It’s time to pop over to the pdf magazine All The Rage and read about Monsters. My own contribution, a sobering account of celebrity excess, can be found below.
A dinosaur is diverted from a course of city-scale mayhem by a
Godzilla-sized packet of Chewits, cleverly mirroring the use of bright
candy to mollify the “little monsters” at which the advert is
targeted1. I had thought that they had left the character at that, but
a quick trip to www.chewits.co.uk reveals the following:
The brand character, Chewie the Chewitsaurus, first appeared in a TV
commercial in 1980. Today he is an integral part of the brand identity
acting as a spokesperson for Chewits. Although his appearance may have
changed slightly, he is still very popular with the kids of today. His
original name was ‘The Muncher’ and only changed to Chewie in 1990.
He liked them so much he bought the company. Pausing only, like New
Labour, to change his name and his appearance.
But The Muncher’s hubris is nothing compared with that of the Honey
Monster. Originally a jovial sidekick, he first appeared alongside Henry
McGee in 19762.
‘I’m not his mummy’.
Honey Monster’s shtick was that he destroyed everything in sight for his
love of ‘pieces of natural wheat, puffed up, and tasting of honey’3.
While the original advert juxtaposed the blundering Honey Monster with
McGee’s perfectly judged deadpan, subsequent outings became increasingly
far-fetched, and in the 1980s ‘mummy’ was removed altogether. The 1990s
Honey Monster changed, both physically – the hair is longer and more
fluorescent – and in his demeanour. He is suddenly hip and coordinated,
scoring the winning goal for Kevin Keegan in football obsessed 1996, and
appearing with Boyzone the following year. Believing the hype, believing
his agent4, believing he is big enough to go it alone, he is no longer
the more-or-less-lovable clumsy sugar-obsessed proto-Blobby, he is now,
simply, a twat.
The reasons behind this sad transformation can be glimpsed in a
statement, apparently from “HM” himself, on his website:
In 2006 Sugar Puffs were acquired by the nice men at Big Bear. I was
very happy as I felt a bit unloved by my previous owners. Now I’m at the
centre of things again and Big Bear even decided to call the company
Honey Monster Foods.
The previous owners were Quaker. Why did they make him feel “unloved”?
Was there tension between the owners’ puritan, pacifist roots and the
increasingly brash and self-centred Honey Monster? It would seem that a
split was inevitable. Appearing with pop stars and footballers, even
performing his own 1998 “Sugar Puff Daddy” rap, was not enough: he had
to have the whole company named after him.
And so, like so many ageing vacuous celebrities before him, he has
re-invented himself again, this time planting his sticky, fake-fur
encrusted flag in the spiritual home of today’s media-literate,
intertextual youth, The Mighty Boosh. The press release for the latest
advert speaks of family fun and a “bizarrely comic musical ritual”, and
the advert’s crimp-style song ironically refers to “wheaty chums that
settle in transit”, but many fans remain unimpressed by the
appropriation of the Boosh, and Honey Monster himself admits in his blog
that “Some people like our song, but it hasn’t made everybody happy so
I’m a bit sad about that”.
Yes, he even has a blog, and he uses it to talk about his charity work
and appearing in OK! with Katie Price. He has, truly, become a monster.
1 Real monsters of course exist not in adverts, but in the minds (and
occasionally wardrobes) of children. The things that keep us awake at
night are usually normal objects, distorted by our imagination, shapes
in the wallpaper, the big fluffy brushes on the sides of car washes, and
Concord, turning into bad-Emu when the nose drops. You were safe as long
as no part of you was sticking out from under the duvet, but, as this
included the face, breathing could become difficult (for which of
course, Gary Larson invented the Monster Snorkel: “Allows your child to
breathe comfortably without exposing vulnerable parts to attack”).
2 The fun, and the horror, is available via http://www.honeymonster.co.uk/
3 Cookie Monster, meanwhile, destroys rather than consumes his objects
of desire. He has no oesophagus, what did we expect?
4 Eric Hall?