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The Science Behind Why We Hate Baby Nut but Love Baby Yoda

We'd all take a bullet for Baby Yoda. But Baby Nut? Nah.
Pixabay / _freakwave_
After killing off its longtime mascot Mr. Peanut, Planters aired a Super Bowl commercial that unveiled the company's new mascot: a wide-eyed mini legume dubbed "Baby Nut." The little character's name and visual composure is a clear nod at Baby Yoda and a blatant publicity stunt seeking to ride the tiny jedi's coattails of cuteness.

Baby Nut Faces Backlash

Almost immediately, #BabyNut claimed a top-trending spot on Twitter - a supposed win for the Planters marketing team. But scrolling through the mentions, it's clear most reactions were largely negative.
Top-ranking tweets joked that any comparisons between Baby Nut and his predecessor, Baby Yoda, were laughable - even embarrassing. Others more gruesomely expressed wishes to grind Baby Nut's skull and "serve him on toast to Baby Yoda." The distaste for the tiny cartoon legume was palpable, even violent.
While there has been some disagreement from the other side, it's pretty clear that most of us hate Baby Nut. Meanwhile, we would all take a bullet for Baby Yoda, a goblin-esque green creature with alien eyes and oversized ears. And there's some solid science behind the reason why.

Baby Yoda's Features Appeal to Us Biologically

When Baby Yoda mania hit full swing, psychologists had plenty to say about the biological reasons why we find Baby Yoda so irresistibly cute. Among the most predictable insights, neuroscientists noted that his neonatal physical features (a large head, tiny nose, round face, and wide eyes) perfectly exaggerate the traits of a human baby. And as it turns out, those traits tap into a deep, evolutionary force in the human brain - an instinct we've developed to protect our young and ensure the survival of humanity.
Given that we're geared on an evolutionary level to find Baby Yoda absolutely adorable, it comes as no shock that many fans describe their love for the little green being as "almost painful," or "unbearable." Others have taken to the internet avowing to protect him at all costs.

Baby Nut's Cuteness is Too Formulaic

Like baby Yoda, Baby Nut's visual characteristics hits all of the boxes in the theoretical cuteness checklist: he is small and doe-eyed with tiny hands and a weirdly disproportionate body - all of which were clear and intentional design decisions made by the company's marketing team. So why wasn't he met with the same adoration?
The most apparent answer is that the childlike mascot's design follows the rules for cuteness a little too closely. His cuteness is calculated-formulaic, even.
The most palpable form of cuteness, the kind that makes us clench our jaws and swear to take bullets for a fictional being, is not driven purely by aesthetics. Instead, experts believe it’s born from a perceived innocence, purity, (and most importantly) helplessness.
What's unfortunate for Baby Nut and the marketing team that conceived him, is that Baby Nut's cuteness is clearly not the result of an inherent helplessness. Instead, he is a marketing tool-a brand mascot. He is cute for the sake of being cute, and as it turns out, that simply does not manipulate our instinctual brain functions in the same impactful way.

True Cuteness Embraces the Ugly

What Baby Nut is missing (and what Baby Yoda has) is a little dash of ugliness. At the end of the day, the most potent recipe for cuteness doesn't just check off all the boxes for aesthetic adorability - it also includes some small dose of the unattractive.
This is perfectly illustrated, for example, in the widespread popularity of smash-faced, stumpy dog breeds like the Pug and French Bulldog. It can also be seen in the love of hairless cats, baby elephants, newborn human babies, and the infamous blob fish.
Interestingly, this is exactly where the Planter's baby nut falls short. He's just a little too clean, a little too formulaic. And frankly, most people could care less about whether or not he’s crushed into peanut butter and served to Baby Yoda on a bite-sized cracker.