M&M’s sweets, a derisory front line in the culture war in the United States

LETTER FROM WASHINGTON

“America, let’s talk. » It is with this invitation that the press release from M&M’s, the confectionery manufacturer, begins. What are we talking about? Spokescandies. These little mascots in the shape of chocolate candies, whose appearance the company had slightly modified in 2022. “We weren’t even sure anyone would notice. And we certainly didn’t think it was going to make the buzz on the Internet. But now we understand: even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing. » We believe in a joke, in the second degree, in disguised advertising. Or is it crisis management?

On January 23, M&M’s announced that “spokescandies” were placed in “indefinite break”. In their place is appointed a new ambassador, Maya Rudolph, a famous actress and regular speaker on the program “Saturday Night Live”. She will have to promote the candy during the major advertising moment of the year, the Super Bowl, on February 12. The final of the NFL, the American football championship, is watched on average by 100 million Americans, and advertisers compete in ingenuity to get noticed during this family and sporting event. The M&M’s affair is also part of this competition, even if we do not know to what extent the current scandal can serve the Mars group, the parent company.

But back to the shoes, the object of the crime. The small mascots, which appear in the brand’s advertisements, were six a year ago, before Purple (purple) joined them. Each in a different color, they had been revised in January 2022 in a spirit more “inclusive”. Specifically, two female characters needed to be less stereotypical. The green candy ended up in sneakers, instead of wearing high heeled boots, while her brown castmate ditched her stilettos. To say that the manufacturer hoped for indifference is obviously absurd. The Mars group had communicated on these modifications. But he may not have expected to be targeted by a smear campaign, orchestrated in particular by the star presenter of the Fox News channel, Tucker Carlson.

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Among the obsessions of this televised tribune, with a formidable influence within the American right, are the disappearance of masculinity and the so-called woke culture, this portmanteau word in which everything is mixed up: the question of gender and that of slavery, school readings and political debates on campuses, the fight against discrimination and the “great replacement”, this racist theory assuming a massive influx of migrants, orchestrated by the Democrats, to the detriment of abandoned white Americans.

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