Twinkie Dies in the Wreck of Innocence

This culture saw industry as a key to a brighter future. Man-made products were better than natural products. The Twinkie fit in perfectly, it's alien shape and mysterious ingredients only making it that much more attractive.

Hostess brilliantly saw how to feed our adoration of this man-made future, advertising its Twinkies in the pages of serial superhero comic books like the Fantastic Four , Green Lantern and The Flash . (You can see a small collection of these ads at geekosystem.com .)

But since then, the tide has turned against the Twinkie. The rise of the environmental movement in the 1960s made us begin to question how products are made, where the materials come from.

That process of questioning has not abated in the last 50 years. If anything, it has escalated. The 2004 film Super Size Me is only the latest, most public display of this growing cultural suspicion of mass production -- a suspicion that has successfully pressured the film's target, stalwart American junk food icon McDonald's (MCD) , to be more upfront about the contents of its goods, as reported in 2004 by MSNBC.

In short, the Twinkie was representative of our faith in industry, our trust in the assembly line and in the promise of the artificial. Eating Twinkies was like eating the host at Catholic mass: a sign of belief, of giving ourselves to the system that supported us, protected us, a sign of our yearning to become one with the creator.

The environmental movement brought our age of industrialization innocence to an end and marked the beginning of the end for products like the Twinkie.

Remember how the Twinkie was used in the 2008 Pixar classic Wall-E? In a future Earth transformed into a garbage dump by human excess and abandoned by humans, the adorable robot totters around utterly alone except for one other: a pet cockroach. A routine, massive duststorm sweeps in over the ruined city, forcing the pair to seek shelter. Once inside, Wall-E breaks open a Twinkie package to serve as a playground for the little guy, who dives into the artificially colored, corn syrup-sweetened, vegetable and/or animal fat shortening center with expectant glee.

Not your great-granddad's Twinkie. But they do stay fresh forever, don't they?

My guess is that the Hostess executive team's reluctance to sacrifice their profits on behalf of their employees has a lot to do with this cultural transformation. They see the writing on the wall and they don't think they can sustain Hostess as we know it into the future we are building for our children.

What the employees want doesn't really matter now because no bargain can save the company with its current management. It will have to change with the times.