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Sunday, April 14, 2024

M&M’s Are the Best Trolls on the Internet

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

M&M’s are canceled. Well, not really. They canceled themselves. After months of heated commentary from Fox News host Tucker Carlson about how unsexy the chocolate treats’ new spokescandies were becoming, Mars Inc., the company behind M&M’s, put them on an indefinite hiatus this week. The colorful little mascots survived the counterculture movement of the 1960s without controversy, but they couldn’t survive Tucker Carlson. It was, and continues to be, an excellent troll. 

Let’s unpack this. M&M’s first landed in Carlson’s crosshairs early last year, when, as part of an effort to make the candy’s marketing more inclusive and unifying, the brown M&M spokescandy stopped wearing stilettos and the green one took off her go-go boots and put on some sneakers. Carlson, seemingly more outraged than anyone, contended that “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” adding that the company was trying to make candy no one would want to have a drink with, and once “you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity.” 

Carlson wasn’t the only one having deep thoughts about this change. Some merely wanted to know “Hey, what’s wrong with stilettos?” Others, like Rolling Stoneinsisted society should “let the green M&M be a nasty little slut.” But it was Carlson’s commentary that stuck around. After he took up the cause, it became more fun to talk about his segments than deconstruct why anyone was concerned about the gender or sexuality or sexual attractiveness of candy in the first place. 

But it didn’t stop there. In September, M&M’s introduced a purple M&M, voiced by late-night host and writer Amber Ruffin. She had her own somewhat pointed theme song (“I’m Just Gonna Be Me”) and sensible boots, but Carlson didn’t bite. Until he did. Earlier this month he hosted another segment, proclaiming “Woke M&M’s have returned,” adding that Green “is now a lesbian, maybe?” He also called Purple “obese,” (She is, as Stephen Colbert pointed out on The Late Show this week “with nut.”)

The sound from Carlson’s segment went viral on TikTok, and soon everyone was talking about Purple in a way they weren’t when she burst on the scene back in the fall. In a move seemingly designed to capitalize on the new attention brought by Tucker Carlson Tonight, M&M’s announced that it was putting the spokescandies on hiatus, saying, “Now we get it—even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing.” 

It’s hard to say whether M&M’s marketing department is intentionally trolling Carlson or anyone else upset about the spokescandies’ wardrobe changes—a rep for Mars did not respond to a request for comment. But it feels like it might be. Consider this: In announcing the spokescandy hiatus, M&M’s also announced that its new face would be actress Maya Rudolph and that she would be starring in the candy’s upcoming Super Bowl commercial. Seems like the perfect time for Purple, Green, and all the rest to make a triumphant return: a game watched by sports fans and Fox News viewers alike. 

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