Forget about basketball; early spring is Marshmallow Madness time.
February’s chocolate hearts were remaindered weeks ago, and summer sun block lies in wait. For now, the seasonal aisles of drug stores and supermarkets are stocked with the brightly-hued marshmallow chicks and bunnies of Easter.
More than a billion Peeps will be sold this year. While most will end up in the green excelsior grass of Easter baskets, a third of them are destined for bigger things.
Peeps have become icons of American pop culture. People don’t just eat Peeps; they photograph them, write songs about them, pen odes to them, and make crafts with them. There are online collections of Peeps artwork, recipes, and haiku (Wet rainy spring days with moist cold air, my breath cries: Will you never stale?). There are film parodies from the Tolkien-inspired Lord of the Peeps to marshmallow-soft porn dedicated to the hottest chicks on the web.
There’s an entire subculture of Peeps fetishists that is fascinated by their unique ability to withstand factors that would be the ruin of lesser candies. While countless amateurs toss Peeps into microwaves, PeepResearch.org has elevated the level of scientific inquiry through extensive laboratory studies documented with dry, clinical detachment.
The Peeps phenomenon has been fueled by high profile cultural events. For years National Geographic sponsored an annual Peeps in Places competition inviting readers to submit photographs of Peeps in far-flung locations. Over the years it brought classic entrants like the one-eared bunny at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and soul-singing chicks at Detroit’s Motown Museum. And every spring the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers around the country sponsor Peeps diorama contests. You can read each year’s entries like a cultural barometer, which meant that 2011 saw plenty of marshmallow Justin Biebers and Charlie Sheens (Two and a Half Peeps), and this year was all about the OccuPeeps Movement.
What is it about Peeps that inspires such passion?
We anthropomorphize these winsome critters in ways that are surreal and slightly unsettling, and all they do is peer at us through blank, sugar-blackened eyes, giving back little more than a sugar rush.
I can’t tell you what it is about Peeps, but I do know that nobody ever built a scale model White House for a Cadbury Creme Egg to live in.