M&Ms trends across Twitter and search engines today following a big announcement. The long famous “spokescandies” are to be retired amid ongoing (and surprising) outrage from conservative media personalities, notably Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
Though the criticism may seem trivial, Fox News remains the most watched non-sports cable network, reaching 1.49 million viewers as of 2022. This left Mars, the parent company of M&Ms, with a large audience to answer to. Ahead of the Super Bowl, a sporting event known for its ad placements, M&Ms announced a big change–comedian Maya Rudolph is now their spokesperson.
A message from M&M'S. pic.twitter.com/EMucEBTd9o
— M&M'S (@mmschocolate) January 23, 2023
While Rudolph’s fans were excited for her, others were quick to criticize the brand’s choice to adhere to absurd conservative claims about their advertising. The green M&M was the initial topic of conversation, with some of the brand’s market research alleging that viewers felt the M&M was too sexualized. This resulted in a change of footwear, which then sparked further backlash from right wing media personalities.
The green M&M has been changed because the old one was depicted as too flirty… what?
You might be asking, how did we get here? Here’s a definitive timeline of events in the M&M saga.
A History of the Green M&M
The M&Ms spokescandies actually all began as gender neutral in original ad campaigns from the 60s to the 90s.
The candy’s unique quality was its coating that made it an easy on-the-go snack for children to take to movie theaters or school.
The green M&M was reintroduced as a woman in 1997, a popular move for the brand that would later create controversy. Gen Z has a specific nostalgia for the female version of the Green M&M, as it was used in ads in the early 00’s. This of course has led many to take to TikTok amid the recent news.
In January 2022, the Green M&Ms heeled white boots were swapped for white sneakers as a part of a company wide mission for inclusivity. This led to a lot of mixed reactions–some didn’t feel like it was necessary in the first place, while others were outraged at what conservative media personalities like Tucker Carlson have coined “the woke agenda.”
In retrospect, the real controversy was never about the shoes, but what they stood for. The 2021 Super Bowl ad for M&Ms, which featured several celebrities, revealed that the brown and green M&Ms, both women, were a couple.
The internet (and Fox News) had a lot to say about that.
Internet Reactions to LGBTQ+ M&Ms
Many thought that the addition of the LGBTQ+ storyline into the M&Ms ad campaigns was a positive and heartfelt decision that showed progress in mainstream advertising.
Fox News hosts were quick to criticize the decision. The network has come under fire in recent years for its racist and homophobic coverage of news and cultural discussions. In the comments on M&Ms announcement today, some criticized their decision to stay neutral as indirectly catering to Tucker Carlson and Fox.
Congratulations on finding the weakest possible response to the dumbest manufactured outrage campaign. Maya Rudolph is lovely, but let’s be honest: What you’re announcing here is that your real spokesperson is Tucker Carlson.
— Rob Sheridan (@rob_sheridan) January 23, 2023
A woman attempted to wear flats on the job and was bullied out of her career.
— Justin Kirkland (@justinkirkland4) January 23, 2023
Others were quick to point out the hypocrisy of Carlson, who frequently refers to people who point out controversies in the entertainment world related to women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people as “snowflakes” for being too sensitive. His comments fit his own definition of the term.
“You all are such snowflakes”
*loses mind over changes to an M&Ms character*
— Surena Marie 🍓 (@SurenaXMarie) January 23, 2023
Others took a look at Carlson’s previous comments on the brand and pointed out how strange it was to be sexualizing a children’s cartoon character.
The hypocrisy of the whole situation trends on Twitter today.
The people who complain about cancel culture apparently canceled M&Ms who changed shoes. What a time.
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) January 23, 2023
Nothing says "alpha conservatives" quite like waking up and immediately crying about gas stoves and coffee and Xboxes and Starbucks cups and M&Ms and Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head and
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) January 24, 2023
Influencer and activist Matt Bernstein put together a video compilation of several clips in which Fox News hosts get into heated discussions about the M&Ms.
compiled some moments from america’s most-watched news network pic.twitter.com/0ZCbIkW3x3
— matt (@mattxiv) January 11, 2023
Others theorized that the spokescandies are not really gone–that the Super Bowl ad will include Maya Rudolph alongside the candies as they unionize.
This is a work for sure. There’s gonna be a Super Bowl ad where we see all the M&Ms out of work and desperate to be rehired and/or protesting their firing. This is a Planters Baby Nut situation. https://t.co/R2Sudymrx4
— austin walker (@austin_walker) January 23, 2023
I feel like this is a setup for a Super Bowl commercial… pic.twitter.com/bovTZD0DCu
— mac (@MacDoesIt) January 23, 2023
Others reacted to the situation with satirical humor, commenting on Carlson’s repeat comments.
I personally eat M&M's because they're delicious. I also have never had an issue with their spokescandies.
— #GettheLeadOut #ScienceIsReal #TruthMatters (@SafeH2o4Schools) January 23, 2023
Others used pop culture moments to point out the memeable quality of the situation.
The Blue, Yellow & Red M&Ms going out on the town for one last hurrah pic.twitter.com/B82rdwZxiZ
— This is it! (@GoldenObsession) January 23, 2023
I’m hoping Maya Rudolph as Dionne Warwick is what M&Ms has in mind pic.twitter.com/x3Usd8caCk
— luc (@lgendrot) January 23, 2023
The Real Controversy
Aside from LGBTQ+ and plus sized M&Ms who wear high heels, the parent company faces a much larger controversy. Mars, Nestlé and Hershey are embroiled in ongoing child slavery lawsuits. In 2021, eight children claimed they were used in slave labor on cacoa plantations on the Ivory Coast in West Africa.
The current advertising debacle is shining a light on the suit, which had previously received little social media attention.
people complaining about M&Ms rn pic.twitter.com/rHAlcsWlaN
— Gritty is the Way (@Gritty20202) January 23, 2023
Fox News notoriously comments disparagingly about diverse communities, which is why some TikTok creators theorize they haven’t discussed the ongoing child slavery lawsuit.
Thank God you’re here to break the big stories, Tucker #wokemandms
Slavery in the chocolate industry remains a major global issue, with an estimated 23% of the population of the Ivory Coast and Ghana enslaved on cocoa plantations. These areas supply cocoa to roughly 70% of the world.
This issue has paved way for the fair trade food industry, which provides an ethical solution to the constant need for cocoa supply.
Carlson’s Reaction to the New M&Ms Campaign
After a day of mass internet reactions to the M&Ms situation, Carlson responded on his show this evening. He referred to the candies as “neurotic” and “frumpy,” essentially standing by his initial opinions surrounding the candies. Carlson concluded the segment with several fat-phobic and homophobic comments.
Our response to the end of the obese and lesbian M&M spokescandies pic.twitter.com/HuSfAryyQi
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) January 24, 2023
Given this clip from tonight’s show, it’s likely that LGBTQ+ storylines in advertising will remain at the forefront of conservative criticism.
The fifty-seventh Super Bowl will be held on February 12. It is here that the now much anticipated M&Ms commercial will be unveiled, starring Maya Rudolph. Whether the M&Ms are actually in retirement or not will likely come to light by this date.
If there’s one thing to come of the massive online discourse surrounding the long standing ad campaign, its that at the end of the day, the camaraderie of the candy might be what matters most. And hopefully, that candy can be produced ethically in the future.