M & Ms: sex symbols for kids?

To anyone who thinks this S & M-M & M is outdated because it’s from a few years back:

Here is Ms. Brown on back cover of the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:

To anyone who thinks that I just have a dirty mind and there’s nothing sexualized about M & Ms for God’s sake, here is how Sports Illustrated promotes the ad on its own Facebook page:  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: “Did you see the sexy Ms. Brown made the cover of the Swimsuit issue again!? Welllll, the back cover; Check her out.”

Keep in mind that Ms. Brown is the new female, that before her debut on TV during this year’s Superbowl, even Time Magazine called the animated M & M characters “male-centric.” Ms. Brown has since been called the feminist M & M (as opposed to the boy-crazy Ms. Green.) Brown wears glasses (that means she’s smart!) and tweets empowering messages about women’s issues.

So why is our token feminist character peeking out the window with kissy-lips waving a towel (implying she’d naked, I guess?) on the back cover of SI, so in full view of any kid whose parents have this magazine at home?

Why does M & Ms have to sexualize its female cartoon characters? Before Ms. Brown, there was only one female out of five; now there are 2 out of 6, and this is what M & Ms does to them? These cartoon characters appear in toys, games, and in full size at CVS and Party City stores.

Why are we allowing these stereotypes to sell sexism to kids  in any available blank space? If M & Ms promoted racial stereotypes, there would outrage. Parents, this is not OK.

Please go to M & Ms Facebook page and tell the company to stop sexualizing females. As I posted earlier, the M &Ms marketing strategy is just as sick as using a cartoon camel to sell cigarettes to kids.

Read more about gendering food marketed to kids.

Read about the difference between sexualizing (bad) and sexuality (good)

Update: I am getting comments that the M & M pictured above is actually Ms. Green, that green thing she’s waving? It’s her shell which she has stripped off and is waving to show that she’s naked. I have seriously lost my appetite for M & Ms. Gross. Thoughts?

24 thoughts on “M & Ms: sex symbols for kids?

  1. Who would thought the marketing people could even sexualize M&M’s? Very interesting. It’s no wonder that kids are becoming sexually active at a younger age al the time. They are constantly bombarded by images. If they ‘try’ everything at a young age there will be nothing special and exciting for them to experience when the reach adulthood. They will be bored and jaded with life. How sad. Let children enjoy being children.

    • While I completely agree that it’s abhorrent to be sexualizing everything under the sun, including chocolate candies, your statement about kids becoming sexually active at younger ages is incorrect. The age of first intercourse has been getting later and later, and use of contraception is also on the rise. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html

      My concern regarding children’s exposure to highly-sexualized media content is not that they will have sex earlier, but that their self-concept will be negatively affected, as will their ideas about other boys/girls/men/women, and their ability to have healthy adult relationships and fulfilling career and private lives. I’m also concerned that such pervasive sexism perpetuates a hostile environment toward women – one only has to look as far as the many misogynist bills signed into law all over the US this year to see the impact of that sexism.

  2. Are any of these offensive ads appearing in kids’ magazines or during breaks in kids’ TV shows? (I don’t have a TV, so I have no idea). If they aren’t, then I guess I don’t really have a problem with it, since they are adult images being used to market products toward adults. As a comparison, I don’t think it’s offensive that Jennifer Lawrence stripped down to her bra and panties in GQ, but I sure want her fully clothed on the pages of Teen People!

  3. It’s actually Ms. Green. That’s not a towel, it’s her shell. That’s why you can’t see the “m” on her. So it’s actually a “naked” M&M.

  4. While I agree that for the most part, M&Ms is oversexualizing their female characters. There is at least a bit out of context. The ad for Brown is in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated which fits right in with the rest of the content in that magazine. I’m not saying that straight up makes it right, but it’s not any better or worse than anything else in that magazine.

    And as for the commercials that I typically see featuring Brown on Hulu when I watch Celebrity Apprentice, they are all shot from the waist up (not showing her high heels) and they are anything but sexualized.

    Green on the other hand, just straight up needs to be changed for the better.

      • I’m not trying to defend them, but I am curious as to what you would consider appropriate to differentiate the female M&Ms from the male M&Ms since they’re just a giant round circle with arms and legs.

        Without the lips and eyelashes, wouldn’t they look just like the male M&Ms? Or would they? I’m genuinely curious now.

        • hi bubbawheat,

          I’ve thought about this a lot. There is also the question: do we need to gender M & Ms??? It really pissed me off in the film Wall-E they gendered robots with stereotypical roles. But Maybe a bob the world is so sexist that if we don’t gender, the assumption is that the gender is male. So first suggestion: a girl’s name. Not Ms. or Miss but Jane or Rachel, something like that. Give the name a prominent position around the character. M & Ms puts a lot of effort into its sexist narratives so that shouldn’t be hard. Then possibly braids? Maybe a bob? Also, the M & M part could just be the head on a body. The body could wear a skirt over pants? What do you think?

