By BEN R. WILLIAMS
A few weeks ago, Mars, Incorporated announced they were making a change to the way they market M&M’s.
Mars issued a press release stating that M&M’s was announcing “a global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong, and society is inclusive.”
That strikes me as a pretty tall order for little pieces of chocolate with a candy shell, but let’s keep reading.
Cathryn Sleight, Chief Growth Officer at Mars, said that “M&M’s has long been committed to creating colorful fun for all, and this purpose serves as a more concrete commitment to what we’ve always believed as a brand: that everyone has the right to enjoy moments of happiness, and fun is the most powerful way to help people feel that they belong. As one of the world’s most iconic candy brands, who better to commit to a world with more moments of fun by increasing a sense of belonging around the globe than M&M’s?”
With all due respect to Cathryn Sleight, that statement rides the line between empty PR jargon and the announcement of a New Age cult based around eating M&M’s.
The press release goes on in this fashion for some time, saying a lot while saying nothing at all. What it all boils down to is that Mars, Inc. was announcing that the cartoon M&M’s you see on TV are going to be modified to be more inclusive. The biggest change is that the green M&M will no longer wear white go-go boots, but will now wear a pair of comfortable sneakers.
I honestly can’t remember if I heard about this before it became a controversy or not. If I did hear about it, I promptly forgot about it because I am an adult with actual problems and I have a hard time caring if a multi-billion dollar company wants to engage in a little virtue signaling. I’m more worried about paying my bills and climate change and stuff like that.
However, one person cared very deeply about this change: Tucker Carlson.
If you’re unfamiliar with Carlson — and I deeply envy you if you are — allow me to get you caught up. A trust fund heir who pretends to hate the elites, Carlson hosts “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, a program where he gets paid a great deal of money to pretend to be offended by everything left of hunting the homeless for sport. You may know him best as the reason that your uncle has become emboldened to use racial slurs at Thanksgiving dinner.
And here’s another thing about Tucker Carlson that you probably don’t want to know: he is apparently very attracted to the green M&M.
“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” Carlson actually said on television. “Until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity; we’ve won.”
Carlson’s tirade was objectively if unintentionally hilarious, and the internet quickly and rightly mocked him for his feigned outrage at no longer being attracted to a cartoon depiction of a piece of candy. There’s only so far he can push his shtick until it descends into outright absurdity, and this seemed to be a major tipping point.
But there’s something pretty interesting that’s gotten lost in all of this comedy, and it’s the timing of Mars, Inc.’s announcement that they’re going to change the world by having the green M&M wear sneakers.
In late 2021, Mars, Inc., Nestle, Hershey, and a few other chocolate companies were sued for the second time in two years over allegations of aiding and abetting child slavery. The most recent suit was brought forward by eight citizens of the west African country of Mali who say that when they were children, they were trafficked to plantations in Cote D’Ivoire and forced to harvest cocoa.
These allegations are certainly nothing new. A study by the University of Chicago determined that 1.56 million children harvest cocoa in west Africa, and I’m betting far more than eight of them are not there by choice. Even if they’re not slaves, they’re still child laborers, so it’s not exactly a great look either way. But hey, whatever keeps the overhead down and the shareholders happy, am I right?
I can’t imagine that Mars, Inc. was getting a whole lot of angry letters about the green M&M’s go-go boots. Is it possible that they manufactured this whole controversy to distract from the real issue and Tucker Carlson swallowed it hook, line, and sinker?
I have my suspicions. And while I’m certainly not the first person to point out the convenient timing of Mars’ announcement, I can tell you that whether it was an intentional distraction or not, it worked like a charm.