Nuggets of Wisdom

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Coo-Coo Cola Cult

Growing up in the 90s, I loved watching the Disney Afternoon cartoon block and its diverse lineup of hit shows such as TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. These shows were created in a time when many cartoon programs were breaking boundaries in an attempt to be more than simply “kid shows." Part of that included inserting a lot of satire about modern society and culture. Case in point: the Rescue Rangers episode, “The Case of the Cola Cult.”

In the episode, the group’s female inventor, Gadget, is feeling bad about herself after many of her inventions have backfired , and she worries that her friends no longer like her because of it. Her insecurity causes her to be swayed into joining a local cult, which—big surprise!—is actually a front created to scam people out of their money.

The most bizarre thing about the episode is how this “cult” was based on an in-world soft drink, Coo-Coo Cola—thus its name, the Cola Cult. The cult itself was actually inspired by a cola commercial which the cult members had interpreted literally as a message of harmony and belonging.

Come along, you belong
Feel the fizz of Coo Coo Cola
It's the cola for makin' you proud
Take another sip and be one of the crowd
Feel the fizz of Coo Coo Cola

Come along, you belong
Feel the fizz of Coo Coo Cola
Get to the store and take all you can carry
We got the flavors - orange, grape and cherry
You belong with Coo Coo Cola
Many fans (the Nostalgia Critic included) have taken this episode at face value as a warning about the dangers of joining a cult, in the most G-rated way possible. (Fortunately, the episode didn’t go too far as to have the cult members drink the Kool-Aid, or rather, the cola, in a mass suicide ritual!) However, if you look more closely at the subtext, the episode is a blatant parody of consumerism and it’s more cultish aspects.

Think about it: how many commercials have you watched in your life—heck, even within the past few weeks or days—telling you that you won’t feel complete unless you buy their product? Or straight out tell you that you should “join the crowd” and buy their product so you can “fit in”?

One way that marketing and advertising convinces potential consumers into purchasing their products is by instilling into them a need to follow the crowd. Want to fit in? Want to be like everyone else? Then buy our product! Come along. You belong!

The fact that a bunch of cartoon mice could center their whole religion on a commercial telling viewers that their soft drinks give people a sense of belonging really reveals the cultish, almost nefarious, power of mass consumerism.