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Sex! Drugs! Racism! 8 Controversial Candies

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Chewing bubblegum, eating a chocolate bar, and sucking on a lollipop are among the many innocent joys of childhood. But if you found one of these controversial sweets in your kid's Trick or Treat bag, it might leave a sour taste in your mouth.

1. Candy Cigarettes

Candy cigarettes and their tobacco big brothers have a shared history in the United States. Just as real cigarettes became commonplace in the early 20th century, candy cigarettes, also called “candy sticks,” were introduced to the market—first as chalky, hard candy, and later as bubblegum. Both the real deal and the confectionery version also hit a peak in popularity during the 1950s and '60s, and have seen a steady decline in sales ever since. During this time there was never any illusion of the candy's intentions, as many boxes mimicked the design of the real packs, used parody names like Marboro and Lucky Spike, and some even had red-dyed tips to make them look like they were lit. But with brands promoted by everyone from Popeye to Superman to Mr. Spock, there's no question they were marketed for children.

As the real dangers of smoking became apparent, the influence candy cigarettes could have on kids became a point of concern. But do candy sticks lead to cancer sticks?

As it turns out, yeah, they might. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Rochester shows that, of nearly 26,000 adults surveyed, 22% of smokers said they had regularly played with candy cigarettes as kids, but only 14% of non-smokers had. Knowing this, maybe the many attempts to ban candy smokes in the U.S. over the years haven't been misguided.

Candy sticks were actually banned at one time, but only briefly, in North Dakota from 1953 to 1967. This might come as a surprise to those of you who thought they were banned right now. The Food and Drug Administration's 2009 Family Smoking and Prevention Control Act was misinterpreted by many media outlets who then erroneously reported that the act included a ban on candy cigarettes. In fact, the ban really just affected tobacco cigarettes that had candy (or fruit) flavorings.

But just because they're legal, doesn't mean you're going to find them on too many store shelves. Most retailers don't want to deal with the backlash from the public, so they don't bother carrying them. However, if you still want to get your faux fix, a quick Google search brings up plenty of online retailers with a variety of brands and flavors still available today.

2. Chronic Candy

If parents were up in arms over candy that looks like cigarettes, imagine how upset they were over candy that tastes like marijuana.


Available since the mid-90s, brands like Chronic Candy and Hemp Candy are made using perfectly legal hemp oil, which gives the dark green lollipops their distinct flavor, but doesn't get you high. Everyone from parents, police, church leaders, and even a specialized group, The Coalition Against Chronic Candy, have been working towards the elimination of these controversial suckers by political means and by educating merchants on the impact of carrying the sweets. They say the candy is not only sending the message that marijuana is acceptable, but that kids who acquire a taste for weed by sucking the lollipops could be predisposed to trying the real thing later in life. Their efforts have not been helped by the fact that Chronic Candy and other brands have had popular celebrity endorsers like Paris Hilton, Cheech Marin, and Snoop Dogg promoting their products.

Thus far, the candy has not been banned nationwide, but cities like Chicago have stopped sales, often before they even started. Of course as with anything today, you can always buy marijuana suckers online.

3. Craque Candy

Freida Orange of Brooklyn makes candy.  Really good candy, apparently, because her friends say it's as addictive as crack cocaine.  So when she decided to go into business, she played off the description and came up with the name "craque candy."  Her bite-sized nuggets of peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar look like little rocks and, to complete the allusion, she packages samples in single-serving plastic baggies.  


When she first opened her online shop, many in her hometown railed against her product, saying that it's making light of a very serious problem. It hasn't stopped Frieda from selling her candy and it hasn't stopped Martha Stewart from putting craque's "Witchcraque" blend on a list of “11 Scary-Good Halloween Treats.”

