'The Simpsons' did it first
In case we didn't have enough to worry about this fall, there's a new creepy clown epidemic gripping the nation right in time for Halloween. A strange wave of clown attacks are ongoing across the country, with reports of clown sightings coming in from South Carolina to Idaho (there's even a clown sighting map online). Before we became terrified of seeing a knife-wielding clown on the subway, however, we laughed alongside their antics both in real life and in cartoons. They even pleased us in the breakfast world; one of the most widely recognized cereal brands, Krusty-O's, isn't even a real product, yet it's beloved among the branded cereals of our youth. So, now that clowns are at their most sinister since Steven King's It, it's more important than ever that we remember the joy clowns can bring us (well, at least most of the time).
In The Simpsons episode 125, "'Round Springfield," Bart Simpson gobbles down a bowl of Krusty-O's cereal as he watches The Krusty the Clown Show. Marge Simpson finds Bart watching television instead of studying for his impending history exam, distracting him as he continues to wolf down his breakfast. As Bart tries to finesse his way out of mothers' scorn, he inadvertently swallows the prize inside the cereal box: one jagged, metal Krusty-O. But it's too late for Bart as he cries in pain a little too loudly and immediately for Marge to take him seriously. So it's off to school for poor Bart, who is in agony as a razor-sharp hunk of metal courses through his GI tract.
After collapsing on the floor of the nurse's office, Bart is rushed to the hospital with an inflamed appendix. I'm not totally sure how swallowing jagged metal can give a child acute appendicitis, but I'm no Julius Hibbert. This prompts Krusty to call a press conference where he defends his lousy merchandise against accusations of Krusty-O's and other goods being unsafe. He even goes so far as to swallow what he thinks a metal Krusty-O, which causes him to wretch in pain. But as it turns out, it was just a run-of-the-mill bite of his namesake cereal.
Krusty's far from the first clown to endorse a cereal. In fact, one extremely creepy clown first promoted Sugar Rice Krinkles, a Post cereal that debuted sometime during the 1960s. Perhaps the latest scary clown epidemic isn't anything new after all.
And Krusty's branded cereal comes from a long, storied line of celebrities coming out with their own branded breakfast foods. Mr. T rode a wave of popularity from the role of Clubber Lang, the cocky young boxer he portrayed in Rocky III as well as his starring role in the famed tv series, The A-Team. Mr. T's popularity made Quaker Oats come calling, which led to Mr. T Cereal in 1984. Mr. T Cereal was the first licensed product manufactured by the company, beginning the trend of giving hot celebrities and characters their own cereal brand.
But as the '80s and '90s pressed on, the quality of licensed cereals began to dip, becoming synonymous with celebrities and cereal makers trying to make a quick buck by filling your morning cereal bowl with a pile of bland, boring, or otherwise uninspired flakes. Soon, celebrity likenesses only went as far as the imagery on the box itself, with most of the contents tasting identical to whatever regular cereal you could by for about half the price (and a third of the fanfare).
More generally, celebrity licensed products took a hit in the late '80s by way of safety recalls and warnings. The 1987 recall of Mickey Mouse toys marked one of the first times that a celebrity-endorsed or licensed product became a symbol of shoddy work. In this case, a Mickey Mouse tent and sleeping bag were not flame retardant, which posed a tiny safety issue. And in 1997, Mattel recalled their Snacktime Kid Cabbage Patch Doll because it was known to eat children's hair if its hunger was not sated by its standard snacks (did I mention that it had no on-off switch?). So, the notion of a Jagged Krusty-O making it into a box of cereal doesn't seem too far-fetched.
Even though Bart gambled with his life by eating a bowl of Krusty-O's cereal, diehard Simpsons fans still clamored for a real box of the cereal when it debuted in 2007. 20th Century Fox teamed up with 7-11 to create real life Kwik-e-Marts across the country, stocked with more Simpsons memorabilia than you could shake a stick at. The real-life version of Bart's favorite breakfast food hit shelves alongside a slew of promotional tie-in products that included cans of Duff (which, I'm sorry to report, were filled with generic cola), Squishees, and strawberry-frosted doughnuts.
If you missed your opportunity to buy Krusty-O's when they hit store shelves, have no fear. Collectible boxes are still available on Amazon and eBay, if you're willing to pony up for a cardboard box with Krusty's mug on the front. One seller on Amazon is charging just under $100 for a box of Krusty-O's. But on eBay, Krusty O's are going for more modest rates, typically around $10. Although there's one listing for an entire, unopened carton of Krusty-O's for $100 even. At that rate, you can even afford to rip open a bag of nearly ten-year-old cereal and dig in. But if you end up with appendicitis, or suffer the fate of a jagged Krusty-O, don't come crying to us.