakes you know what to tell them:
It’s a tiger but it acts like a human to sell us things but it’s Halloween, a time we embrace darkness, so it’s dressed as a blood-sucking monster and the sugar blobs are all death imagery so we can eat our own fear. With milk.
And if that isn’t fun I don’t know what the hell is.
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