“I prefer the mystic clouds of nostalgia to the real thing to be honest.” ~Musician, Robert Wyatt
“Pop, pop, fizz, fizz,…oh what a relief it is.” Remember Speedy the little Alka Selzer guy? He disappeared in 1964, but apparently is slated for a comeback. I never needed his particular headache-stomach remedy until I hit university, and needed a little pop, pop, fizz, fizz to recover from all that studying. I guess by that time Speedy was no longer around. But he is a fond reminder of something familiar from the past, or as the keeper of the Ad Icon Museum said in a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, he is an example of the “narcotic of nostalgia”.
What else is in his Ad Icon Museum that makes us wistful for the past? Captain Crunch, Tony the Tiger, Charlie the Tuna, Mr. Peanuts, the Green Giant, the Hawiaan Punch guys, the M & M guys, Toucan Sam, Snap, Crackle and Pop, the Quaker Oats fellow, the Michelin Man, and my favourite of all, Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughguy.
A number of these characters have never really left the scene— but they have undergone a little ad agency surgery. Others, such as Speedy are being resurrected. Snap, Crackle and Pop have new outfits and hair, and Tony the Tiger now has the body of a fitness instructor, but he still growls: “They’re GRRRE—ATe!” The Quaker Oats icon is now just a head shot, where once a whole Quaker fellow graced the front of the cylindrical cereal container. He is now 134 years old, but his wrinkles have been erased—ad agency Botox I guess. The Jolly Green Giant looks like he is on steroids, and the Michelin Man hasn’t lost any weight over his 113 years
The M & M guys are back with attitude, and Mr. Peanut with the voice of Robert Downey Jr. is still jaunty, but now he rides a bike instead of just leaning on his cane. I don’t know if Toucan Sam is still around as I do not watch much kid TV anymore now that my kids are no longer little. I do not miss the Hawaiian Punch guys, and I must admit that I never understood why Charlie the Tuna always wanted to be caught. Didn’t he know he would have to die in order to be chunked or flaked? (That is what comes of trying to make sense out of things that are not meant to make sense.)
Today insurance companies like to use talking Geckos, and quacking ducks to lighten up what they have to offer. I do kind of like that little Gecko but the Budweiser frogs are a personal favourite of mine. The King of all ad icons though is Poppin’ Fresh. He is the inspiration for most of my baking, and with his help I reach culinary heights hard to scale with my few “from scratch” recipes (as long as I can remember to set my timer). My second favourite “icon” is somewhat unlikely. It is Captain Crunch. Every day of the school year when I was a senior at high school I had Captain Crunch cereal for breakfast—and whether it be the fact that by that time I was more mature, or there was magic in those sweet crunchy pillows, it was my best year ever in terms of grades. I, for one, am not going to question the mystery—but maybe I should pick up a box today. I would not mind amping up my brain power again.
I wish I had come up with the phrase “narcotic of nostalgia” because it certainly does describe our fondness for the comfort of things that are, or were familiar. The Encarta Dictionary defines nostalgia as a sentimental recollection, a mixed feeling of happiness, sadness, and longing when recalling a person, place or event from the past. Generally when I am nostalgic it is in fond remembrance, not sadness. I do not want to return to the past, but I do like to recall it with my rose coloured glasses firmly perched on my nose.