See that punk? That’s Mr. Owl. You may remember him from a commercial that ran for nearly twenty years, from 1970 to the mid-to-late ’80s. The commercial was for Tootsie Roll-Pops. As a kid the ad amused me, but as an adult I now realize the truth: Mr. Owl is a lying a-hole.
In the spot, a lily-white naked kid wonders aloud how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Roll Pop. A valid question, if a somewhat rhetorical one, for with 6 billion different tongues and saliva levels in this world, how can an objective number possibly be reached? At best, one must either concede to a near-infinite multitude of possible lick-counts, or simply dismiss the question as unanswerable. However, our young Aristotlean hero refuses to submit to this non-empirical solution and decides that asking an animal is the best course of action.
As such, he seeks out Mr. Turtle, who is clearly a descendant (ancestor?) of Morla, for he is wise beyond all knowing. Rather than suggest an absolute answer, like a true agnostic he accepts the unknowable, and like a true politician he passes the buck. Acknowledging that he “never made it without biting,” the suggestively toothless Mr. Turtle points our intrepid, nude hero to Mr. Owl, who will, with luck, bring an end to this tortured quest.
At first, Mr. Owl seems to respond positively to the young lad’s query. Admitting that he, too, does not know the answer to the question, he proposes an experiment to “find out,” and accordingly confiscates (steals?) the trusting boy’s Tootsie-Roll Pop. He begins to count the licks: One (so far, so good…); Two-HOO (wait…why this flamboyant second syllable in the word “two”? Why end on a higher pitch, as if some sort of conclusion were about to be reached…?); and finally, Three, with a curiously rolled “R” (this embellishment, we shall see, is just one of the ways Mr. Owl attempts to falsify his academic credentials). After the “three” Mr. Owl blatantly and with contempt for his innocent pupil bites the Tootsie Roll-Pop, thus prematurely ending the experiment and, as the closing voice-over suggests, increasing the possibility that the world “may never know” just how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Roll Pop.
So, not only does Mr. Owl both steal and consume this innocent boy’s Tootsie-Roll Pop, but he does so under the false pretense of science. Never, no, not even with the creation of the atomic bomb, has the noble discipline of science been so contemptuously and viciously hijacked! By employing a pseudo-intellectual accent and throwing on a pair of glasses, this “Mr.” Owl (note: not “Dr. Owl,” or “Prof. Owl”) thinks he can go around stealing naked kids’ lollipops under the pretense of scientific research! For shame, Mr. Owl! For shame!
I, for one, refuse to forgive this rodent-eating poseur for the injustice he has wrought on thousands of Gen-Xers who have been raised to think that it takes three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie-Roll Pop. If it weren’t for the kindly wisdom of the Mr. Turtles of the world, we might never make any progress at all.