Rainbow Rant: Tucker Carlson doesn’t really care

The Fox News talking head’s M&M meltdown is a cruel manipulation of anxious viewers

Joy Ellison
Tucker Carlson during the first day of the AmericaFest hosted by Turning Point USA on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Phoenix.

First, they came for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a root vegetable

Then they came of the M&Ms, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a cartoon version of a piece of candy

Then they came for me –

And there was no one left to speak for me.

-Some future Fox News talking head, probably

***

M&Ms may melt in your mouth, not in your hand, but last week Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson proved it doesn’t take much for him to have a meltdown on-air. 

Carlson did a segment on the rebranding of the M&Ms cartoon mascots, complaining about the redesign. Mars described the refresh as a step toward gender-inclusivity, but Carlson expressed chagrin that the changes made the female candy cartoons less sexy. He bemoaned the green M&M’s switch from go-go boots to comfy sneakers and the brown M&M’s adoption of a chunky heel instead of a stiletto. “M&Ms will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” he said. 

Carlson’s rant was reminiscent of Potato Head-gate, the 2021 conservative kerfuffle over Hasbro’s decision to change the name of its brand from Mr. Potato Head to simply Potato Head. But Carlson’s tirade somehow managed to be even more bizarre.

I don’t want to kink-shame Tucker Carlson. His feelings about the attractiveness of candy cartoon characters and their shoes are his business. But as a non-binary person whom Carlson would probably describe as “deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” I have some unappealing truths that need to be shared.

In all probability, Carlson doesn’t care about M&Ms at all. Instead, he is most likely motivated by a need to keep his career afloat. To do that, he needs to continue selling fear to an audience that is easily rattled by our changing culture. Carlson’s job depends on Fox viewers continuing to believe that any shift in gender norms, even the most minute and candy-coded, represents a grave threat. 

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It must have been a very slow news day if M&Ms were the scariest thing Carlson could come up with. The segment is hilarious, but it reveals a sobering truth: In a world full of real reasons to stress, the Fox’s fearmongering is cruel and manipulative. Our love-ones held in the network’s thrall probably need our help. 

Of course, Carlson seems believe the tales he is spinning on some level. He does share the same expression as the anxious orange M&M, after all. 

That’s no surprise because Carlson was raised by a father who was terrified by trans women, one of Carlson’s favorite targets. Tucker’s father, the aptly named Dick Carlson, made a journalistic career out of outing trans women. In her HBO docuseries The Lady and the Dale, director Zackary Drucker reveals that Dick Carlson exposed the trans status of tennis star Renee Richards and a little known a woman named Liz Carmichael. 

Carmichael was charged with securities fraud for her shady marketing of a three wheeled car. Thanks in part to Daddy Carlson, her trial focused more on her gender than charges against her. 

Dick Carlson became fixated on Carmichael, writing more than twenty stories about her. He developed such an intense fear of her that he began carrying a gun. 

“Liz Carmichael is the trans bogeyman of Tucker Carlson's childhood,” Drucker says. “And just to extrapolate a little bit, Tucker Carlson thinks that his father is heroic. And his heroic father was only afraid of one person, who happened to be trans.”

There may be no way to comfort Tucker Carlson, but queer and trans people can take comfort in this: as long as conservatives fear change, pure and simple, we’re bound to win the culture war. Because change is inevitable, and so are we.