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How Cracker Jack Forecasted the Downfall of Entertainment

December 12, 2011

I’m not one for making doom and gloom predictions about the world. Looking for the negative is the easy way out, but I’m also a realist. I know something isn’t right when “Fear Factor” is starting production again, but “Community” is very close to getting the ax.

I hope you’re happy, America.

But if you look at it in a different way, how excited do you think Joe Rogan was when his agent called him and said “Stop payment on unemployment because they want you back!” So I guess that makes one less out-of-work actor.

Some might wonder how we got to this point. How did the country that gave the world Silly Putty get to the point where watching the pain of others–whether it’s a toddler wearing a tiara, or someone eating roaches–was considered entertaining?

I was thinking about this while eating Cracker Jack last night. The prize was found and I opened it to find…a piece of paper with a cartoon ostrich on it. Not exactly what I was hoping for. So I kept thinking about it and decided that the rise and fall of our nation’s entertainment tastes can be forecasted by Cracker Jack. For many years, Cracker Jacker included a fun toy in each box. Wikipedia refers to these little gems with this sentence: “Cracker Jack is best known for its inclusion of small, useless, but amusing prizes.”

Prizes my foot! When Cracker Jack was first made, kids dug through the box to find decoder rings and temporary tattoos. In the 90s I got a Wishbone photo that changed when you moved it back and forth. What do we get now? A plastic bag and a piece of paper to fold.

This is the part of the animated rant where I stop to give Frito-Lay a blank look that says “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

By the way, Frito-Lay bought Cracker Jack from Borden in 1997. You can use that bit of trivia at your office holiday party.

Now, I’ve never had a decoder ring, so I can only assume that the awesome name rightly describes its uses. I would imagine that many a summer’s day was spent practicing backyard espionage between rival groups of friends. Or that the secret goings-on of treehouse gangs were communicated with the aid of these Rings of Mystery.

Kids today get to fold a piece of paper with the cartoon picture of a president on it. Guess what, guys? Folding a piece of paper does not make learning fun.

The decline seemed to start in the last couple of decades. Coincidentally, (or not so coincidentally) reality television began to make itself known in the 90s. The good news is that Cracker Jack prizes have only one way of getting worse, and that’s by disappearing altogether. Thus, entertainment has only one more step until we hit bottom. And perhaps then, there’s no where to go but up. One can only hope.

Although I could just be out of mind since I didn’t have a decoder ring with which to figure all these things out.

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