The cartoon mascots that sell M&M’s in television commercials will now dress and act in more gender-neutral ways, the 80-year-old candymaker announced Thursday.
Jane Hwang, global vice president for M&Ms at parent company Mars, told AdWeek that it’s time to minimize traditional gender stereotypes in marketing campaigns for the chocolate candies that feature the characters.
“We took a deep look at our characters, both inside and out, and have evolved their looks, personalities and backstories to be more representative of the dynamic and progressive world we live in,” Ms. Hwang said.
To support the change, the female M&M’s characters will dress more comfortably: Green will wear sneakers rather than knee-high boots and act more confidently, and Brown will wear plainer eyeglasses and more sensible low-block heels instead of stilettos.
Ms. Hwang said Green and Brown will team up as a “force supporting women, together throwing shine and not shade.”
Meanwhile, the three male M&M characters will act in less traditionally masculine ways. AdWeek reported that Red will be less bossy and Orange will “acknowledge and embrace his anxiety.”
Ms. Hwang did not say anything about changes to the Blue, the laid-back, “cool” M&M who wears only white sneakers and sports catchphrases such as, “Yeah, man.”
She said the company will stop attaching prefixes to the characters’ names, like “Mr. Blue” or “Ms. Brown,” to de-emphasize their distinct genders.
Although the individual candies will have similar dimensions, the ads, packaging and tie-in merchandise will present the mascots in different shapes and sizes “to promote diversity.”
“M&M’s is on a mission right now to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” Ms. Hwang said.
Reaction on both the right and left to the candymaker’s announcement ranged from bemused to incredulous.
Conservative media personality Candace Owens wrote mockingly: “This is a huge win for the oppressed M&Ms.”
Conservative writer Mark Hemingway quipped: “Who knew Van Halen was so racist?”
Added Lauren Chen, a conservative Christian media personality: “M&Ms are not only fictional, but also literally a rainbow, and yet still they are apparently not diverse enough.”
Some liberals also shared their scorn.
Laura Bassett, editor-in-chief of the feminist cultural magazine Jezebel, wrote in a tweet: “Losing the voting rights bill and getting woke M&Ms instead feels right.”
Andi Zeisler, an editor at Bitch Media, wrote: “Women: Everyone’s lives would improve if we had things like paid family leave, universal pre-K, affordable child care, and the ability to make informed decisions about our reproductive futures. Capitalism: Lol no but please enjoy these feminist M&Ms.”
Richard Newby, a freelance writer who has been featured in The New York Times, accused the Mars company of “selling the illusion of progress.”
“We just wanted the police defunded, reparations, and trans lives to matter … but instead the peanut M&M is now they/them Afro-Latinx,” Mr. Newby said in a tweet. “No POC or queer person was like, ‘wow, I really do wish more M&Ms looked like me.’”
Introduced in 1941, M&Ms were originally named after Mars and Murrie, a reference to candy executives William Murrie and Forrest Mars, the son of Mars founder Frank Mars.
Marketers created the Red and Yellow M&M cartoon mascots in 1958; Blue, Green and Orange joined them in 1998 and Brown in 2012. In 2017, the company redesigned the anthropomorphic mascots with more realistic renderings and accessories.
• Sean Salai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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