Last night’s episode of Atlanta was crafted as a stellar sendup of television networks like BET and TVOne that primarily target black audiences. Sandwiched in between segments of Montague, a fictional news show unpacking a rapper’s transphobic Twitter rant and telling the story of a “trans-racial” black man who considered himself a white person born into a black body, were a commercials for stereotypically “black” products like cigarillos and Dodge Chargers.
While all of the commercials toed the line between being tongue-in-cheek send-ups and explicit jabs at the way advertisers try to market things to black people, one spot in particular dropped all pretense of being lighthearted spoof and turned into a sharp condemnation of police brutality.
The advertisement for Coconut Crunchos opens up with a trio of black children rushing to bowls of their favorite cereal in an Egyptian pyramid when—in traditional Cookie Crisp fashion—they’re interrupted by a pesky wolf who’s hellbent on eating up all of the sugary grains before the kids can get to it. “Nice try,” the kids taunt the wolf when he fails to steal their food. “Only kids can have Coconut Crunchos.”
In the dozens of Trix ads the Coconut Crunchos spot is based on, the cereal-obsessed rabbit waxes poetic about the food before ultimately failing to snatch it away from the children. Crunchos hits all the same beats right up until the moment that the cartoon wolf is tackled to the ground and pinned down by a white police officer as the children look on in horror.
“He’s going to jail, that’s what happened,” the officer explains to the kids as he handcuffs the wolf. “He was trying to steal your cereal, right?”
As the officer jams his knee into the wolf’s back, the kids’ insistence that the cereal is no big deal falls on deaf ears, prompting one of the kids to pull out his cellphone and record the brutal exchange. In a matter of seconds the ad manages to evoke all the same horror people felt watching footage of Eric Garner being pinned to death by a police officer for selling loose cigarettes.
For all its social commentary, the most brilliant thing about the ad is actress Cree Summer, whose voice literally every single black child born after the ’90s will recognize from shows like Inspector Gadget, Rugrats, or Tiny Toon Adventures. Summer’s voice is to black, millennial childhoods what candid footage of police brutality has been to the Black Lives Matter movement: deeply familiar and powerful.