“Unfrosted”: 1950s’ Cereal Wars as Uniparty Politics

Thursday, May 9, 2024

A couple of years ago, I was walking on the campus from the library to my office in the McIntosh Humanities Building (MHB) and happened to notice a middle-aged man taking photographs of nearby buildings. Since the architecture on our campus is not of a caliber that would ever interest an historical preservation committee, I was curious about his diligence in getting just the right angle. “Oh, I’m a location scout,” he said. “The assignment is for a film set in the 1950s and I thought there might be something here we could use.” CSU Long Beach was founded in the late 1940s, so some of the buildings do hark back to that period. We chatted for a bit, and I asked him about the film. “Oh, it’s about competition between cereal companies in Michigan. It’s called ‘Unfrosted’.” “Good title,” I said, but when I didn’t hear anything about a film by that name being released as of a year ago, I just figured it was yet another Hollywood project that got shelved or ended up going straight to DVD.

The film did get made and released, and it seems that very few people are neutral about it. A large plurality enjoyed it very much, but around a quarter of its audience gave it the lowest possible evaluation. One plausible expiation for this polarization is the politics of the film. In particular, people who still believe that the 2020 election was “stolen” would be very likely to regard the final half-hour of the film as “not funny at all.” After all, the protest at the end of “Unfrosted” quite obviously invokes the riot that took place on January 6, 2021, soon after the outgoing president harangued a crowd of followers about their need to fight for what they believe in. In the film, one character is a blatant invocation of Jacob Chansley (aka “the Canon Shaman”).

Both those who thoroughly enjoyed the film and those who detested it, however, miss the most important point of the film. The competition between Kellogg’s and Post cereal companies is a faux competition, in the same way that the Democratic and Republican parties are not competing systems, but only competing administrative policy machines. Of course, that competition does have actual real world consequences, but the question of whether capitalism’s global hegemony needs some legitimation narrative to prop up its self-justification as a system is not worth any more attention than a cereal company would give to explaining why children need to eat Frosted Flakes (or pop-tarts).

In other words, “Unfrosted” is the best recent film that underscores how there really is only one political party at work in the country. Cereal companies in Michigan, in the 1950s, are the perfect analogy for the uniparty that sustains the corporate domination of politics in this country.

If we are derive any nutrition from the “breakfast” (not of “champions,” but of politicians), it’s up to us to add some fresh fruit (banana; or blueberries) to our bowl. We certainly can’t count on those who market elections, spewing out text messages with requests for campaign contributions, to remedy the double catastrophe of high rent and the incessant rationing of medical care.

Comments are closed.