An assortment of multicolored M&M’s. Recent changes to the characters of brown and orange M&M draw controversy and bring critical race theory into question. MAX PIXEL VIA CC0 1.0

On Jan. 20, 2022, the Mars company introduced mascot redesigns for their M&M brand. While subtle, the designs create a more inclusive roster of candy-covered chocolates, ditching the anxious orange M&M’s untied shoes and switching the green M&M’s high heel boots for sneakers that match the rest of the cast’s. “Ms. Brown” now strays away from the sexualized undertones of her previous design in favor of a more professional, business-appropriate tone.

While Twitter was mocking the controlled yet anxiety-ridden orange M&M, there was little outcry or controversy about Mars’ announcement. No one really cared. 

That was until Fox News mogul and personality Tucker Carlson expressed sexual frustration with the new characters. 

M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous. 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…”

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Many outlets questioned Carlson’s take as an interesting, almost uncanny rant that gave the impression that one of cable news’ most popular pundits has been questionably fond of cartoon confections. However, Carlson’s fans and consistent viewers alike know that his concerns about the rebranding were nothing new to conservative media.

Outlets with similar agendas criticized the new designs as ‘woke,’ and some even considered it a ‘potential overthink.’ Another show on Fox News Network titled “Gutfeld!” held similar beliefs to Carlson regarding their sexual misfortunes now that the green M&M is no longer in boots. Many other B-list media sites, such as MercatorNet and Breitbart, discussed the seemingly vapid complaints by Fox News to pull strings on a supposed plot to call out the ‘radical left.’ 

And while all of this in hindsight sounds trivial, M&M’s saw an unprecedented spike in online searches in the days following the episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” By all accounts, M&M won the politicized redesign with more people centering on their brand. 

A post-Trump GOP creating controversies out of marketing and PR stunts is relatively harmless. But this fabrication of issues has now been used to upend actual policy initiatives. At the heart of this lies critical race theory (CRT).

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The term was originally only used in centers of academia, such as universities and colleges, to describe the complex interactions between humanly-devised systems and racist activities. The theory states the correlation between race inequality and the institutions both white and black individuals have to traverse. It is something that isn’t taught at elementary schools, nor has it been something that has ever been taught in elementary schools. In fact, these schools are the same institutions that white-wash Martin Luther King Jr. and herald Christopher Columbus as the founder of the New World.

I’m not claiming the Mars company has secretly conspired with Fox News in order to draw attention to their brand. However, there is something to be said about the audience the Mars cooperation is targeting with their rebranding efforts.

This isn’t the first time the company has changed the branding of its products, changing both Aunt Jemima’s Maple Syrup and Uncle Ben’s Rice following racial protests in the summer of 2020. Brands change to reflect the changing societal makeup of the country; once illegal in most states, Pride month has become one of the most lucrative times for companies to express their support for the LGBTQ+ community, and critical race theory is shaping up to be just as lucrative for the GOP. 

This attempt at rebranding comes at the cost of politics overtaking the idea of the change itself. Outlets will question the true intentions of corporate inclusivity, either with the aforementioned ‘agenda setting’ or a hypocritical take of the company. There is an answer to all of this:

These companies want money.

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The recent controversy with M&M’s is simply another issue the Republican party can use to create this idea of ‘cancel culture’ that has depicted much of mass media as a one-sided frenzy that goes against American values. The chocolate candies have been the latest victim in a slew of ‘woke brands’ that right-wing outlets have plastered since the party’s newfound identity following the Trump administration. Dr. Seuss, Land O’Lakes Butter, Keurig coffee machines, Nike and the NFL have all been deemed ‘canceled’ because of marketing tactics and business practices the companies have used to appeal to younger, more diverse audiences. But this conservative complaining only gives these brands a new audience — and aggressively targets them.

While some noticed the new M&M brand, most did not have any impressions until after conservative media slammed the company. This recognition of the change is exactly what the Mars brand is looking for. They don’t care how their products are spread, as long as people are talking about it. 

Ever since the New York Times released the 1619 Project, a long-form analysis on the idea of systemic racism since Colonial America, the term ‘critical race theory’ had migrated from the initial philosophical and legal discussions to a broad, politicized term that assumes the white race — and therefore ‘traditional American values’ — is under attack by an agenda spearheaded by an aggressive minority of civilization destroyers. This supposed minority goes by many labels: ‘radical leftists,’ ‘socialists,’ ‘communists’ or even names of derogatory origins.

Critical race theory has become the new dog whistle of the GOP since Trump’s introduction of the phrase of the term in conservative circles with the release of his 1776 Report, a wildly misinformed document that has been unanimously struck down by historians as a false interpretation of American History. Its predecessor is the “Fourteen Words,” a white separatist statement constructed from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” which called for protecting the white race as the majority demographic in America. 

Before that was the War on Drugs, an initiative from the Reagan administration to tackle increasing drug use by criminalizing low-level drug offenses, often targeting non-white individuals. This ended up ballooning the prison population in the U.S. and crippling inner cities with a lack of funding and the impression of ‘urban failures.’ 

Before M&M’s, there was Dr. Seuss. And before Dr. Seuss, there was Keurig. Noticing a pattern?

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It’s interesting to note that our current prison system, education infrastructure, the nature of our workforce — much of the institutions CRT points to — have all been heavily influenced by the GOP over the past 40 years. The Republican party emphasizing critical race theory has only brought attention to the systemic racism that has founded the ideas of the critical theory.

 It’s also interesting to note that many of the recent lawsuits the Mars company has been facing have resurfaced because of the rebranding, emphasizing the hypocrisy facing the agendas many of these companies are attempting to redirect. If Mars did not remove the stilettos of Ms. Brown, it’s very possible that the public wouldn’t have known about last year’s lawsuit regarding their use of child labor on their cocoa farms.

History tends to rhyme with itself. The GOP, just like these corporations, has created controversies for the sake of relevance, often at the expense of another party. Companies appealing to LGBTQ+ rights are the same corporations that have heavily discriminated against such groups, such as the Walt Disney Company. The Republican party, to redesign their party as one of the ‘silent majority,’ has unraveled many of the laws that have been made to create race equity in the country; through 19 states rewriting voter laws and 35 states introducing ‘anti-CRT’ education standards in 2021 alone, the Republican Party’s ‘non-issue issues’ have taken a toll on the sociopolitical landscape.

These new education laws have expanded in many states to become ‘pro-American,’ prohibiting discussions on race relations and ‘anti-American ideologies’ such as Socialism and Marxism. Certain bills in Florida are discouraging teachers from discussing sensitive historical topics, ranging from slavery to the Holocaust.

It would be a shame to ignore the horrific human atrocities of the Second World War. After all, the creation of M&M’s happened because of the need to provide American soldiers with a snack that wouldn’t easily melt in their hands.

Ignoring such history would prevent generations of Americans from understanding the sexual characters of Green and Ms. Brown, and potentially the effects of fascism and the Nazi regime. One of these is a lot more pressing than the other, but I think we all know which the GOP would find more valuable to preserve.

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