Most rational adults would find this picture frankly weird. And what’s that book in his hand, the Necronomicon?
He’s been variously known as Sir Charm, Lucky the Leprechaun, and L.C. Leprechaun — you know, the guy in the green suit on the Lucky Charms box. As if the marshmallow-studded breakfast food can’t sell itself, you need this twerp smirking and reaching for your throat from the supermarket shelf. Watch out for him! He’s molesting the diet of millions of children.
The cereal was developed in 1964 by General Mills in response to the invention of the technology two years earlier that allowed the manufacture of tiny and durable marshmallows (known in the trade as “marbits”) in appealing colors and shapes.
Lucky Charms began as an unsweetened cereal, on the grounds that the marshmallows were plenty sweet enough to fulfill the diner’s breakfast sugar component. Soon, however, merchandisers discovered that adding extra sugar only increased the appeal of the product. Sugar currently constitutes 42.2 percent of the cereal’s dry weight. Funny that while sugary sodas and fat-bearing fried foods have been singled out as root causes of the obesity epidemic, almost no one has dared mention the over-sweetened cereals marketed directly to children, constituting a major portion of the preadolescent diet.
Lucky Charms is something of a flagship for the General Mills fleet, a product that the company never stops plowing money into. The marshmallow shapes are constantly tinkered with and the colors altered in response to continuous product testing. While the original shapes were pale pastel stars, hearts, crescent moons, and — splat! — clovers, these eventually morphed into pots of gold, stovepipe hats, rainbows, balloons, and horseshoes, many riffing on the idea of good luck. The pastels were gradually swapped for eye-searing bright colors, to add further dazzle.
The leprechaun, too, has changed. When first introduced, he was somewhat dumpy and dour, now he’s an ingratiating creep of a guy, his face contorted into the world’s most insincere smile, someone you’d instinctively avoid if you met him lurking on the playground. It seems obvious that the movie Leprechaun (1993) may have hastened his evolution, though some will say it’s the other way around: The sinister movie character was inspired by a cynical reading of the cereal-box persona.
Nowadays his raiment is a strange shade of green, he has a muffler sprouting what look like human fingers, holds out his grotesquely distorted arm, every finger aquiver, and rides upon a shooting star as if he were a celestial skateboarder. The shooting star is also one of the current marshmallow shapes. Parents, hide your children.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 5, 2011