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#136 M&Ms World

September 22, 2011

This is not so much a writeup of a cool place, as a signifier of the End Times.

The M&Ms World in Leicester Square is not themed around chocolate sweets, as you might expect. It’s theme is ‘those garish, shiny, ridiculously overpriced plastic models of M&Ms with sweets in the base that you buy on sufferance at airport Duty Free shops.’ Four floors of retail dedicated to this one appalling product, which is just a freak artefact of commerce which nobody demanded.

Schokolade macht frei.

It’s even weirder because M&Ms is basically a non-brand. They’re shit american Smarties. Its mascots are circles with faces. No Hollywood screenwriter would dare to come up with fake products so mercilessly bland. It’s an undead brand. It’s free of royalties or rights or endorsements or stories or troubles or cross-promotion or any reference to anything that isn’t M&Ms. This is its temple.

Down one wall, there’s a mural of all the different M&Ms mascots throughout the years. They are all circles with faces. At one point in the 70s, I think a cheery cartoon human appeared as their companion. His smile is oddly desperate, and he appears to not have lasted beyond a single product cycle.

There’s something else here too, not present in any particular object but diffused in the air through the pop music: a sort of sneering, fist-pumping, anti-thought, fundamentalist über-capitalism. Make no mistake: this is not about ‘fun’. The M&Ms Stores is not a ‘fun place to be’. It’s really all about buying and spending and the deification of the abstract concept of a brand. As a destination, it’s almost non-existent. Right now, Karl Marx is screaming “I TOLD YOU SO, PIGFUCKERS” from his grave.

Things we found in the store: T-shirts. Keyrings. Models. Rulers. Picture frames. All featuring characters without character, and who are impossible to like anyway; all of whom have no life outside these products. Huge dispensaries that let you choose any colour of M&M, but all with the same flavour. FOUR FLOORS.

Things we couldn’t find there: peanut M&Ms.

What kind of brand is so mercilessly on-message, so freakishly one-note, that it chucks its own siblings out of the nest? Piss all over this.

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