          MM

      • I think it becomes a difficult task to genderize an anthropomorphic character without sexualizing them in some way. The main problem with your suggestions is that none of the other M&Ms have hair or wear clothes. I suppose it would differentiate them, but I’m not sure if it would make them look too different from the other characters. I don’t know if you have many artistic types following you, but it would be interesting to see if someone could design a female M&M that resembled the other characters, is obviously female, and yet without the standard eyelashes, pouty lips, and high heels.

        • Hi Bubbawheat,

          I totally disagree, all that is lacking is creativity. M & Ms could easily where clothing. Part of the appeal of animation is that anything is possible.

          MM

      • Yes, M&Ms could wear “clothing”, but they don’t. (If they had clothing in the ads, then the implication would be that the M&Ms you buy are naked). They could be weird heads on bodies, but they’re not. (If they were, then the implication would be that the M&Ms you eat are just decapitated heads).

        You say you’ve thought about this a lot, but your suggestions are nonsensical. You have a round candy with no “clothing” and no hair. They basically have a face, arms, and legs. Unless you’re going to give the female M&Ms breasts, you don’t have a lot to work with. If you don’t give the female M&Ms other distinguishing characteristics, they look just like the “male” M&Ms. Maybe the red M&M is “female”? Or the blue one?

      • Also, what’s your problem with Wall-E? Why do you say Wall-E is male? Is the robot ever identified as such? Does Wall-E have a penis? Why is Eve female? Does any refer to Eve as “she”? Does Eve have breasts?

        When a non-human character is anthropomorphized, it’s given human characteristics, maybe a personality, usually so the audience can identify with it. For most people, being human also means having a gender, so almost all characters have a gender — it makes them more relatable.

  5. “Why are we allowing these stereotypes to sell sexism to kids in any available blank space?”

    I happen to love M&Ms and I’m an adult.

    How are these ads marketed towards kids? Is it because they’re animated and animation automatically = “kiddie stuff”?

    Honestly, I’m sick of the attitude people have towards animation in this country. Animation has been viewed by the public as strictly kiddie fare since the advent of Saturday morning TV in the 1950s. And I’m tired of it not being viewed as a valid form of film-making.

    This isn’t the 1950s anymore. Animation is no longer merely “kiddie fare”. Films like Beauty and the Beast, The Iron Giant, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Incredibles, How to Train Your Dragon, Rango and the films by Aardman (including Pirates which I guaranteed wasn’t made “as a kids film”), have proven that and are steps in the right direction.

    More and more adults are going to see animated films in the theaters without children accompanying them. I remember when I went to see a late showing of Up, and noting that, even though the theater was FULL, there was not one child in that theater. It was all teens and adults.

    Same with Rango, Mr. Fox, and How to Train Your Dragon. Yet animation is still viewed as “kids stuff” by the general public. And it’s insulting as an animator. Purely insulting.

    I vividly remember going to see Steamboy, a PG-13 rated Japanese film that is anything but “kid friendly” and low and behold, the theater had several young kids sitting in the theater with their clueless parents wondering why the film was so violent.

    It’s like people don’t even bother to read the ratings anymore when it comes to animation. It’s a really strange situation. Europe and Asia don’t have this stupid attitude toward animation… why do we?

    Sorry for the long semi-off topic rant, and I don’t mean to attack you personally and I swear I’m not trying to be hostile, but when people label something as “kids stuff” because it happens to be animated (never mind that the animated M&M ads are shown on every single channel, even those aimed towards adults and teenagers) really makes me want to throw something.

    It’s putting animation in a box. Plain and simple. So much more could be done with the ARTFORM and big studios aren’t letting it happen.

    To quote Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), animation is a MEDIUM, not a genre.

    • Hi Jimtheanimator,

      I get what you’re saying about animation as an art form, but the M & Ms characters are in games and toys for kids. You may like M & Ms, but candy is generally something marketed to kids as well.

      MM

      • However, I know for a fact that the M&M ads are show on almost every TV channels, even those that are not specifically aimed at children like FX, Comedy Central, MTV etc. Wouldn’t the ads on those channels be marketed towards adults as they are broadcast on adult channels?

        Anyway, my point is that just because the ads happen to be animated, doesn’t mean they are specifically marketed towards children. I think you are attacking these particular ads because they are animated and animation is generally associated with children’s entertainment and I think that’s a bit unfair.

        These ads don’t seem to have a particular audience. They’re aimed at anyone who will buy the candy… which includes a lot of adults. M&Ms are pretty universally liked by kids and adults. They’ll be in just about any vending machine.

        I’m not trying to defend the content of the ads, I’m just saying that these ads are marketed just as much to adults as they are as kids. Which probably just makes the whole thing worse.

        Am I making any sense at all or am I rambling? This is why I’m not a writer haha.