M&M’s, the ubiquitous candy brand owned by Mars Wrigley, announced on Monday that it would be taking “an indefinite hiatus” from its “spokespeople”, deciding that cartoon characters with minimal arms, legs and facial features were just too divisive for a polarized America to take on.
The characters, which had appeared in the company’s advertisements for decades, did not weigh in on abortion or the storage of classified documents. But figures on the political right, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, have called the candy “Woke M&M’s”, due to a series of cosmetic tweaks in recent years.
Here’s how we got here, as far as it can be explained.
How Mars Wrigley explained his decision.
In statement mondayMars Wrigley began with words familiar to anyone about to have a breakup conversation: “America, let’s talk about it.”
“Last year, we made some changes to our beloved spokespersons,” the company said. “We weren’t sure anyone would even notice.”
Most people hadn’t.
“We certainly didn’t think this would break the internet,” the company said. Few people thought that was the case.
“But now we get it — even candy’s shoes can be polarizing,” the company continued, surely confusing many people who had no idea what that phrase could mean. We will come back to it.
Being polarized is “the last thing M&M’s wanted since we all want to bring people together,” the company said. “Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from spokespersons.”
He offered an apparent solution: “In their place, we are proud to present a spokesperson on whom America can agree: the beloved Maya Rudolph“, the actress and alumnus of “Saturday Night Live” who has, to date, been at the center of any culture war. “We are confident that Ms. Rudolph will champion the power of pleasure to create a world where everyone belongs,” the company said.
Yes, candy’s shoes can be polarizing.
It turns out there’s an appropriate level of sex appeal that M&M action figures should display in their shoes, and America is split on how sexy that should be.
In January 2022M&M’s gave the sore feet of its two female spokespersons a break, replacing the green M&M’s heels with flats and replacing the brown M&M’s stilettos with smaller, more comfortable ones.
This decision, for some, was an injustice.
“M&M’s won’t be satisfied until all the cartoon characters are deeply attractive and utterly androgynous,” Mr. Carlson said of his show. “Until the moment you don’t want to have a drink with one of them anymore.” That’s the point. When you are totally off, we have reached equity. They won.
The candy’s new look wasn’t exactly at the top of Mr Carlson’s mind – the clip was mocked by his political opponents, and most people moved on. But this month Mr Carlson said ‘woke M&M’s are back’ after Mars Wrigley introduced a new purple M&M to the list, and the others got a new look.
“The green M&M’s got her boots back but apparently is now a lesbian, maybe, and there’s also an obese purple plus-size M&M’s,” he said. “So we will cover that, of course. Because that’s what we do.
M&M’s Twitter account has shown little desire to engage in spats, in recent months tweeting almost exclusively to wish people happy holidays. In early January, when the purple M&M was unveiled, the brand said it was “celebrating women across the country who are shaking up the status quo.”
Mars Wrigley could not immediately be reached for comment.