The Green M&M is the Sexist Sex Symbol We Never Wanted

By Sam Stroozas

Image: M&M’s USA

Image: M&M’s USA

We all know sex sells, but to to what extent? Capitalism has been known to create content that will be consumed in masses only to benefit a select group, and this is where the identity of the green M&M was born. Hyper-sexualizing people is the foundation of our society, but sexualizing animated characters helps continue the frenzy. We will showcase sex and sexualize objects and characters in the media, but remain content in lacking true sexual education in the classroom.

The green M&M has been a sex symbol of the Mars brand for as long as M&M’s have swept our candy aisles. On the biography page of the green M&M on the M&M website her age is, “Old enough to know better,” weight, “How dare you!” and she likes, “simple candlelit dinners…In Paris.” Not only inserting accustary rhetoric when being asked about her weight, but also using the power of language to create sexy dialogue between the reader and the M&M is disheartening. Why is it a bad thing to talk about how much you weigh? When we actively stigmatize parts of society, they seep into individual mindsets and especially for young girls, create insecurity where it never needed to be.

When you read further you see her quote is, “I melt for no one,” and her appearance description is, “Beauty of this magnitude can’t be put into words,” and she dislikes, “Women and men who stare.” Creating para-social relationships with characters isn’t often worrisome, but when it’s engulfed by the the stream of sexualization, it becomes hard to separate reality from fantasy. For many people, they may see the green M&M as a sex symbol more than an advertisement.

Her appearance is the key to her identity. In a Daily Dot article entitled, “People will never want to stop fucking the green M&M” Brianna Holt wrote, “The green M&M has it all. Not only is she one of the only two women in the group, but her high-heel boots, thick eyelashes, and big eyes mimic that of modern beauty standards. She appears to be younger and more flirtatious than Ms. Brown, the other female M&M, whose eyes are hidden by glasses and who always appears to be bored.” The advertisement purposefully created two female-identifying characters who are polar opposites in order to create a dichotomy that female viewers would easily understand. Although it is important to have sex icons in the media, as well as the traditional “nerd,” why can they not be the same person? It is vital to have representation for every type of woman, or at the very least, not only rely on stereotypes.

In a tweet by the account @enagurney they wrote, “[Early 1990’s, the M&M  boardroom, an ad executive unveils the Green M&M character] people will wanna have sex with this candy the end.” Setting the scene of the production of the green M&M, this user shared what he noticed - the advertising team purely created the green M&M as a character that the public would want to have sex with, and therefore will buy the candy due to their attraction. But this is not without reason, considering many people used to think the green M&M was an aphrodisiac.

The website, Candy Favorites wrote an article about the history of this rumor and how it infiltrated its way into the advertising strategies of the Mars company, “According to Celtic myths, the Green Man was the God of Fertility. Green has long been considered a metaphor and symbol for fertility, and this was evident in the 15th century as Green was the preferred color for wedding attire. The symbolism attached to the color green continues today even though it has taken on a more modern meaning.” This modern meaning equates to the rumored aphrodisiac. Many rock stars from the late 20th century peperatuted this myth by requesting only green M&M’s in their dressing rooms. Van Halen specifically, requested only bowls of green M&M’s backstage and in 1996, Masterfoods released a commercial asking, “Is it true what they say about the green ones?”

The top definition of the green M&M on Urban Dictionary is “A candy often believed to make consumers horny,” which has urged consumers to try out the tactic at home. There has never been any legitimate confirmation that the green M&M specifically makes you any more or less horny, but it did not stop people from experimenting on their own.

In Business Insider they researched how the M&M’s were divided based on personality traits. By the 1990’s, M&M’s had lost their icon status, so the business had to brainstorm a new strategy to get the American public to see them as less of a candy and more of a mainstream image. Mars reached out to an advertisement agency, BBDO, to makeover the brand. The creative director of BBDO, Susan Credle said, “They'd become just candy. An aisle store candy brand versus an icon brand.” The company did not have a lot of money to fund the project so it had to be a simple message.

BBDO’s idea was “to take the colors of the candies in the bag and develop each into a character to make a comedic ensemble.” To create recognizable and memorable personality types they used distinct traits and split them into 4 categories, “Red (the sarcastic one) Yellow (the simple one) Blue (the cool one) and Green (the sexy one) — and later, Brown and Orange, too.”

Through memorable messages, such as this, advertisement teams can prescribe to young impressionable consumers that sarcasm, simpleness, coolness, and sexyness exist in seperate realms, when in reality you can be all of these things, and you should have the capability to do so and not feel like any less. By relying on sexist stereotypes, BBDO actively engaged in implicit biases and distinctively made the only female character at the time what they thought was the most interesting type of woman - sexy.

When the brown M&M came around 17 years later, she was coined as the bossy and smart female animated character. Jennifer Berg, professor at the Food Studies program at NYU commented on the sexism, “When [sexism] is deprecating men, it actually elevates them," Berg said by giving the example of the man who can't make dinner. "It's not about you're pathetic and you don't know how to cook. It's like, oh you're so cute, you order Seamless. It's endearing, When it's at the expense of a woman, it doesn't always have that effect.”

The representation for the male-identifying characters are all mediocre portrayals of masculinity. They are not as stereotypical as they are detached and unrelated to the true male stereotypes and experiences. Berg noticed the lack of sexism for the men, “Red, Yellow, Orange and Blue represent average or deprecating male characteristics, all of the 'men' are benign sanitized versions of male traits while the 'women' are hyper-characterizations of female stereotypes."

The sexism in the M&M brand not only reinforces implicit biases that are then enforced to the youth and any other impressionable consumers, but they create two polarized female characters to contribute further to the minimization of female character traits. Attributes such as smart and sexy do not have to exist on opposite sides, you CAN be both and insituniting that you cannot is only continuing the stigmatization that young girls and women must face daily as they navigate through the declared sexist warzone of society.