American Opinion: The right's meltdown over M&Ms reveals more than just a chocolatey center

From the editorial: (Business) know that society has become more inclusive and tolerant in recent years. That’s what puts such a bitter taste in Tucker Carlson’s mouth.

MM's new  spokescandies
MMs' new spokescandies have created a controversy for some conservatives.
Handout / MMs

It’s unclear whether the recent move by Mars Wrigley candy to sideline its iconic M&Ms “spokescandies” is a genuine reaction to the silliest right-wing controversy yet, or is just a setup for a commercial stunt in the upcoming Super Bowl. Either way, we were hesitant to bite on this non-issue — except that what it says about the right-wing outrage machine is worth chewing over.

American Opinion
American Opinion
Tribune graphic / Forum News Service
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For decades, M&Ms have been sold on TV and elsewhere by animated versions of the candies, with faces, arms and feet. The trouble began with their feet, or more accurately, their shoes. Last January, the company began making subtle changes to the characters, including different shoes for two female M&Ms, replacing their big stilettos with more sensible, less sexy footwear.

This was too much for Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who is always on the lookout for a new front in the culture wars. “M&Ms will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” Carlson glowered. “Until the moment when you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.” A chyron under his tirade decried “non-binary candy.”

Are we to take from this that Carlson had previously been getting turned on by cartoon candy? In any case, he resumed his grievance campaign recently in response to the addition of a purple spokescandy he called “obese” — because, um, it’s a peanut M&M — while fuming that the green M&M might be a lesbian.

The company last week issued a cheeky statement noting that in today’s political environment, “even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing” and announcing an “indefinite pause” for the cartoon M&Ms. The statement doesn’t mention Carlson or the other conservatives who are melting down over the melt-in-your-mouth spokescandies, but the reference was clear.


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What’s less clear is whether this is corporate cowardice or a clever marketing setup. The company’s new spokesperson will be fully human comedian Maya Rudolph, whose job, the announcement said, will be to “create a world where everybody feels they belong.” That doesn’t exactly sound like they’re kowtowing to the grumblers at Fox. It could be that the pause for the spokescandies will end on Sunday, Feb. 12. The company’s action so far “has all the earmarks of a Super Bowl ad stunt,” as AdAge puts it.

That would be a delicious conclusion to this sticky mess of an issue. What Carlson, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and others who are baying about “woke” corporations don’t get is that big companies are just doing what they’ve always done: reflecting the norms of the society in which they operate while trying to make a buck. They know that society has become more inclusive and tolerant in recent years. That’s what puts such a bitter taste in Carlson’s mouth.

This American Opinion editorial is the view of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board. Send feedback to:

©2023 Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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