4. Sloche Gummi Spiders

Sloche, a brand of Canadian candy made by Couche-Tard, is known for its provocative packaging. For example, a bag of gummi frogs features an illustration of a Biology class dissection, complete with pins holding holding down the amphibian's legs. And Sloche's cotton candy, called “Hair Balls,” is sold in a tub with a sickly cat on the front. But to Laurraine LeBlanc, the gummi spider packaging went a bit too far. The bag showed a picture of a snarling black man with a big gold tooth, gold earrings, and a black spider on his head, with the legs dangling in his face like dreadlocks. LeBlanc felt the image perpetuated the stereotype that black men were all violent gang members—and The Quebec Human Rights Commission agreed, ruling against the company, who insisted the packaging was just for fun.


In the end, Couche-Tard pulled the offending candy from shelves, and donated $18,000 to Youth In Motion, a Canadian group that mentors young people. And for her efforts in the fight against racism, LeBlanc was awarded a 2006 Anne-Greenup Prize by the Immigration and Cultural Communities Minister of Quebec.

5. Road Kill Gummis

In the summer of 2004, Trolli, then a division of Kraft Foods, introduced their new gummi candies called, Road Kill. The brightly colored, fruit-flavored pieces of rubbery gelatin were in the shape of animals like squirrels, chickens, and snakes that had been flattened by a car, complete with tire tracks down their backs. By March 2005, the New Jersey branch of PETA had issued a complaint that the candy encouraged kids to be cruel to animals. The group had planned to start a letter-writing campaign, petition drives, and call for a general boycott of Kraft if it didn't take the offensive candy off the market, but the company complied with barely a second thought.


Kraft, who was deep in negotiations with Wrigley to buy out the Trolli candy division, really didn't need a controversy to mess things up. So they quickly pulled the cartoonish dead animals from the shelves and issued an apology. Wrigley bought Trolli and other confectionery brands from Kraft in June of that year for $1.46 billion.

6. Maoam Candy

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a lime-colored bean licking a pair of smiling cherries is just...well, we're not quite sure what that is. Neither did the UK's Simon Simpkins, who raised quite a ruckus when he found packages of Maoam candies at his local sweet shop with the bizarre, offending images. The illustrations featured a character called “Maoam Man” who is, in the words of Mr. Simpkins, “locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter” with fruits such as lemons, cherries, strawberries, and oranges, with “a particularly lurid expression on his face.” Despite his complaints, Haribo, the candymaker, declined to change the packaging, because Maoam Man was “very popular with fans, both young and old.” It seems a safe bet he was pretty popular with lemons, cherries, strawberries, and oranges, too.

7. Big League Chew

Since its introduction in 1980, Big League Chew has been a constant on both Little League fields and parental hit lists. This shredded bubble gum, designed and packaged to look like the same tobacco major leaguers chew, was the brainchild of two ballplayers, Rob Nelson and Jim Bouton, who remembered packing their cheeks with bubblegum as kids to mimic their favorite players' plugs. Over the years, parents have tried to get BLC banned because they worry it could lead to the real deal. And, according to some researchers, like Harvard's Gregory Connolly, a public health professor, they may not be too far off base.

“With Big League Chew, you get all the sensory cues with using chewing tobacco," said Connolly. To him, “the natural next step” is to replace sugar with the much more addictive drug nicotine. But all the complaints and professional opinions haven't stopped kids from buying the gum—over 450 million pouches have been sold over the past 30 years.

8. Eskimos Candy

To some Inuit people of Canada, being called an “Eskimo” is very offensive. So imagine her surprise when, in 2009, Inuit Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons was vacationing in New Zealand and saw a package of Cadbury's Eskimo Candies in just about every store she entered. The popular marshmallow treats are shaped like people dressed in stereotypical fur-lined hoods, which Canterbury University's Dr. Nicole Gombay, who studies Intuit culture, compares to “putting an African in a mud hut with a grass skirt and a bone in his hand.” Despite the offensive image, the candy has been around since 1955 and is still quite popular today—Kiwis eat nearly 20 million pieces annually. So while Cadbury said they could appreciate Parsons' complaint, they had no intention of changing the name or the shape. Even Parsons' own uncle, David Veevee, said about New Zealanders, “They just don't know any better,” and he also admitted, “It's just a candy, after all.”
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Do you know of any other controversial candies that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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