Sometimes An M&M Is Just An M&M

J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his performance in ‘Whiplash’. He played cool and mellow psychiatrist Dr. Emil Skoda on every iteration of ‘Law & Order’, a white supremacist leader in the prison drama ‘Oz’, a less than avuncular William Frawley (Fred Mertz) on ‘Being the Ricardos’, and a nerdy Farmers’ Insurance saleman. And he is the yellow M&M peanut.

I love M&M peanuts. I pour them over popcorn and satisfy my need for sweet and salty in one shot. I dump them in my palm and pop them into my mouth indiscriminately. I don’t think about much other than their deliciousness. I don’t ascribe them personalities. I don’t contemplate their inner lives. I don’t judge them. I don’t anthropomorphize them. They are candies, for goodness sake.
Their sole purpose is to gratify, not to incite another culture war.

Leave it to Tucker Carlson to fire the first – irrelevant – shot across the bow. Apparently, because it’s a slow news eon over there at FOX, Tuck “spent months attacking minor brand changes to some of the characters as ‘woke’” after Mars Wrigley, the parent company for M&Ms, released new looks for its cartoon mascots last year in an attempt to fit the characters into a more ‘dynamic’ and ‘progressive’ world.

For those of you who never noticed the advertisements, M&Ms wore make-up or shoes that somehow delineated their personalities, and their interactions revealed their back stories, even their hang-ups. The most conspicuous was the green M&M, who wore high-heeled go-go boots, lip gloss, and false eyelashes. It seems candies can be sexy. “After the … Green M&M traded in go-go boots for sneakers,” Carlson declared that “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” and that when “you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity.” Apparently, in stripping its sex appeal from the green M&M, Mars is pandering to liberals.

The candies annoyed Tuck again when Mars recently issued limited-edition bags filled with only green, brown, and purple M&Ms, presented as women in its ads, to raise money for women in creative fields. This time, he complained about the inclusion of “obese and distinctly frumpy lesbian M&Ms” to celebrate feminism. On January 23rd, M&Ms tweeted that its cartoon character mascots had become politically polarizing, and announced an “indefinite pause” on their use. “We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice” the earlier change in spokescandies. “But now we get it – even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing.”

Raising the debt ceiling. Teaching CRT. Police reform. Gun control. These are polarizing issues. Candy shapes, sizes, eye make-up, and footwear – these are distractions.

Adding to the distraction is Maya Rudolph, who has been named the new spokesperson for M&Ms and will debut during the Super Bowl, when ads are scrutinized more closely than they are during any other time on television. They cost a fortune, and everyone wants to see if they’re worth the money. Maya has a long way to go to match up with those Budweiser Clydesdales. But Mars is confident that “Ms. Rudolph will champion the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels they belong.” They’ve even put her image on the candies, substituting her face for the ubiquitous ‘M’. That’s a whole other level of ridiculous. I like Maya Rudolph. She is a clever satirist, but I don’t see her harnessing fun as a solution to the world’s problems. Not with candy as her tool.

How long before Tuck targets Maya as a biracial woman and complains that her face on M&Ms is communicating a subliminal message about Critical Race Theory?

As much of a nuisance as Tucker Carlson is, Mars Wrigley owns some responsibility in this absurdity as well. If they want to be ‘woke’ in their politics, then let them examine their production policies and eliminate the use of child slave labor in the manufacture of their chocolate. Let Tuck boycott Mars because of that, not because he fantasizes that some of the candies are lesbians. But then he’d have to examine the ethics of some of his sponsors, and we can’t have that, can we? After all, that requires sound journalism practices.

I care that Mars Wrigley has chosen iconic candies as their metaphor. A candy is a candy is a candy, and nothing more. Whatever it looks like, it does not symbolize inclusion nor engender world peace. If that were the case, Mars did not have to do anything to its M&Ms. They have been inclusive from the start with their rainbow coalition of colors resting in my sweaty palm.
Too bad Tuck forgot the original slogan for M&Ms: “It melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Now that’s a sexy image!


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