A few years ago, I discovered that my life-long ability to deeply understand (and sometimes even feel) other people’s emotions had a name. It’s called being an Empath. Many of us describe it as a blessing (we can tap into it to help others who need support) and a curse (we often take on those feelings ourselves and it’s hard to shake off).
My earliest memories of being cursed with empathy was when I would watch Saturday Morning cartoons. In between each show there were a parade of commercials targeted to kids. Toys, games, fast food and cereal.
The cereal commercial that most-often triggers my anxiety around the feelings I’m feeling (on behalf of others) is Count Chocula and Frankenberry.
Frankenberry was a little more passive, talking about how sweet and delicious his cereal was. He seemed proud. Count Chocula had aggressive sales tactics and not only pushed his cereal as the more superior one, he often got in Frankberry’s face in a “come at me bro” kind of vibe.
Every single ad for this cereal stressed me out. I just wanted the kids eating cereal or ANYONE to tell them, “Guys, both cereals are great. People like both and we will take turns each morning choosing one or the other.”
Their office culture seemed toxic and they needed to work together not against each other. These were mostly the thoughts my 8 year-old self would have throughout the :30 seconds (and sometimes continuing after).
Then there was the Trix Rabbit who just wanted to enjoy the cereal that his face was on. The kids were not inclusive and teased him saying, “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids” which is obnoxious. The cereal was obviously his idea and in addition to the kids not sharing, they insulted him and talked down to him. My brain chatter would be like, “What is their problem? Give the rabbit a bowl of his own creation and fuck the rules!”
SIDEBAR: Interesting fact, there was a change.org petition to tell General Mills that Trix were also for rabbits. I see there are others who cannot sleep until harmony is restored.
Now I don’t want to be all Debbie Downer so I’d like to point out an ad where I felt someone was treated fair and that was McDonald’s. In most ads, the Hamburglar tried to steal the McDonald’s hamburgers any chance he got. He did not succeed. It was taken back from him. But these ads were more soothing for my empathetic soul because it was more about the act of stealing vs. an exclusive VIP club where his kind didn’t have access to these goods. Plus Ronald spoke to the Hamburglar the same way he spoke to close friends like Grimace, Mayor McCheese and those cute Fry Guys. And I appreciated his warmth and understanding.
If you also identify as an EMPATH and if these advertising situations just triggered you as well, here is a 5-step guide I discovered on how to protect your energy. You are very welcome!