Mikey Life Cereal Urban Legend


“So, in the 70s and 80s, one of the more popular television commercials I remember was for Life Cereal. And there was a little kid in it, and basically it was like he hated everything, and then they gave him this bowl of Life Cereal and he started to eat it and it was like ‘Mikey won’t like it, he like- he hates everything!’ And then it’s like ‘Oh Mikey! He likes it!’

…I don’t know how this started, but there was some urban legend that started to go around that Mikey had died. And he died because he ate Pop Rocks and then drank a can of Coca Cola. And apparently either exploded his insides or something like that and he had died.”


J, my mother, currently lives in Seattle, Washington in the United States, but grew up in various towns in Ontario, Canada. She recalls that she first heard this legend from her friends on the playground when she was relatively young. J gave the additional context that this Life Cereal commercial would air often during Saturday morning cartoons, which meant that “all the kids knew who Mikey was.” As a result of the legend, she and the other kids on the playground would dare each other to eat Pop Rocks and drink Coca Cola, to objections of “‘No, Mikey died from that!’” She concluded telling me the legend with the following:

“I do believe it was eventually dispelled, I don’t think Mikey was dead? Um, [laughs] but actually to this day I don’t even really know! All I know is that drinking Coke and eating Pop Rocks is apparently really bad for you, can kill you.” 


J’s recollections indicate that this urban legend was primarily a piece of children’s folklore. Drawing from Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: an Introduction chapter author Jay Mechling, this legend seems to be an example of children experimenting with disorder and parody. By taking a benign commercial featuring a child eating cereal and twisting it into a gruesome urban legend, my mother and her peers were able to discuss the concept of death and dangerous/unhealthy foods in a way that exaggerates, mocks, and inverts adult ways of perceiving these topics. That this legend also sparked a form of play (daring each other to eat Pop Rocks and drink Coca Cola) further allowed them to explore a sense of danger in the safe proximity of adults. This legend could also be another example of how Mechling discussed commercial foods being a particular target for ‘antithetical’ children’s folklore as a representation of underlying fears about bodily safety and changes.