Lileks: Jolly Green Giant is best as an intimidator

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 22, 2012 - 6:07 PM
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Green Giant is a brand of frozen and canned vegetables owned by General Mills. The mascot of Green Giant is the Jolly Green Giant.

The Jolly Green Giant is back with a goofy, endearing grin. The Minnesota icon is encouraging kids to eat their vegetables, because they're delicious! Right? That's why they need expensive promotional campaigns.

Won't work. I suggest threats.

Really, you have a Giant here. Strip away the Jolly stuff and bring on an enormous, scowling Leviathan who glares from the TV tube: "I know where you live and will stomp your house flat if you don't eat some beans." OK, corn. We'll compromise on corn.

Kids will ask a parent: Does the Giant really know where we live? Yes. Santa told him. Well, he bought his mailing list. I thought there were consumer protection laws about that, Dad! They do not apply to creatures made of plant matter.

When I was small I was terrified of the JGG. He was always standing in the distance, hands on hips as if reveling in his conquest of the Valley. Ho-Ho-Ho, for all we know, was Green Giant language for "and now the sacrifices shall begin."

Perhaps they realized this and brought out Sprout, a pint-sized sidekick who would act as an intermediary between kids and the Giant, softening his heart, staying his angry hand. But we never bought it. We knew whose side Sprout was on.

With the Giant's overhaul, you realize it's been a while since we came up with a memorable mascot. The Doughboy, of course, is the famous self-aware pastry-being we all love because he giggles when poked. (Screams when you use a toothpick, though.)

Paul Bunyan used to shill for flour, but he's retired. The Happy Chef statues that dotted Minnesota roads are all gone, except for one down in Austin, and he grows more insane with every repainting.

The Giant is the best, though, a true Minnesota original. You can't be a Minnesotan without a pilgrimage to his colossal statue in Blue Earth.

But consider: If some bad bug wiped out humanity tomorrow, an alien who visited the planet a hundred years hence would conclude he'd been built by Iowans to prevent military invasion by Minnesotans. Proceed no farther! he seems to say.

And if the alien deciphered our records?

They'd find out it worked.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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