Tucker Carlson confronted an old ideological nemesis this week.
Carlson's latest rant came after Mars Wrigley unveiled a new promotional wrapper for M&M's featuring three "female" candy characters, including the classic green and brown characters and the new purple peanut M&M.
"We're celebrating women across the country who are flipping the status quo!" the official M&M's Twitter account announced on Jan. 5. Customers can nominate a non-M&M woman in their life "who is breaking barriers and paving a new path" to win $10,000.
While the campaign is certainly underscored by a certain amount of outdated Girlboss-era cringe, it also feels like it was, at least in part, designed to feed the right-wing outrage machine. The pattern is now a familiar one: A large brand releases a product or promotion that may be viewed by some as socially progressive or "woke," which in turn sparks certain right-wing influencers and pundits to use their respective platforms to rage about said brand.
We're celebrating women across the country who are flipping the status quo! Help us shine the spotlight by nominating a woman in your life who is breaking barriers and paving a new path. Head to https://t.co/fgwVEG4joI to learn more! pic.twitter.com/YRxOXvPhXb
— M&M'S (@mmschocolate) January 5, 2023
Whether this is a sustainable marketing strategy in the long term is debatable, but much like in the case of more gonzo food brand stunts — such as Taco Bell releasing a Jalapeño Noir to pair with chalupas or KFC's Colonel Sanders-themed romance novella — in an oversaturated market, attention is both a commodity and currency.
And in a landscape where media figures like Carlson are invested in fanning the flames of a "culture war," attention is almost a guarantee.
"The green M&M got her boots back, but apparently is now a lesbian, maybe?" Carlson said on Tuesday's edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," a reference to a viral 2015 tweet depicting the green and brown M&M holding hands.
The caption on said tweet read: "It's rare Ms. Brown and I get to spend time together without some colorful characters barging in."
Carlson then turned his attention to the newest M&M character.
"And there's also a plus-sized, obese purple M&M," he said. "So, we're gonna cover that, of course."
It's unclear why exactly the Fox News host characterized the elongated peanut M&M as "obese," as none of the circular M&M's have defined "waists" or any other feature that would indicate weight. He then took a quick beat before adding, "because that's what we do."
This is so unbelievably funny genuinely no notes pic.twitter.com/6vV3TGXY2h
— DJ LEASHKID (@leash_kid_) January 11, 2023
Indeed, Carlson has done this before. Last January, he dedicated a segment on his Fox News program to bemoaning how the candy characters had been desexualized in a then-new campaign by Mars Wrigley.
As Brett Bachman wrote for Salon, the company released new packaging in which the brown M&M swapped out her signature stilettos for kitten heels, while the Green M&M's go-go boots were replaced with white sneakers.
The relatively benign changes were meant to promote "inclusivity" and bring the female-presenting characters in line with "current" trends that are more "representative of our consumer," Anton Vincent, the company's president, said.
Carlson, however, seemed to take the changes as a personal affront, and he attempted to connect "Mars' decision to make its cartoons 'less sexy' to the decline of American society."
"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," the Fox News said. "That's the goal."
"When you're totally turned off, we've achieved equity," he added.
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"You… wanted to have a drink… with an M&M? #DeeperIssues," the congressman tweeted.
M&M's weren't the only subject of Carlson's ire this week. As Salon Food covered, Carlson also stoked the overblown fear that the government is coming for your gas stoves, prompted by comments made by Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), suggesting that the federal agency may pursue some form of regulatory action surrounding the manufacturing or installation of gas ranges.
Contemporary research shows their usage may contribute to environmental and health issues like asthma.
On Jan. 10, Carlson invited Stratis Morfogen, the executive managing director of Brooklyn Chop House, onto his show to discuss the rumors of a ban, largely centered on the topic of governmental overreach.
"For people that don't understand the restaurant industry, for 35 years, we've been attacked by everybody," Morfogen said. "We had organized crime in our industry in the '70s, '80s, '90s. In the 2000s, we had corrupt Wall Street. And for the last three years, we've had government overreach."
However, both the CPSC and the White House have since confirmed that there are no plans for a gas stove ban.