There was a trend that ran from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s that thankfully faded into distant memory; the infantilization of classic characters. From “The Flintstone Kids” to “Baby Looney Tunes,” it seemed for a while like making classic characters into toddlers was the best new marketing scheme. Fortunately, this trend eventually met a bitter end, but in recent years it seems its corpse has been dug up for some nefarious purpose.
I don’t know what James Gunn and Dan Adnett were thinking when they added Baby Groot into the script for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2,” but it started a cataclysm that left this poor world with Planter’s “Baby Nut.” To say Baby Groot was popular would be an understatement; he became the face that launched a thousand products from plushies to memes to mac and cheese. I think it’s safe to say that Baby Groot merchandise racked in thousands of dollars in profits in the years following his debut. Like everyone else, I too was infatuated by his cute face and giant eyes, but little did I know what the future had in store for me.
Baby Groot’s empire was unceremoniously ripped away when Disney last year released its new infant superstar Baby Yoda. Technically speaking, Baby Yoda is not actually a younger version of the Jedi Master, but accomplishes the same effect as any baby character. Now Baby Yoda was not entirely a marketing ploy; the infant was left out of most trailers, and merchandise was not released until after “The Mandalorian” premiered.
Nonetheless, Baby Yoda was instantly loved and given the Baby Groot treatment of a plethora of memes and merchandise. However, unlike Groot, Baby Yoda just wouldn’t go away and eventually just got annoying. I’ve drawn a lot of ire from people, including my mother, for my very vocal hatred of seeing the character everywhere I look, plastered on every door in my dorm hall. Despite however jaded I may be, it is undeniable that “baby” characters have commercial appeal; or at least they did until Planter’s decided to co-opt the trend into their marketing.
I wish I could travel back to last week when I didn’t share the planet with Planter’s new Super Bowl ad: “Baby Nut.” The name alone makes me wonder what boardroom of crusty, out-of-touch, old men decided this was an ok thing to do. On paper, Baby Nut has big eyes, a cute face, and clothing a tad too big for him, but his existence is just dirty. He is the most blatant idea of a corporation trying desperately to cash in on a passing fad in recent memory.
My roommate pointed out how the original Mr. Peanut was the stereotypical image of an evil capitalist, with his monocle, top hat, and rotund shape. I think that to dramatically kill a company mascot and revive him in a commercially popular new form via a Super Bowl ad is one of the most disgustingly capitalistic moves that could ever be done. I hate Baby Nut and everything it represents, and I hope that this marks the end of this horrible new baby trend. If Planter’s new marketing ploy is well received then I dread the idea of other major companies following suit; imagine Mr. Clean Jr. or The Kool-Aid Kid.