It was on a recent trip to the supermarket that I made a shocking discovery:  Some of our most beloved cereal mascots are out to corrupt our kids.

Take Snap, Crackle, and Pop of Rice Krispies fame.  Originally a fresh-faced trio of elfish characters, the guys now look as though they’ve undergone some kind of trauma.  Their toothy smiles border on the maniacal, and they all have the wild-eyed look of Mom fueling up the family van. What can account for such a radical personality change?  I don’t know for sure, but the characters’ oddly overdeveloped fingers hint at too many hours spent working the controls of Gears of War.

Sad to say, it’s not only landlubbers who have suffered mascot morph.  Cap’n Crunch, commander of The Guppy, has for over 40 years adorned the box of his namesake cereal.  But even those of us who are too old to enjoy his wares have to feel the captain’s pain.  His eyebrows are stuck smack on the front of his admiral’s hat, and his eyeballs dangle from its brim.  Will Turner he isn’t, and, despite his dapper moustache and dashing uniform, I doubt that the captain wins over the ladies at any port of call.   Admittedly, the Captain’s little anomalies have been part of his image since 1963; his expression, however, is very 2012. The original Cap’n Crunch had heavy-lidded eyes that suggested the tippling of too many bottles o’ rum.  In contrast, the captain’s transmogrified self shares the lidless “The apocalypse is NOW!” look of his Krispies kounterparts.  Which causes one to ask:  just how many cups of coffee are part of your balanced breakfast, Cap’n?

Animal mascots, too, are not what they used to be.

On single-serve boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, the sleek rooster mascot known as “Corny” has been displaced by a goofy green bird with drooping crest giving the thumbs-up – er, spurs-up – sign next to a bowl full of flakes.  Unlike his classy predecessor, the new Corny looks like the ne’er do well fowl you’d find loitering near the chicken coop, checking out the hens.  In keeping with his wrong-side-of-the-chicken-yard image, Corny even sports a tattoo on his wattle:  his name in vivid yellow script.  If this is what Kellogg’s promises with its tagline “the best to you each morning,” then mothers should be serving Post Toasties to their kids.

So, which breakfast foods can Mother buy with a clear conscience? Well, on my own pantry-stocking spree, I left the breakfast foods aisle with only a jar of wheat germ and a touch of paranoia.  The marketing phrase “Crunchatize me, Cap’n!” was sounding more and more sinister, and I’d formed a creepy mental image of skewed and unsavory mascots banding together in the dead of night.

But we mothers can take heart.  After all, the Quaker Oats guy remains his staid old self, and the young fellow on the Cream of Wheat label is still the picture of wholesomeness.

And toast for breakfast is always an option.

Copyright 2012 Celeste Behe