The M&M’s Redesign: Distinctive or Distraction?

In case you missed it, last week Mars, Incorporated announced that it would be redesigning their M&M’s characters to make them “current” and “representative of our consumer.” The internet has been boiling about a few particular design changes. The most dramatic: the Blue M&M now has sleeves.

Just kidding. Of course I’m talking about the Green M&M.

The Green M&M’s major design elements since her first appearance in 1997 have been her go-go boots and her feminine wiles. Standing in a seductive, bent-knee pose with a hand on her hip, she’s been “the sexy M&M” since long before the Brown M&M’s debut in 2012. So many were shocked to see that her design change replaces her boots with white sneakers, covers her peach-toned arms and legs with white sleeves and seems to tone down her personality.

The previous characterization for “Ms. Green” showed her as confident, stealing the spotlight from other fellow characters. The new characterization has her taking a backburner role, with her page on the M&M’s website describing her as a “hypewoman for (her) friends.”

“I think we all win when we see more women in leading roles,” her bio reads, “so I’m happy to take on the part of supportive friend when they succeed.”

This immediately reminds me of the Tomboy and Girly Girl trope: whenever there are two girls in a team, one of them is a feminine girly girl, while the other is a more casual tomboy. With the redesign, the Green M&M seems poised to take the tomboy position, whereas before both female M&Ms held the girly girl position. There’s nothing wrong with being a tomboy, but why does Green have to take that role? Why do any of the M&M’s have to undergo a personality change?

You might argue that changing Green’s image makes her a better role model for children. First off, stop moralizing clothing choices. Nobody is any less of a person for wearing sneakers over boots. Someone who is more attractive or who dresses more provocatively is not less moral or any less of a positive role model. Second, if your child’s only decent role model is the Green M&M, you’ve done something wrong. Rethink the entire parenthood. When I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be an M&M when I grew up: I wanted to be Wolverine from the X-Men.

All of this outrage and pushback is, of course, what Mars wants. We’ve seen before that when a company advertises a product in a way that gets people confused or upset, it results in tons of press. But in this case, some have raised concerns that the redesign outrage is planned, for one chilling reason: Mars was named in a class action child slavery lawsuit last year.

The suit involved men from Mali who said that they were trafficked as child slaves and forced to work on cocoa plantations, one of two similar suits. The case involving Mars was brought by eight men who worked in the Cote D’Ivoire, which supplies chocolate to Nestle, Cargill, Hershey, Olam, Mars, Mondelez and Barry Callebaut. The case is ongoing based on the information I could find at press time.

Is the redesigning of the M&M’s a calculated move by Mars to distract from this lawsuit, or is the timing just off? We may never know. But I don’t think anyone’s unjustified in being suspicious. It definitely wouldn’t be the sketchiest thing Mars has ever done.

Categories: Opinion

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