Last September, on the day that Burt Reynolds died, a lot of people chose to commemorate the 82-year-old actor by logging into their Facebook accounts to post his famous Cosmopolitan centerfold. You’ve totally seen it—the one where he’s naked on a bearskin rug, a cigarette clenched between his teeth and his junk carefully concealed behind his own left arm. And while the image is 40-plus years old, and is less offensive than half of what you upvoted on Reddit today, that didn’t stop Facebook from swiftly removing it for violating their community standards.
Many found this move to be... stupid (his nips aren’t even visible through his lush chest pelt!) and it prompted an apology from Facebook for the “inconvenience.” And after this week, it seems like Facebook might owe King Cake Snob a similarly worded apology. Facebook may also have to issue an official “I’m Sorry” to a group of naked plastic babies for implying that their tiny bodies were offensive.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, King Cake Snob is an annual contest that is organized by Innovative Advertising, a Mandeville, Louisiana-based ad agency. Participants submit photos and descriptions of Mardi Gras’ go-to dessert, and winners are ultimately chosen in categories like “Best Traditional King Cake,” “Best Filled King Cake,” and “Best Freshness.”
Because King Cake season stretches from early January (specifically Three Kings’ Day) through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), King Cake Snob designed a Facebook ad that said “We’re Back, Baby.” The photo that accompanied the text showed a group of tiny plastic babies—the ones that are found inside every king cake—laying serenely on their backs.
The post is still on King Cake Snob’s page, but when they tried to pay to make it a sponsored post, Facebook said absolutely not. Within a day of the agency’s request, Facebook replied to tell them that the post could not run as an ad “because it includes an image or video depicting excessive skin or nudity, which includes medical diagrams depicting external organs of reproduction, breasts or butt,” adding that “this kind of material is sensitive in nature."
King Cake Snob tried to push back, pointing out that the naked plastic babies weren’t naked actual babies, but Facebook didn’t budge. “We are shocked that Facebook would censor the king cake baby, one of the quintessential traditions of the Mardi Gras culture," Jay Connaughton, an Innovative Advertising managing partner said in a statement.
"Obviously the folks at Facebook have never tasted the sweet deliciousness of a traditional or filled king cake. If they had, they would understand the deep passion that runs in Louisiana for king cakes of all varieties, and the little babies that live inside them."
The plastic baby is a crucial part of the king cake experience; it is hidden inside the cake and whoever finds the little guy in their slice is “King for a Day”—and they also have to buy the next king cake. Some people consider the mass-produced miniature to represent baby Jesus, others take a more secular “It’s just a baby” approach. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune , Donald Entringer, the owner of a bakery called McKenzie’s, started hiding “valuables” in his king cakes in the 1930s.
He started with beans, then moved to pecans, before opting for small porcelain dolls. After running out of dolls, he switched to plastic babies, and was given permission from the New Orleans health department to start baking them inside each cake. (Although the babies are still part of the whole experience, they’re now sold in separate packaging; it’s up to the purchaser to push them into the cake).
In a 1990 interview with the Times-Picayune, the now-late Entringer dismissed the idea that the plastic infants had anything to do with Jesus. “I’ve heard people say it’s supposed to represent the Christ Child, but that’s not true,” he said. “Why we picked this, I don’t know. It was cute. It was just a trinket that happened to be a baby.”
Oh, Don. If only you’d picked a trinket that was fully clothed.