Right-Wing Rage About 'Wokeness' at Candy Company Known for Using Child Labor Gets Results!
No, they didn't care about the child labor stuff. Yes, this was another freak out about "wokeness" in the company's ads.
Hello. Welcome to The Present Age. Everything is so dumb.
In January of last year, Mars, Inc., the owner of M&M’s, announced a refresh of the brand’s decades-old “spokescandies.” You know, typical brand stuff designed to give each of the characters a more unique personality in the company’s ads.
“Red, for instance, will be less bossy. Orange will acknowledge and embrace his anxiety. Green, who will come across as more confident, has traded in knee-high boots for casual sneakers, while Brown has transitioned from high stilettos to lower block heels and a fresh pair of glasses,” Adweek wrote at the time.
The Present Age is the home of Parker Molloy’s media criticism, cultural commentary, and thoughts on politics. Subscribe to get the latest editions sent directly to your email.
What followed was an exhausting week or so of right-wing pundits and media outlets utterly losing their collective sh&t over the fact that Green was no longer sexy enough for their liking. Also, for some bizarre reason, Tucker Carlson kept trying to insist that the Brown M&M had been made trans (I think because Adweek used the word “transitioned,” which, no, does not mean “is trans” in that context). It was all very, very, very stupid. And I wrote about it at the time:
Tucker Carlson and the rest of the always-outraged right eventually moved on to the next target for their fake indignation, but as the saying goes, everything old is new again.
In September 2022, Mars announced the addition of Purple, the brand’s first new character in a decade.
Designed to represent acceptance and inclusivity, our newest member is known for her earnest self-expression. Keen self-awareness, authenticity and confidence are the driving forces behind Purple’s charm and quirky nature. She joins the legendary cast of M&M’S characters, who recently were given a refresh with updated looks and more nuanced personalities back in January.
Now, do I think that Mars cares about “acceptance,” “inclusivity,” yadda, yadda, blah, blah, etc.? No. Of course not. Mars cares about making money. Brands invent these sorts of backstories for characters and ad campaigns because “We did it because it focus-tested well and can help us sell a few extra bags of candy along the way” is a bit too honest. Have none of you watched Mad Men?
Anyway, so, Purple debuted with a musical number. Again, the goal here is simple: sell candy. The messaging about inclusivity and all that jazz is totally fake. But that wasn’t going to stop the right from freaking out about this once they noticed. (The fact that it often takes Fox News types months to find a reason to be mad about a meaningless change says a lot about the sincerity on their end.)
At the beginning of this month, the company launched limited edition packs of green, brown, and purple M&M’s “supporting women flipping the status quo.” Okay, I guess? Who cares? It’s a package of chocolate candy. And there’s nothing out of the ordinary about these sorts of limited edition packs. For instance, there are the red, white, and blue “USA packs” the company sold in the UK in 2015; in 2014, the company released a blue, green, and yellow “Brazil-inspired” pack; in 2020, Mars released red, green, and white “sugar cookie” packs; and at various points in history, Mars has run promotions where they claim they’re phasing out the colors of the M&M’s only to later bring them back.
It’s a bit. And even if it makes you roll your eyes, it’s not worth getting upset over.
But “get upset” is the default for right-wing media personalities, and so they did exactly that.
Fox News anchors Harris Faulkner and Pete Hegseth went on rants about how offended they were over this promotion, with Faulkner whining, “Why, if you really want to empower women, would you depict us as people who can’t even stand up straight and put us upside down on the packaging!?”
And it didn’t stop there, either.
Fox went on a rampage, ranting about “new, lesbian” M&M’s (the image they kept showing on screen came from a silly little 2015 tweet, but hey, why let that get in the way of some impotent rage?). The good people over at Media Matters put together a sampling of this:
Weirdly (and likely as a way to get some attention ahead of a possible Super Bowl ad), Mars seems to be taking the right-wing rage about “woke” M&M’s at face value.
The company posted “A message from M&M’s” on its Twitter account:
America, let’s talk. 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.
Everything is so dumb. Unbelievably dumb. We live in the dumbest possible times.
It must be nice to be on the political right, where you apparently have so few things to worry about that you devote hours of TV to raging about the marketing decisions of sketchy candy companies. It’s not as though there aren’t extremely legitimate reasons to be wary of Mars (allegedly! Also, for more on that, read this Harvard Political Review piece from last year), but hey, the real problem is packaging. Anyway, this is just a reminder that right-wing pundits are the biggest babies on the planet — “cancel culture” royalty.
It was the dumbest of times, it was the stupidest of times, it was the age of idiocy, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of bad faith, it was the epoch of credulity, it was the season of outrage, it was the season of seething, it was the spring of ignorance, it was the winter of grift, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all canceled, we were all posting—in short, everything was so dumb.
I don't know how you find the fortitude to follow and untangle the outrage. Thanks for keeping us informed.
It's remarkable and concerning how effective advertising can be. I used to not care about Twix, but when the launched the Left Twix Right Twix campaign, my brain decided eating Left Twix was a way of showing pride in being left-handed.