Associate Opinion Editor
Creating a resonating character is hard, as they must appeal to vast audiences while also being unique. In addition, the iconic characters will likely utilize a memorable catchphrase, especially when associated with the marketing of a product. In fact, I bet many of you have more experience saying “They’re Great” akin to Tony the Tiger than actually consuming frosted flakes.
Yet as of late, rather than companies creating unique and creative mascots for their product, they take a much more vapid approach: the “baby” archetype. Admittedly, this isn’t exactly a new trend, such as turning classic cartoons into baby characters in the late 1900s. With this, however, these characters have experienced newfound popularity, mainly starting with the internet phenomena, “Baby Yoda.”
I initially overlooked the hype behind the reimagining of the classic Star Wars character, believing I simply didn’t understand whatever made him popular. What I will not ignore, however, is the most recent baby-fixation on of a staple character: the change from Mr. Nut to the bizarre Baby Nut.
The Baby Nut situation becomes even more perplexing when reviewing some of Planters’, the nut and snack company, recent marketing. For those with infrequent social media use, Planters recently announced the legitimate death of their staple mascot, Mr. Peanut. While this is confusing enough, the 2020 Super Bowl aired a commercial where Mr. Peanut was reborn into an infantile state. In other words, after two weeks of divided reactions of the public, Planters’ then paid approximately five and a half million to conclude with an even stranger twist.
First off, what demographic loves babies enough for this trend to be popular? I’m aware, as humans, we appreciate our own children due to biological releases of dopamine. Yet, this mainly occurs in parents, such as with mothers believing their considered “ugly” child to be beautiful. But non-human children, let alone non-nuclear offspring? As an individual without children, these baby characters are rather off-putting.
Infant characters are often bland in personality, especially compared to potential adult counterparts. In fairness, real babies are undeveloped because of their lack of experience, along with the inability to communicate or move dynamically. This, unfortunately, carries over into imaginary worlds, as even the “Baby Yoda” is a blank slate compared to the intricate and wise Yoda of the “Star Wars” franchise. In addition, in many stories, the baby character turns into a plot device, usually only there for the protagonist to rescue.
The worst aspect of this archetype, besides formulaic creation, is these characters often uphold the stereotypical crying and messes of themselves. While I, of course, understand why parents can’t always hire a sitter, the last thing I want is for a screaming child to ruin my experiences out in public. Why would I then wish to experience virtual versions of this torment, such as a TV show with a baby as a stagnant character?
All in all, it always seems the usage of baby characters acts as a marketing or reaction-pulling method, rather than coming from creative intents. With how storytelling media is constantly evolving, I admire those who take risks by creating original characters and stories. However, despite the baby trope’s current popularity, I see no longevity for any of these recent creations after the fad burns out. But who knows? Maybe Baby Nut will increase peanut sales in the near future.