February 5, 2020
Rev. Estelle Margarones
Like many New Englanders, I sat down to watch the Super Bowl this year more enthused about the snacks and the commercials than the game itself. The buffet was great, the game was good, and the commercials, well...read on.
I'm still unsettled by one particular campaign. On January 22, I learned that Planters' fictional mascot had died. The TV spot that coincided with the Twitter announcement depicted a car accident in which the nutmobile swerves to avoid something and goes off a cliff. Two actors and Mr. Peanut hang perilously on a branch that starts to snap under their weight. Mr. Peanut selflessly lets go and plunges into the ravine. Moments later, nutmobile explodes.
The manner in which humans respond to a fictional character's death is apparently a social media phenomenon, and that's what parent company Kraft Heniz counted on. Wesley Snipes used his Twitter account to thank Mr. Peanut for saving his life...and those sponsored posts were showing up in others' feeds. Planters changed their Twitter handle from “@Mr. Peanut” to “@The Estate of Mr. Peanut”.
I confess that I had no emotional attachment to the peanut man. In fact, prior to this, if you'd asked me to name a peanut character, I would have said the Yellow M&M. Despite the lack of connection, much about this campaign has rubbed me the wrong way.
Planters undermined my trust. They blurred fiction and reality. They retraumatized people who had been in car accidents. They poured salt in the wounds of those grieving the loss of loved ones. They lied about something as serious as death. Perhaps most egregious in my opinion, they used Biblical concepts to manipulate consumers. I also found it uncomfortable to see stories about the demise of a cartoon character even as the country mourned the tragic helicopter crash that took nine lives on January 26.
During the Super Bowl, we saw the sequel spot and got a lackluster 'surprise'. Another Kraft Heinz brand character (Kool Aid) cries a tear that waters the earth causing a new plant to grow. Thus, we're introduced to 'Baby Nut' who says, “Just kidding. I'm back.”
I'm bothered that Planters appropriated the concepts of sacrifice and resurrection to sell product. However, I choose to find the positive. In a nutshell, we have an opportunity!
Jesus often used examples that his listeners readily understood in order to introduce new concepts. (Think of his calling his first disciples to leave their fishing nets and join him to 'fish for people'.)
We could use this campaign as a springboard to talk about the Bible and Christianity. I suspect that we all have people in our circles who don't know the Gospel of John, who don't know that God gives people new names, and who don't know about life after death.
Gospel of John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Book of Revelation 1:17-18 “...I died and behold I am alive...”
Book of Genesis 17:5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but you shall be called Abraham for I shall make you the father of nations.”
Genesis 35:10 And God said, “Your name is Jacob. You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.”
Gospel of Matthew 16:17-18 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church...”
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.