Remember the TV commercial in 1980 when Jack in the Box blew up the clown?
Bet you didn’t know it wasn’t all just innocent fun to get consumers to try their food.
If it had happened in today’s world of Chicken Little cluckers jacked up as if they had downed a case of Red Bull before stepping in front of a camera on a cable TV “news commentary” show or starting to tap letters on a smartphone screen, it would have sparked a battle royal.
Clearly, looking in a rearview mirror of those in the hunt to call out a perceived woke wrong every time they inhale, Jack in the Box was trying to encourage its target audience — young males — to join the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh to blow things up.
The 1980 commercial did exactly what it was intended to do — grab the attention of consumers. It wasn’t a tutorial in Political Correctness 101.
Today it would likely trigger nonsensical and insistent howling deep in the bowels of the Internet and from talking heads that could devote a 30-minute cable show dripping with indignation if whoever was president was heard passing gas during a White House ceremony.
The atmospheric storm of hot air slamming into the vast wasteland of the public square is the result of Mars Wrigley doing a remake of its M&M candies mascots.
M&Ms announced it was working to create “a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.”
Plain M&M ads have always been pretty inclusive given they included every color found in their packages.
Mars — the candy company and not where some of those manning the cultural barricades were born — opted to give each of the six characters a "fresh, modern take" on their traditional look and "more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling."
They did so primarily through subtle changes in their footwear.
Not since Imelda Marcos ’obsession with footwear, have shoes created such a tsunami of feedback.
The green M&M’s new persona has managed to be the biggest lightning rod.
She had been wearing white go-go boots — footwear that walked out of popular culture shortly after Nancy Sinatra’s video appearance in 1966 promoting her song “These Boots are Made for Walking” .
Mars replaced them with what their in-house paid influencers described as a pair of "cool, laid-back sneakers to reflect her effortless confidence."
This created a lot of online buzz, which is exactly what Mars wanted.
National Public Radio politics correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben tweeted that “Today on Fresh Air (an NPR show), the green M&M, newly liberated from her white boots, lets loose. She talks social reproduction theory, how patriarchy and capitalism violently reinforce each other, and what a sexy lady M&M says about gender as a construct. Stay with us."
It was clearly tongue in check, but that said it was also dosed with political commentary as well.
Tucker Carlson on Fox News declared that "M&M's will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous," and that when "you're totally turned off, we've achieved equity.”
Then there were a deluge of Tweets from every corner of the Internet including one that read, “"I am a single issue voter and my issue: KEEP THE GREEN M&M A HOT SEXY LADY.”
I had no idea my old habit of downing bags of plain M&Ms like they were candy — which they are and not symbols of those on the hard left and the hard right who man the barricades of the culture wars in the Twilight Zone of social media — was making a political statement.
So, if I ate a green M&M after the candy characters have a makeover does it mean I am in solidarity with Kurtzleben’s view on women?
And if I ate a green M&M prior to the makeover was I embracing the 1966 version of women that Carlson seems to think they represent.
I am at a loss.
I thought I was eating candy. Actually, if you ever saw me attack a bag of plain M&Ms it is more like inhaling as opposed to eating.
If I partake in the future should I do so in privacy of my own home with the blinds drawn rather than risk some indignant and self-righteous passerby that is a soldier in the cultural/wokeness wars attacking me?
I long for the days when the only nagging you could be hit with for associating with a green M&M — or M&Ms of any persuasion — was the fact eating too many of them wasn’t healthy.
To be honest, there was a time fairly recently that three to five days a week I’d down two bags of plain M&Ms from a 7-Eleven.
Political correctness didn’t stop me doing so. What did was the fact I was spending close to $5 a pop.
As for Kurtzleben and Carlson et al, perhaps they could devote more of their platforms to dogging elected leaders to find ways to bring inflation under control so people can fill their bellies instead of stuffing their minds with snarky volleys in the cultural wars.
I realize that is wishful thinking just as it is wishful thinking that one day Mars won’t try to come out with tofu M&M’s to join their list of 58 flavors that includes Mexican Jalapeno Peanut M&Ms as well as M&Ms Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Mars — which clearly relishes the attention — this week announced they were pausing use of their characters in favor of a new campaign. In a press release they noted “we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet. But now we get it — even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing.”
This prompted another company with roots in San Joaquin County — A&W Root Beer — to try to catch some exposure riding the woke wave.
A&W, which was founded in June of 1919, sent out this gem:
“America, let’s talk," A&W began, mirroring the opening of M&M's statement word for word. "Since 1963, Rooty the Great Root Bear has been our beloved spokesbear. We knew people would notice because he’s literally a 6-foot tall bear wearing an orange sweater. But now we get it – even a mascot’s lack of pants can be polarizing."
A&W then said it has therefore decided "Rooty" will be wearing "jeans" going forward. Fans are told not to worry, as he will remain the company's "official spokesbear."
This prompted more furious Tweets on the Internet as well as indignant posturing on cable.
It was a joke, or course rooted in the word “polarizing” to play on the fact the A&W mascot is a bear — think polar bear — and to ride the internet PR tornado that M&M blazed.
As for me, I’m planning a trip to A&W Root Beer at 216 East Lodi Avenue in Lodi to order a classic root beer float in their signature frosty mug to enjoy while checking out the numerous Rooty mascot items and other A&W memorabilia in the restaurant.
And on the way home, I’ll take out a loan and stop by a 7-Eleven and grab a bag or two — or three — of plain M&Ms.
I’ll make sure to think politically correct thoughts du jour as I savor the green ones.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org