Hostages and cannibals make me want to buy your snack product. (TV ads as hyperactive literary analysis)

M&Ms commercials have always bothered me a little. There’s a loveability to the anthropomorphized, walking/talking CGI candies to be sure, but there’s no getting around their looming demise.

So to say that we identify with the protagonists is immediately to say that we understand just how little their lives are valued by their surrounding society. At every turn, a friendly human shows flashes of villainy, a winking threat to kill and neatly devour our ill-fated heroes. And in a dark twist, the very quality that endears us to these characters — their simple, archetypical innocence — is the very thing that leads them down this dangerous path.

Here’s the “hostage” commercial:

The joke is obvious, but the commentary on marginalized peoples is equally palpable. A minority so reduced in their societal weight they have become negligible. As if that cop doesn’t remember that there’s an entire population of small, roundish, brightly colored pseudo-men who are made of chocolate & talk in post-vaudevillian banter. Invisible Man, indeed! Like many members of a downtrodden race (species?), personal esteem issues fester, to the point where denial (The criminal is NOT thinking of eating Gary, of course.) is as involuntary as breath.

And what of this?

This ad (at best) is an inconsistency, falsely portraying our M&Ms as cannibals, so completely disconnected from prior characterizations. Perhaps, though, it’s possible that in this new episode we are being drawn deeper into the frightening behaviors of these (are they even terrestrial) beings? Or even more disturbing. Maybe… MAYBE! They are all former humans who have eaten so many M&M candies that they themselves have become what they have eaten, as the clichéd admonition goes. The story unfolds in shocking new directions, and we are left to ponder whether what we have always known is what we will continue to accept as church.

I choose to believe that M&Ms are merely metaphoric embodiments of the dream of death. They are more souls than ghosts and less tangibly present than actual humans. Perhaps the hostage-taker doesn’t actually see the M&Ms and their presence is only a comic counterweight to the pathetic psychic trauma being demonstrated by a disturbed, but all together incompetent, criminal. The talking M&Ms are only afterbirth of our thoughts when we leave our mortal vessels, and conversations between them and live people are merely subconscious transfers of (what?) guilt, anxiety, self-glorification, etc.

They are also a little bit tasty.




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