Voices: M&M’s have caved to Tucker Carlson, proving corporate America was never on our side anyway

M&Ms have had a makeover - and Tucker Carlson is not impressed (Mars)
M&Ms have had a makeover - and Tucker Carlson is not impressed (Mars)

Contrary to their famous slogan, it seems that M&M’s do actually melt in your hands – or, at least, in Tucker Carlson’s hands.

The iconic brand has given into the far-right gadfly’s demands that their candies be sexy enough to turn him on, thus proving that corporations are not on the side of the American people, but on the side of making money – even if that means giving in to the worst elements in our society.

This drama began last year when a cartoon mascot for M&M’s candy changed her shoes. (Yes, you read that right.) The green M&M swapped her go-go boots for sneakers, and Carlson lost his ever-loving mind.

“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgenous, until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal,” he raged at the time. “When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”

His rant was so bizarre it borders on ludicrous. Achieving equity is a noble goal, and it’s telling that Carlson thinks those of us pursuing it are against him. (He says “they’ve won,” not “we’ve won.”) In complaining about androgyny and female cartoon characters – not even human characters; he’s talking about food here – not conforming to gender roles, he gives away the game.

This isn’t about candy. It’s about power and control, in this case over gender non-conforming people and women. Carlson is essentially saying: “Candy being inclusive? The queers and broads might get uppity ideas. Can’t have that.”

Of course, it being the 21st century and all, this sparked a swift online backlash from Carlson’s far-right acolytes, who spent most of the past year attacking M&M’s for daring to change the design of their spokecandies. Now, the company has finally caved to their pressure, deciding to “take an indefinite pause” from their iconic spokescandies. Cowards.

It’s appalling, craven, and deeply irresponsible to cave into Carlson and his ilk. It is not, however, surprising. This is just the latest instance of companies backing down to pressure from the far-right.

You may recall that last year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis targeted Disney after the company spoke out against his nefarious “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The company fired LGBTQ-supportive CEO Bob Chapek for his efforts, possibly because – as the right-wing National Review reported – stocks had fallen by 40%.

Whether Vladimir Lenin said “fascism is capitalism in decay” is disputed by historians. What is not disputed is its truth. Hugo Boss collaborated with the Nazis. So did Volkswagen, which also has agreed to pay $6.5 million to employees it aided Brazil’s military dictatorship in persecuting in the 1960s. It would seem that the moment corporations start to lose money, or see a chance to make more money, any progressive principles go out the window. Under capitalism, these organizations exist solely to turn a profit.

Capitalist enterprises are not our friends. They are not our allies. They are our enemies lying in wait.

As Audre Lorde famously said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We cannot expect corporate America to save us when corporate America has one interest.

Therefore, the only path to liberation is decidedly anticapitalist. Expecting allies on Wall Street is a fool’s errand. They have a responsibility to their shareholders, not to anyone else. The moment their profit margins are threatened, they will kowtow and support the most dangerous and repugnant elements of our society – while getting friendly faces like Maya Rudolph (M&M’s new “Chief of Fun,” whatever that is) to put a smile on their feebleness and greed.

Understanding what those trying to fight a culture war over candy are really doing helps us to move forward with clarity, thus is important to stop and consider. It also illustrates just how much power the far-right has in this country. That someone as extremely reactionary as Tucker Carlson can bend iconic brands to his will is frightening.

That politicians like Ron DeSantis can roll back gains in positive representation for LGBTQ people, women, and people of color is alarming. None of us should take for granted that the progress we have made over the past 60 years cannot be rolled back.

We saw this happen when the Supreme Court took away women’s rights to bodily autonomy last year when they overturned Roe v Wade. We’ll see even more of it as they continue to flex their muscles and exercise their control over every aspect of American life, from the judiciary to the confectionary. These are dangerous times, made even more dangerous by craven capitalists and corporations like Mars, Incorporated (the parent company of M&M’s).

It is important, then, that those of us opposed to such bigotry and hate are not distracted by cartoon controversies. Taking a moment to roll our eyes at this nonsense is fine, but we must not be distracted. Fighting culture wars over candy is not going to help anyone.

Our fight is not with chocolate morsels. It’s with a far-right system which is so threatened by even the smallest challenge to its cultural and political hegemony that it makes a mountain out of an M&M.