While feminism is not new to American society, the new feminist candy introduced by Mars back in February nonetheless created a buzz. Various gossip sites discussed the character’s feminist association, and The New York Times discussed the new candy, describing Ms. Brown as “an intelligent woman with a sharp wit who finally decided to reveal herself after working for decades behind the scenes as ‘chief chocolate officer.’” And, most notably, the website superbowlcommercials.org stated that Mars has put “to rest the threats of boycott by feminist groups over under-representation in the candy mascot field.”
Regardless of how accurate Ms. Brown represents today’s modern day feminist, Mars’ evolution of its cast of M&M’s characters is one that does reflect a goal to include females and mirror society. When the original M&M’s “spokescandies” were introduced in 1995, the characters comprised an all-male cast. Two years later, in 1997, Mars introduced the first femalem character, the sexy Green M&M. Now, 15 years after Green’s introduction, Mars has created a second female character bearing feminist attributes. While the addition of a feminist character has come rather late when compared with the timeline of the feminist movement, Ms. Brown nonetheless has created discussion and drawn awareness to feminism through her attire and demeanor. It will be interesting to see if other food brands that have relied on sexualized female figures, such as Carl’s Jr. and its use of model Kate Upton to promote its hamburgers, will eventually introduce feminist-like spokespeople.
So, how does Ms. Brown stack up against the ideologies of the Third, and most current, wave of U.S. feminism? Is Ms. Brown an accurate representation of feminism within advertising?
The Third Wave, which began in the later part of the 1980s and continues today, is similar to the first two waves in that women strive to achieve equality within society, such as in the workplace and in the home. What sets the Third Wave apart from the first two waves is that there isn’t a single feminist idea that people are striving to achieve. Additionally, one of the cornerstones of the Third Wave is that all sexualities, races, and ethnicities are embraced.
In the first February M&M’s commercial, Ms. Brown is shown wearing glasses and is speaking about a political encounter with a male colleague, implying that she holds a high position within an important field and supports the feminist movement’s focus on career equality. Additionally, in a second commercial, she is shown facing an encounter with two disrespectful male colleagues. Her bold remarks, and their scared reactions, reflect her advanced status.
Ms. Brown has also been depicted as being annoyed with the males in her presence, instead preferring her conversations with women. Her ambiguous sexual orientation, especially when contrasted with that of the sexualized Green M&M, reflects the Third Wave’s focus on embracing all sexual orientations within society.
Thus, while Ms. Brown does subtly imply the Third Wave’s focus on embracing all forms of sexual orientation, her primary characteristic of being a strong career woman reflects one of the hallmark issues surrounding U.S. feminism in general. Overall, one could say that she does represent a feminist; however, one could also surmise that her glasses and bold attitude reflect the stereotypical characteristics of a feminist, and thus perpetuating negative feminist portrayals within the media.
Overall, it seems as though a little more time is needed to determine whether or not Ms. Brown is a true feminist—and one that will truly appease the American feminist groups.