Op-Ed: Female cartoons no longer sexy, what a travesty


Photo credit: Alexis David

On Jan. 20, 2022, Mars announced a rebrand of their classic M&Ms. This rebrand sparked internet controversy, specifically in relation to the green and brown M&Ms’ shoe changes.

By Alexis David, Staff Reporter

When I get home from school, one of the first things that I do is check TikTok. I love the app, mostly because it inspires creativity and never fails to make me laugh, but, I can’t scroll past five videos without seeing a woman being sexualized. Whether it be a video of a female superhero with the comment section flooded with comments about how hot she is, or a simple video of a girl dancing, where all of the comments are about her body, it is a recurring problem. The other day, while scrolling through the app, I saw one of the most telling examples of this: a clip of Tucker Carlson talking about M&M’s.

On Jan. 20, 2022, M&M’s announced a rebrand of their classic characters, focusing on giving them “more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling.” 

The rebrand focused on the character’s shoes without changing much else about their outward appearance. The male characters’ white block shoes were adapted into high-top and low-top sneakers, with more detail. Whereas the green M&M’s signature white go-go boots were booted in favor of sneakers, and the brown M&M got her heels lowered to prioritize comfort over style. While, to most people, these changes would be inconsequential, far-right reporter Tucker Carlson is especially bothered by the change.

The TikTok video displays a clip from his talk show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” where Carlson focused on the green and brown M&M’s, the two female characters, and complained that their new look is “less sexy.”

“The other big change is that the brown M&M has quote ‘transitioned from high stilettos to lower block heels,’ also less sexy,” Carlson said. “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. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity.” 

Carlson’s reaction is extremely telling of society’s reflection on women and the sexualization that comes along with this, even in cartoon form. It’s genuinely ridiculous that anybody can be so angry that an M&M is “less sexy,” or that you can be “turned off” by a cartoon character’s change of shoes.

While these changes may seem small, they help to desexualize women’s images. Hypersexualization is a problem that infiltrates every inch of modern society, from dress codes to socially acceptable standards, to, yes, even cartoon characters.

It’s a consistent problem in media that female characters are made to appeal to a “male gaze,” a creative choice that sexualizes women for male benefit. The same problem occurs on the other hand, where, if women dress for comfort instead of style, they’re too modest or considered to be a prude.

Women are told throughout their whole lives that they have to look and or dress a certain way. Every single clothing choice a woman makes is dictated and judged, whether it is too revealing or not revealing enough. The M&Ms’ shoe change is just one example of this, where such a minimal shift inspires such a negative and, in my mind, borderline insane reaction.

All the male M&M’s had shoe changes but nobody was mad about that. Why? Because men don’t face the same expectations. The yellow M&M’s shoes were completely changed, yet some are mad about the brown M&M’s heels being lowered one inch. Seriously? It’s one inch. One.

Carlson’s reaction also makes me wonder why he feels entitled to deem what is sexy or not for women. What exactly is inherently not sexy about low-ish heels and sneakers, and what is sexier about go-go boots? Why does such a simple clothing choice change the way some people, like Carlson, look at a woman?

Why does the brown M&M’s less than one inch change of heel make her “deeply unappealing”? Why does the green M&M’s choice to opt for sneakers instead of go-go boots make her “totally androgynous”? Why are some, like Carlson, so angry that they are being turned off by an M&M? You just know that society is at a breaking point when people are mad that M&M’s are no longer sexy.

Is the rebrand slightly performative? Yes. But, despite this, the change helps. Making the standard media portrayal of a woman less sexy makes the sexualization of women less normalized. Even the simple change of a candy characters’ shoes, helps.

Sorry that M&M’s just won’t cut it for you anymore. That seems like a you-problem, Tucker.