By RJ White

Ah, yes Easter. Spring, baskets, egg hunts, the family over for ham, a nice, gentle holiday filled with harmless icons, right?


You'll notice that I didn't include one major image that symbolizes Easter for many.


Oh, yeah. The cross. I just forgot that.

Okay, okay, Christ on the cross. I was going to put that up there, but that's not what I'm getting at. Just let me continue, will you? Sheesh.

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah- Let's look at what is probably the most prevalent mascot for this delightful, pastel-toned Sunday in April-

The Easter Bunny.

Just harmless little old Peter Cottontail, right? A symbol of cuteness and innocous happiness? Or, rather, the figurehead of an insidious marketing plan by one of the world's largest and most devious industries?

Prior to the mid 1950's, aside from greeting cards, stories, popular songs and children's toys, the Easter Bunny was virtually unheard of by the general public. That was all about to change.

The candy industry was in a record slump. The popularity of television had eaten into their sales, and they had no idea how to turn the tide. They needed something to combat this new invention, or else the production of would end forever. There had to be a hook, something to get the kids "turned on" to their product. For, if Big Candy could get new users early, they'd have them for life.

Harmless furry mascot? Or insidious corporate shill? You be the judge.

The usual tactics weren't working- including baseball statistic cards with gum, producing multi-colored "lollipops" to appeal to simple-minded children, gum which could be inflated without the use of air tanks, etc. Sales continued to plummet.

Then, when things appeared darkest, in February of 1954, a young executive with the Metzger Confectionary Product Company of Woechester, Mass. hit upon an idea that would creep its way into the minds of children for decades to come. Instead of eggs, why couldn't this "The Son Of the Creator Raising From The Grave Anthropormorphic Rabbit" (as it was known then) be renamed? Something catchy- "The Easter Bunny," perhaps. And maybe, just maybe, instead of eggs in that basket, why not candy?

The heads of the candy syndicates were ecstatic. They were sure that this concept, this icon of a big friendly bunny bringing candy -their precious candy- to millions of children, would be the savior for their industry. Millions were poured into an adveritsing and promotional blitz. Powerful industry lobbyists convinced Congress and the Catholic Church to make Easter a holiday. Ads were run around the clock on television, whose programming day usually ended at 8 pm, allowing for nothing but candy/Easter Bunny propaganda for twelve hours a day. Men in Bunny suits were dispatched to department stores to occupy the seat where Santa had held court only months before. In a bit of a marketing coup, the Great Gildersleeve even mentioned this "Easter Bunny" on his radio program in the weeks before Easter.

It paid off. Sales of candy that Easter quintupled even the most optimistic expectations that the Big Candy executives had made. The industry was saved. But, more importantly, a powerful industry had created a powerful icon, a juggernaut. A great big furry stooge that could be used at their whim.

Everyone wanted in- the American Dental Association, lobbyists for diabetes drug manufacturers, the celophane industry- you name it. The candy companies welcomed them with open arms. Everyone shared in the big candy money pot. Money that funded weapons to Iraq, two Pat Buchanan bids for the presidency, the asassinations of countless Central American dictators and god knows what else. Money that comes from millions upon millions of people who buy candy each and every year. The evil has only come to light in the last year, with states such as Florida and Montana filing lawsuits against the candy companies on behalf of residents who have lived with decades of tooth decay.

So, this year, before you pick up your Easter Bunny greeting cards, your Easter Bunny pictures to hang around the house, the Easter Bunny dolls for the kids, the "basket" and the candy to fill it- remember what that smiling, flop-eared guy represents. The evil behind those cute, cute bunny eyes.