OPINION: The M&M’s scandal proves the pervasiveness of sexism

We’ve all tasted or at least heard of M&M’s—the famous colorful chocolate candy that melts in your mouth. I bet you’re also familiar with the spokescandies from their commercials on TV, YouTube and even at the movie theater. They’ve been around for years, so it is odd that MARS— the company that produces M&M’s— decided to suddenly get rid of the characters and replace them with actress Maya Rudolph. It is simple: They didn’t. It  was all a ruse, a stunt for the Super Bowl. The controversy surrounding M&M’s characters began one year ago, in January 2022, when Fox News accused the brand of being excessively woke for changing the green spokescandy’s knee-height boots for converse-like sneakers and gave the brown spokescandy lower stilettos. 

As absurd as the controversy might sound, people were actually complaining because the green character was no longer wearing sexy boots. Conservative television host Tucker Carlson complained on national TV because the M&M’s characters were not sexy anymore. I laughed hard the first time I watched it. But then I thought, “he can’t be serious.” Are we sexualizing M&M’s now? Did people really find them sexually attractive? The thought is ridiculous and concerning at the same time. I remember when the appearance change first happened; one of my favorite YouTubers made a video mocking Carlson and his apparent attraction for the M&M’s characters. Beyond all the jokes and noting how pointless Carlson’s claims were, the sexualization of the only two female M&M characters is proof that we haven’t left sexism behind. The spokescandies are not supposed to be sexy in any way. They exist to give a funny image to the brand, which has a vast audience that— includes children. 

What makes me particularly mad is that it seems like female characters need to be sexually appealing, like it’s a must. Nobody is complaining because the guy M&M’s aren’t sexy. Besides, each has specific characteristics linked to them. The red is the leader, the yellow is the funny one, the blue is chill and the orange is always scared.But the only thing that identifies the green or the brown spokescandies is femininity and sensuality. It’s baffling that sexism is present even in candy. So, no, the company was not being “woke” by changing their ONLY two female characters to make them less alluring. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to say it was “woke” to stop sexualizing M&M’s characters, but it’s not very clever to make such statements on national TV.

Even if Carlson was not serious and only said it to enrage “leftists,” I still find it disturbing. Misogyny and sexism are still very prominent, even in something as insignificant as M&M’s characters. The appeal of the green and brown M&M’s was to be sexy and not have a personality like the guys. When MARS decided to redesign them, it caused controversy. The good thing is that the company is making the most out of the situation by using it as a stunt for the 2023 Super Bowl. It makes me happy to see that the spokescandies will still exist, that the green and brown candy characters are no longer sexualized, and that the new purple female character represents inclusivity and has a personality other than her appeal to the male gaze. She is confident, quirky and awkward at times. Times change, and sometimes you have to change to appeal to new audiences.