Hence the strong attraction which magic and science alike have exercised on the human mind; hence the powerful stimulus that both have given to the pursuit of knowledge. They lure the weary enquirer, the footsore seeker, on through the wilderness of disappointment in the present by their endless promises of the future: they take him up to the top of an exceeding high mountain and show him, beyond the dark clouds and rolling mists at his feet, a vision of the celestial city, far off, it may be, but radiant with unearthly splendour, bathed in the light of dreams. ―James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Volume 1
The voice actor Arthur Anderson has died at the age of ninety-three. Although he enjoyed a long and varied career as a working actor, the Staten Island–born Anderson was probably best known for voicing Lucky, the perennially bereft Lucky Charms leprechaun. He said in a 2005 interview, “It was a fun character to play. Hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn’t ask me to sing the Lucky Charms jingle, and I’m proud of that.”
But … but … why? How? What kind of a psychopath approaches a stranger on the street and demands he scream, “They’re always after me Lucky Charms!” or, “Frosted Lucky Charms—they’re magically delicious”? Furthermore, we should assume that not everyone knew what the guy looked like in real life—so what are the odds of their approaching the actor who voiced the leprechaun? With all due respect, I imagine Mr. Anderson must have been fairly free and easy with the information—and why not? (That said, I have firsthand seen people make this demand of Irish people, with even less justification.)
It’s always seemed like anonymity was one of the great perks of voice work. Not least because, with the notable exception of Brian Lehrer, people almost never look the way they sound, and that kind of magic is important to the world’s functioning. But then, it would be natural to want credit for creating a pop-cultural icon, too.
I didn’t realize, until watching a spate of vintage cereal commercials, how strange the original premise was: the kids quite literally mug the leprechaun. Their entitlement is remarkable, their privilege shocking. Leaving aside the embattled history of the Irish in America, the pro-theft messaging is highly problematic. Now, if you choose to see Lucky instead as a demonic figure—and feel that, indeed, the struggle for Lucky Charms is one of good and evil—it’s a more complicated proposition altogether.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.