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If Twinkie dies, we killed it

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 3:03 PM EST, Tue November 20, 2012
 The Twinkie has been around for 82 years. Reports of its possible death spawned countless eulogies.
The Twinkie has been around for 82 years. Reports of its possible death spawned countless eulogies.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Hostess might shut down and prove Twinkies aren't really indestructible
  • The chemical-stuffed snack inspires nostalgia, he says, but who eats them now?
  • Obeidallah: We rejected junk food and stopped buying Twinkies, Ding Dongs
  • Still, the Twinkie will live on in pop culture and had a good 82-year run, he writes

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- Shall I compare thee, Twinkie, to a sunny day? Thou art more lovely and flavorful than a Ring Ding or a Devil Dog.

No, actually this article will not be a Shakespearean-inspired sonnet to a Twinkie. In fact, to paraphrase a more appropriate Shakespearean passage: "I come to bury Twinkie, not to praise it."

On Friday, Twinkie producer Hostess Brands Inc. announced it would be closing down, thus ending its product line. The response to this snack apocalypse was swift.

Facebook and Twitter were filled with comments bemoaning the loss of this creme-filled sponge cake. Eulogies appeared in publications across the country.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

People began to hoard Twinkies, leaving store shelves once lined with Twinkies bare. And with the supply in stores dwindling, some took to eBay to purchase them. (As if there weren't hundreds of other high-calorie, chemically colored, obese-inducing snack cakes you could consume.)

There appears to be no end to the mass mourning for this snack cake so closely associated with our childhoods. It was as if the loss of Twinkies was somehow going to erase our fondest childhood memories.

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But here's my question: Where were you when Hostess needed you? Such as any day before they announced its closing. Before Friday, you could have easily bought Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Yodels, Sno Balls, Suzy Q's or any other Hostess treat.

But you weren't there for them then. The company's sales dropped, and with rising costs, Hostess had to file for bankruptcy. Not once, but twice: In 2004 and again in 2012. Hostess has lost $250 million over the last three years and is saddled with more than $850 million in debt.

Nope, you weren't there for them then. And neither was I. Why? Because millions of us began to realize that junk food was not good for us. So in a desperate effort to live forever -- or at least a little longer -- many of us began to cut Twinkies, and foods like it, out of our diets.

Don't worry, Twinkies will live on
Uncertain future for Twinkies
Twinkie's history as a pop culture icon

True, Twinkies offered a tasty treat, but it also offered other things, such as 300 calories per package of two, nine grams of fat and 37 other ingredients ranging from high fructose corn syrup to chemicals that I never heard of. And then there's the even more insidious Ding Dong -- they're even higher in fat and calories than Twinkies at 368 calories a serving and a whopping 19.4 grams of fat, which represents 30% of the total fat nutritionists recommend we consume in a day.

The upside to these chemicals is that Twinkies never seem to grow old -- they're the Dorian Gray of snack foods. They can likely be bequeathed to your grandkids and look the same as the day you bought them.

But before anyone becomes truly depressed over Twinkies' fate, keep in mind that Twinkies will never really disappear -- and not just because of preservatives. On Monday, Hostess Brands Inc. announced it will enter into mediation with the striking Baker's Union, which offers a little hope that the company might be saved. And there is always a chance that another company will buy the rights to produce Twinkies if Hostess does indeed close. But even if you are never be able to consume a Twinkie again, Twinkies will live forever in pop culture. Twinkies have appeared in movies for years from "Ghostbusters" to animated films such as "WALL-E" to "Zoombieland," where Woody Harrelson's character searched, prophetically, for the last box of Twinkies.

iReport: Is this my last Twinkie ever?

While you may not be able to consume them, Twinkies will live forever in pop culture. Twinkies have appeared in movies for years from "Ghostbusters" to animated films such as "WALL-E" to "Zoombieland," where Woody Harrelson's character searched, prophetically, for the last box of Twinkies.

Twinkies will even live in the annals of criminal justice, thanks to the famed "Twinkie defense." Dan White shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor and gay activist Harvey Milk in 1978. At White's trial, his attorneys argued that his diet of sugary snack foods, such as Twinkies, had damaged his mental capacity. White was found not guilty of murder, but of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

So Twinkies are immortal. But there is one real loss in the closing of Hostess that should evoke sympathy. It's not the possible end of Hostess' Ho Hos or even its oh-so-soft and white Wonder Bread. It's the 18,500 Hostess employees who are out of work. It's obviously never good to have your job end with no warning -- it's even worse when that happens in a challenging economy such as ours and right before the holiday season.

But as we close the book on Twinkies, we can all take some solace in the fact that they had a great 82-year run. It makes me think of the words of Shakespeare: "Parting is such sweet sorrow." Although on a calorie-by-calorie basis, I think Twinkies might actually be sweeter.

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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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