Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The Trix Rabbit Was A Trickster, And That's No Bull
Well, have I got news for you...
The Trix Rabbit "is probably the most striking example of a cereal trickster who closely follows the mythic conventions of the North American tricksters in particular." As proof, I give you an excerpt from Tricksters and the Marketing of Breakfast Cereals, by Thomas Green, The Journal of Popular Culture (Volume 40, Issue 1, Page 49-68, February, 2007):
The plot of his 30-second tales follows a mind-numbingly predictable sequence. The Rabbit observes some kids eating Trix cereal, and decides to disguise himself in order to get some too. At first his plan appears to succeed, but then his manic enthusiasm for the fruit-flavor properties of the cereal cause him to convulse in such a way that his disguise is thrown off and the trick revealed. The kids take the cereal away from him and pronounce the ritual condemnation mantra: "Silly Rabbit. Trix are for kids."
In his basic form, the Trix Rabbit resembles mythical trickster figures in that he is an anthropomorphized animal, like the hare trickster Wakjunkaga. He exhibits the insatiable hunger typical of Wakjunkaga, but not for foods typically associated with rabbits. He desires only the Trix brand breakfast cereal, and is willing to cheat and deceive in order to get it. In the early days of Trix, the variations on the specific disguise that the Rabbit adopted were still closely identified with the plot premise: He was attempting to appear as something other than a rabbit, so a little old lady or astronaut disguise would do. In more recent years the disguises have begun to take on the form of whatever the advertisers perceive as popular with kids at the time, so in the 1980s the Rabbit disguised himself as a breakdancer, and, most recently, a karaoke singer. In any case, the Rabbit is using these disguises, to appear more human than rabbit, which emphasizes the way in which the Trix Rabbit most closely corresponds to the archetypal Radin/Jung trickster.
Jung, in particular, theorized, in a now largely discounted but still interesting way, that the trickster figure represents the psychological state of humanity making the transition from animal to human. Using Radin's description of Wakjunkaga as a touchtone, Jung describes the trickster cycle as demonstrating how the trickster gradually comes to greater levels of control over his selfish, predatory, animalistic impulses—associated with animal physical forms such as the hare, the coyote, and the raven. In this way, according to Jung, Radin's trickster evolves into a thereomorphic culture hero who sacrifices himself to give gifts to humankind, which is the hallmark of humanity in this scheme (144). The Trix Rabbit fits right into this design, not only in the way that his animal form matches that of the Winnebago Indian Hare that Radin studied, but also in the symbolic pattern of his advertisement narratives. The Rabbit desires the Trix cereal, which represents the outward sign of humanity: "Trix is for kids." He disguises himself as a kid, taking on the superficial form of a human in an attempt to make the transition. But the disguise is unable to conceal his baser selfish impulses—which manifest as frenzied enthusiasm—and his true animal nature is revealed to the kids who take away the magical humanizing substance. Whether or not one gives credence to the impact of Jungian depth psychology on the communal consciousness, the cyclical tragic drama played out over and over again produced a verifiable impact in at least one case. In the 1980s there arose such a public outcry about the Rabbit's plight that General Mills held an election allowing kids to vote on whether the Rabbit should be allowed to finally get the Trix. The vote came out in the Rabbit's favor, and he was rewarded with three spoonfuls of the cereal—although his advertisements then immediately reverted to the old formula.
I thought scholarly types might enjoy this bit of info on the Trix Rabbit (the rest of you, just enjoy another video).