I'm looking at a bag of Cheetos right now and I'm wondering to myself if we've really come to this. "Dangerously Cheesy" it says on the bag. There's a curious quest in America for more. Cheetos have always been caked in that powdery orange cheese concentrate and for my money, they've never needed more of it. My fingers got adequately covered in powdery cheese and salt when I was a kid; there's no need for the folks at Frito-Lay to come up with a way to add MORE of that stuff. But in the American marketplace (moreso than in other places, it seems) a product has to continually evolve and it has to offer bigger and better experiences and more and more of them to the consumer for people to be satisfied. At least, that's what Frito-Lay would have you believe.


In truth, people are proabably just as happy with Cheetos now as they ever were. It's really not a viable regular foodstuff for anyone over the age of 25, so aside from those of us who crave a salty, nostalgic snack now and then, it's really a product for kids, teens, college students, and computer programmers who subsist off of vending machines. The problem is that Frito-Lay, and any good company trying to earn money for investors, cannot be happy selling to the same tide of kids and teens every year. If they can't sell MORE Cheetos in a year, then they have to find a way to sell them or make them more cheaply, to keep the profit line going up. There's nothing wrong with that business plan if that's the way you want to work it, but consider the consequences...


In an effort to make Cheetos more appealing, to grab more market share, and to keep the profits rising, the people who make Cheetos have to get pushy. It wasn't enough for Cheetos to be "Cheesier" as they were some years ago. It wasn't enough to offer "20% more per bag" as I seem to remember. "Xtreme Cheese" could only work for so long because the whole "Xtreme" thing started to wear off on the kids who grew up with it and the new generation want something post-xtreme to call their own. So we're left with "Dangerously Cheesy" Cheetos, a marketing claim that is not only blatantly false, but also one that does a disservice to the language. I'm not here to suggest that the word "dangerous" will forever be tainted in the lexicon because Cheetos appropriated it to describe the copious amounts of preserved, dried cheese flavor blasted onto their corn chips. But don't you see where we've at least started on that path? I watched 4 people chain smoke out of Camel packs that said "SMOKING KILLS" on them in letters bigger than the Camel logo for a week--the efficacy of the warning was obviously lost. What does a label like "Dangerously Cheesy" say to a six year old chowing down on some snacks? The snacks OBVIOUSLY aren't dangerous unless you eat several pounds of them per day, so to someone just becoming familiar with the world of product labels, marketing, language, and reading, doesn't this send a confusing message? Aren't pre-teens kind of oblivious to the kind of post-modern irony that makes someone call their own product "Dangerous"? Are we really going to be raising a new generation of kids who don't believe anything, are cynical and suspicious of everything, and thus just take every warning and every notice with a grain of salt? Where do you go from "Dangerous" Cheetos? "Murderously Cheesy?" "Bloodsplatteringly Cheesy"? "This bag of Cheetos will rip off your head and shit down your neck!" Sure, it's a little silly, but I just don't see a way to curtail it.