Has there ever been a more quintessentially American tale than the rise and fall of Mr. Peanut?
Like so many titans of industry of the early 20th century, the monocled legume had humble beginnings. He was first introduced as the face of Planters Snacks in 1916, when a young boy named Antonio Gentile submitted his depiction of Mr. Peanut to a contest the company was holding. Then and there, an icon was born. A hardworking capitalist with dreams of the big time and all the glittery, mist-obscured promises of wealth, Mr. Peanut set out to hold Lady Liberty to her promises of salvation. It was his big break.
Soon, thanks to a single-mindedness that his colleagues admired and his competitors feared, Mr. Peanut's star continued to rise. He first appeared on a Times Square billboard in 1937, and his first commercial aired on television in the 1950s, leading to even more brand recognition that made him a star attraction at the New York World's Fair in 1961. Shortly after, Mr. Peanut transformed into the animated creature you know today, even earning himself a place on the Madison Ave Advertising Walk of Fame in 2004. But even the mighty fall.
Today, January 22 2020, at 104 years old, Mr. Peanut's story has come to a close.
The pants-less, monocled creature was pronounced dead by his official Twitter account at 11 AM EST. "It's with heavy hearts that we confirm Mr. Peanut has passed away at 104 years old," Samantha Hess, Planters Brand Manager at Kraft Heinz, said in a statement. "He will be remembered as the legume who always brought people together for nutty adventures and a good time. We encourage fans to tune in to Mr. Peanut's funeral during the third quarter of the Super Bowl to celebrate his life."
His story is, at first glance, an American success story. He began as a humble nut, but by putting on the airs of the upper class (namely: a monocle, cane, and top hat) he soon pulled himself out of poverty and into the upper-echelon of society. His image became synonymous with a snack food empire; but more than that, his image became symbolic of an American dream just out of reach. It was with a perfectly pressed blazer and a knowing smirk that he offered Americans promises of a better tomorrow in the form of bowls of roasted nuts. In the wake of his death, it's beginning to come to light that Mr. Peanut's public image differed wildly from the darkness of his personal life. Was this great American really who he seemed to be?
Much like the rugged individualism this country was founded on, Mr. Peanut had a ruthless side. He was often seen munching on smaller versions of himself. It was never quite clear if the nuts he was selling possessed faces and autonomy like his own. Did they feel pain? Did they scream? Did Mr. Peanut lure them into compliance by claiming to be one of them, only to betray and cannibalize them as soon as the cameras turned on? Did Mr. Peanut come from a race of humanoid-nut beings? Are the snack nuts he sold the cast-off fetuses of this society? Was Mr. Peanut commodifying and cannibalizing the lowliest members of his own race? How did we overlook this for so long? If we took Mr. Peanut's humanness as a given, how were we so comfortable dehumanizing and ostensibly murdering others like him? How could he tell us it was okay?
But, as there so often is, there is even more to his story. Many speculate that Mr. Peanut's dark side was fueled in part by repressed homosexuality. Considering that he was born in 1917, an era in which homosexuality was still seen as taboo, even evil, it's no wonder that his coming out story is as shrouded in shadows as his life.
In a 2010 commercial, we see a new side of Mr. Peanut.
There is no use beating around the bush: It is heavily implied that Mr. Peanut had sex with a male-presenting nutcracker. "Hey, sorry about last week. I don't know what got into me," the nutcracker says. Mr. Peanut replies, "Yeah, well, forgive and forget, kind of," he says, revealing that his shell is cracked. He then, rather brazenly, stuffs a ball gag in the nutcracker's mouth, and a mole says, "Do you like nuts?"
While Planters' reps denied the allegations that Mr. Peanut was a kinky, gay, legume with BDSM tendencies, rumors continued to circulate. It seemed nothing could revive his hyper-masculine, "guys guy" image, not even when a fleet of "Nut Mobiles" took to the streets in 2015.
It seems that, in 2020, perhaps tired of living a lie, Mr. Peanut took to the road with two of his interspecies lovers: a peanut-human tryst that ended in heartbreak, as made obvious by the following footage:
It seems that, at last recognizing his legacy of deception and resource-hoarding, perhaps finally looking the dark and empty void of the American dream in the face, Mr. Peanut gave up. He fell.
He left his two lovers dangling from the cliff side, screaming his name.
Here was a nut who rose to the top: a legume who achieved success, made billions, and ultimately gained everything that capitalism promises us will finally make us happy. But still. He fell.
One likes to imagine that as Mr. Peanut plummeted to his death, he was at least—at last—happy. No longer were the yokes of societal expectations weighing heavily on his shoulders. The virus of consumerism that made him who he was, a commodity to be sold along with his products, fled his body as the ground rose up to meet him. Perhaps he repented for his sins. Perhaps he cursed his creator, Antonio Gentile, for creating a monster and setting it loose on the world. Perhaps he even murmured the words of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster: "'Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.'"
Perhaps it was with a sigh of relief that Mr. Peanut, at last, was cracked open by gravity and a cruel, cold world.