Hostess Brands filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week, the second time in eight years that the maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread and a score of other sweet cakes and enriched breads has sought such protection.
Gut Check greeted the news with the expected smirk -- aren't Twinkies supposed to last forever? -- but then experienced a rare moment of self-reflection. Sure, we can (and do) mock Twinkies as an example of everything that is wrong with American eating habits, a Frankenstein of high fructose corn syrup and 36 other ingredients, but we also ate the hell out of some Twinkies back when we were in our food-critic training pants.
Won't the culture lose something if Hostess can't rescue itself again and Twinkies disappear? Aren't Twinkies, for all their culinary sins, a vital artifact of 20th-century America?
We thought this. And then we watched some vintage commercials for Twinkies and other Hostess products. Now we're just terrified.
For whatever reason, most of the Twinkies ads we found online are from the early 1970s. Was it the Golden Age of Twinkiedom? At any rate, this space-race gem is typical of both the production values and social mores of the time. Dig the casually sexist voiceover: Even space girls know how great Twinkies are!
This Twinkies ad features the terrifying Twinkie the Kid character. (More on him later.) This particular ad is more interesting for its suggestion that the cream-filled cakes offer certain... psychedelic...pleasures.
This ad for Ho Hos repeats the psychedelic theme of the previous example, but it's more memorable for the Georgia O'Keefe-esque imagery at the beginning of the commercial. In other words, it looks like a Ho Ho emerging from a hoo hah.
More psychedelics, courtesy of Ding Dongs:
OK, we're back to Twinkie the Kid. Here Twinkie takes a couple of kids to Twinkietown, a town made out of Twinkies, and gives the kids Twinkies to eat in front of him, which is just disturbing on so many levels. Is Twinkie the Kid the only sentient Twinkie? Is he lonely? What would happen if the kids tried to eat Twinkie the Kid? Would he let them? Why don't they just eat him?
Now let's hop in Gut Check's Wayback Machine to the 1950s and watch this clip from the Howdy Doody Show in which Buffalo Bob actually makes Twinkies. Amazingly, this is the same process that Hostess uses today.
Of course, no discussion of Twinkies and popular culture would be complete without this clip, perhaps the greatest moment for any snack cake in the history of world cinema: