“Sexy” M&M’s Caught in Culture War

Sexy M&Ms Caught in Culture War

American society has become increasingly polarized, and M&M’s characters seem to have found themselves in the middle of this culture war, as prominent right wing TV personalities are criticizing the brand’s move towards inclusivity, and lamenting the days when M&M’s used to be “sexy.”
M&M’s, semi-sweet chocolates with a candy shell, are well-known, uncontroversial candies. Since 1941, M&M’s have been depicted as colorful button-sized chocolate candies with a lowercase letter “m” printed in white. Popular flavors include original, peanut butter, almond, pretzel, dark chocolate, and crispy.
The controversy started in January last year, when M&M’s replaced the Green M&M’s go-go boots with sneakers, and the Brown M&M’s stilettos with a lower, block heel. The company also removed the “Mr.” and “Ms.” titles for their characters.
On Jan. 21, 2022, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized the M&M’s appearances and commented on the unattractiveness of their new attire.
“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous. Until the moment when you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them,” he said. “That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”
Carlson went on to speculate about the Orange M&M’s anxiety, revealing his deep-seated concern with what shoes the female-presenting M&M’s are wearing.
“Maybe [the Orange M&M] doesn’t like all the ugly new shoes he sees around him,” he said.
Fox News commentator Kat Timpf, on “Gutfeld!,” a conservative political satire talk show, suggested the Green M&M’s’ change of shoes alluded to her malicious character.
“The Green M&M is an evil, opportunistic b**** and you should run away from women like her,” she said.
Timpf also claimed that the Green M&M is “disgusting,” a “snake,” and she “does not trust her.”
Timpf later clarified on Twitter that she was making a harmless joke.
On Sep. 28, 2022, M&M’s introduced their newest spokescandy, Purple. She has a “quirky” nature and is designed to represent “acceptance and inclusivity.”
M&M’s released a music video by Purple titled “I’m Just Gonna Be Me,” her first big musical number. The video garnered 633 thousand views in less than four months. For every stream, M&M’s will donate $1 (up to $500,000) to “Sing for Hope,” a non-profit worldwide organization that harnesses the power of the arts to create a better world.
On Jan. 5, 2023, M&M’s announced on Twitter that they are “celebrating women across the country who are flipping the status quo! Help us shine the spotlight by nominating a woman in your life who is breaking barriers and paving a new path.” Along with this announcement, M&M’s unveiled a new wrapper featuring the three female candies, Purple, Green, and Brown. Again, Carlson was deeply offended by the appearance of the M&M’s.
“The Green M&M’s got her boots back but apparently is now a lesbian, maybe, and there is also a plus-sized, obese Purple M&M,” he said. “So we’re going to cover that, of course. Because that’s what we do.”
The Purple M&M is, in fact, not obese. She is ironically slimmer than her fellow spokescandies, with an oval-shaped figure, rather than a round circular shape. Her elliptical body is due to her being a peanut M&M. According to NPR, the Purple M&M is “roughly the same size and shape as her Yellow and Blue male counterparts.”
On Jan. 9, 2023, Martha MacCallum, one of the panelists on “Outnumbered,” a Fox News talk show, was worried that the all-female M&M’s packaging distracts Americans while China gains control of the world’s natural resources.
“I think this is the kind of thing that makes China say, ‘Oh good, keep focusing on that, keep focusing on giving people their own color M&M’s while we take over all the mineral deposits in the entire world,’” she said.
Likewise, “Outnumbered” co-host Emily Compagno criticized M&M’s decision to remove Green’s heels as a symbol for women’s lack of autonomy.
“Once again, they’re also stripping everyone of agency because remember, they took the heels off Mrs. Green, or Green M&M. They put her in sneakers because wearing heels was somehow detrimental because women who choose to wear heels must not be able to think for themselves. They must be doing it for a bad reason. Everything about this is wrong,” she said. “And also, we already have the California Raisins being all the different sizes. We don’t need M&M’s to be different sizes too.”
A number of Williston students have strong opinions about the modification of the M&M’s’ footwear and the aforementioned individuals’ responses to this change.
Senior Lexi Paez from West Springfield, Mass., believes tradition is not an excuse to be bothered by an M&M’s appearance.
“I’ve seen M&M’s ads my whole life. I think I’ve been primed to think the Green M&M looks better with boots since I’m so used to it,” she said. “But there’s no reason why people should be so upset about it. It’s just a design choice. I will always support the Green M&M because they’re doing it to be more inclusive. She is an icon,” she added.
Wakanda Hu, a freshman from Guangzhou, China, does not understand why some are so concerned with the sexual attractiveness of a piece of candy.
“The stereotype of sexiness being associated with heels is meaningless,” she said. “It’s ridiculous to sexualize anyone, let alone an M&M.”
Junior James Ma echoes Wakanda’s sentiments.
“It’s just a green M&M, bro,” he said, in a somewhat exasperated tone. “Is it really that big of a deal?”
Senior Orion Minton thinks conservatives are making a huge fuss over a trivial issue.
“Conservatives are trying to grab at strings to support their ‘woke’ interpretations of media and corporations,” he said. “[Carlson] is trying to push the narrative that everyone is ‘woke’ in 2023.”
Liz Gluz, a senior, is pleased M&M’s are no longer adhering to gender norms and sees the change in a positive light.
“I always find it super weird when I’m watching a movie and they give the female cats breasts, and the male cats just look like regular cats,” she said. “These distinctions are unnecessary and strange.”
Junior Joe Zhou from Shanghai, China, is a frequent consumer of M&M’s, but he does not care for the M&M drama.
“As long as this controversy does not affect the quality of the candy, I’m still going to buy M&M’s,” he said. “They’re great on top of ice cream.”
On Jan. 23, 2023, M&M’s released a statement on Twitter announcing the official retirement of the spokescandies.
“In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet. But now we get it — even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing. Which was the last thing M&M’s wanted since we’re all about bringing people together. Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies.”
“In their place, we are proud to introduce a spokesperson America can agree on: the beloved Maya Rudolph. We are confident Ms. Rudolph will champion the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” M&M’s wrote.
Maya Rudolph, an American comedian, actress, and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, replaced the M&M’s characters as the new official spokesperson. In subsequent commercials, M&M’s were rebranded as “Ma&Ya’s” and were depicted as candy-coated chocolate clams with Rudolph’s face printed on them.
Gabrielle Wesley, Chief Marketing Officer for Mars Wrigley North America, reassured the public that the M&M’s spokescandies were not out of work.
“The original colorful cast of M&M’s spokescandies are, at present, pursuing personal passions,” she said.
Skittles also wished the M&M’s well in their future endeavors on Twitter.
On the same day, Carlson reacted to the departure of the spokescandies.
“The M&M’s pro-fat M&M ad campaign seems to have ended, we’re being blamed for it,” he said. “We say that with some pride.”
In late January, the peanut-flavored Yellow M&M found himself a new job. He was spotted with an “S” sticker taped onto his body in a Snickers promotional photo.
“This might take some getting used to … for the both of us. Excited to welcome Yellow from M&M’s as the new Snickers spokescandy,” Snickers tweeted.
Days later, on Feb. 8, Yellow was seen half-submerged in the caramel goo of a Snickers bar with a distraught expression on his face.
“You don’t read the job contract close enough when you’re hungry,” the caption read.
M&M’s’ Twitter disclosed that Blue found a sportscasting career, Red became an eBay seller, Brown rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, and Orange made a Spotify meditation playlist.
In a Super Bowl commercial on Feb. 12, the M&M’s spokescandies made a triumphant return.
The front page of the M&M’s website proclaims, “Our spokescandies are back for good! Together we’re using the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels like they belong.”
Now that the spokescandies are back at work, some see M&M’s’ decision to fire the spokescandies as a strategic and deliberate PR stunt. Credit must be given to the M&M’s marketing team for creating distinct personalities for the candies and promoting the relevance of M&M’s.
Freshman Ellis von Schoeler-Ames, from Chesterfield, Mass., finds the M&M’s characters endearing because of their effective ad campaign.
“I like all of the little M&M’s characters, I just don’t like eating the candy,” she said. “I remember seeing a really funny ad in an action movie style, based off of ‘Mission Impossible.’ That made me want to eat M&M’s despite not liking the taste.”
Ronan McGurn, a junior from Westfield, N.J., thought M&M’s’ response was ingenious and amusing.
“The M&M’s response to Tucker Carlson was hilarious,” he said. “Their ad campaign with Maya Rudolph and the fact that the M&M’s spokescandies were forced to take other jobs made M&M’s even more popular.”
Many members of the Williston community appreciate the Green M&M’s change to more comfortable shoes.
Liz admires the Green M&M, especially her new wardrobe.
“As a matter of fact, I think she is even hotter!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “I love sneakers. There’s nothing hotter than breaking gender stereotypes.”
Kate Garrity, Assistant Dean of Students, noted that wearing sneakers with dresses is currently trendy.
“All the girls in EMV wore sneakers to Casino Night,” she said. “It seems to me that the Green M&M is keeping up with fashion trends.”
However, proponents of the “sexy” Green M&M are not backing down. As of Feb. 26, 2023, there are 21,210 signatures on a petition to “Keep the Green M&M Sexy” on Change.org. The top reasons for signing include “Women have a right to be sexy. Deal with it. Give sis her boots back,” and “Hot girls are simply underrepresented in the media.”