Today is Baby Nut’s birthday. It’s his 21st birthday, to be precise. It’s his 21st birthday even though he was ostensibly “born” on February 2 of this year, and even though he’s not a living, breathing creature at all. He’s the reincarnated baby peanut version of Mr. Peanut, the Planters spokespeanut who was killed off at the age of 104 as a Super Bowl stunt. It’s Baby Nut’s 21st birthday even though we’re all living through a global pandemic, and even though the world is slowly ending in a cloud of climate-destroying carbon dioxide, and even though, surely, we’ve all had enough?
Baby Nut, somehow, has continued to exist on the internet in spite of everything else that’s happened this year. For a while it seemed as though he’d gone quiet, especially after the roller coaster of his initial introduction. After Kobe Bryant’s death in late January, the proposed death of Mr. Peanut felt like a ridiculous marketing stunt, an advertising concept both unnecessary and in bad taste. But the brands have to march on. So Mr. Peanut died and then Baby Nut was born.
I was so sure — so hopeful! — that the Super Bowl commercial would be the end of it. Don’t we have enough to deal with? Doesn’t 2020 present enough challenges? Am I truly expected to handle a nightmarish baby peanut who pops into Twitter occasionally and whose entire purpose is to convince me to eat his brethren? For a while there, it really seemed like we might’ve escaped. Baby Nut laid low for several weeks. He sat out the entire month of March, returning in mid-April with a banal product-crossover tweet for the Planters snack Cheez Balls. But that Cheez Ball tweet was actually a test balloon, and over the last several months, Baby Nut has taken up the grand internet tradition of Tweeting Through It.
There’s been a global pandemic, but Baby Nut has tweeted through it. In May, the Mr. Peanut account posted a horrifying video of Baby Nut on a Zoom call with the Kool-Aid Man. #BasketballIsBack he tweeted cheerfully in July. There have been worldwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter, but Baby Nut has still been there on the Planters account, tweeting about the Baby Nut merch you can buy (like a bucket hat printed with little Baby Nuts). It’s absurd. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. If this year has shown us anything, it’s that capitalism has to keep growing even if everything else collapses. We can’t celebrate our own weddings and funerals in person, but brands can ask us to celebrate Baby Nut’s birthday. The world is safer for Baby Nut, anyhow: Based on the blurry background image, he gets to have his birthday party in a bar. Going to a bar could fatally sicken us mere mortals.
In truth, though, Baby Nut was built for this. From his earliest inception, Baby Nut was the child of turmoil, born into a moment that did not want him and forced to live out his entire life in an inhospitable world. Of course he’s still here, just muddling through like everyone else.
That’s not to say that I am excusing this at all. Just because you’ve come up with an elaborate marketing plan where you murder your brand’s ancient mascot and then create a sketchy and frankly ill-conceived mythology where you reincarnate him as a creepy-cute baby version of himself and then have him age at a superfast pace so you can presumably kill him once again for Super Bowl 2022 — none of that means that this had to play out like it did. Planters could’ve quietly walked away from Baby Nut. We all could’ve walked away and pretended this never happened.
But it did. And it’s still happening. And now it’s Baby Nut’s 21st birthday. He’s Peanut Jr. now. Like the rest of us, he will have to figure out how to do his best in the world, which presumably will include learning how to wear a mask even though he has no ears, adjusting to remote work culture, dealing with people who want to block him on his birthday, and trying to deprogram Kool-Aid man from QAnon conspiracy theories. Happy birthday, Peanut Jr., I guess. Many happy returns of the day.
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