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M&M “Sexy and I Know It” Super Bowl Commercial 2012

While windshield pitting was a grassroots, politically neutral event—an honest mistake—the current imbroglio over M&Ms is a more modern incarnation of the moral panic that’s driven more by marketing than mystery. In case you missed this tiresome drama, the Mars Wrigley company recently redesigned their M&M corporate cartoon characters, lowering the high heels on the “female” M&Ms, changing their “flesh” from “generic white person hue” to colors representing their shells, and introducing a new, plus-size M. Apparently bereft of anything else to worry about, right wing commenters, especially Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, were performatively offended. “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” Carlson said on his show. “When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”

Putting aside how deeply weird it is to be turned on by candy, Mars responded by promising Maya Rudolph would be the candy’s new spokesperson, as we’re too immature as a nation to handle their “spokescandies.” We’ll be introduced to Maya in her new role during the Super Bowl, Mars promises.

Look, the fix is in. It’s easy to see this as another expression of Right Wing moral outrage like The War on Christmas, or anger over what they call “large” at Starbucks, but most of the people talking about it are ridiculing Tucker and company. Everyone posting “can you believe these people think this?” are playing their part by amplifying the message and spreading awareness about M&Ms before the big roll-out of their new marketing blitz. (Me too, I guess).

It’s extremely unlikely that Mars is rushing to put together a last-second advertising and marketing campaign in response to Tucker Carlson or any other media blowhard—I’m certain that SuperBowl commercial with Maya Rudolph was already shot and the overall plan approved by countless boardrooms full of rich guys months ago. Also: Tucker Carlson doesn’t really care about advertising cartoon characters; he’s just trying to make mouth-breathers watch his stupid show. It’s all fake, and like all moral panics, it will be fodder for late night comedians and Twitter dwellers for a couple days and be forgotten by next month.

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