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Command and Wonka

When they were planning London's most alarming theme park, it was decided at an early stage that “Terrifying Gaping Void at the Heart of Late-Stage Capitalism World” was too unwieldy a title and they went instead with the more innocuous “M&Ms World”, but that was their only compromise.

Photo © Xani Penades

The park is a stark parable. It allows a glimpse into a fevered, deranged future where consumption has become so meaningless that vast emporia have been set up to sate desires that do not even exist, filled with swarms of goods produced to fulfil no function and satisfy no demand. It savagely parodies the experience of retail shopping, with its wildly grinning staff bounding up to you as you enter and crying, “Hi! What do you need?” This impressively provocative bit of theatre, with its outrageous use of the word “need”, sets the tone for a thrilling ride around four storeys of products whose worthless existence mocks all religious and secular moral values.

Photo © Jai'me Jan

One aspect of the satire that is so heavy it's almost overplayed is the colours. A chocolate that famously comes in only one flavour, with a single alternative of having it coated around a peanut, is available here in nearly a hundred hues.You can serve yourself these colours in any combination you like, instilling a sense of childlike wonder and delight (pictured).

You can even visit a machine that pretends to assess you and calculate which colour uniform-flavour M&M is best suited to you. You stand in front of a screen for a few seconds, it says (for example) “yellow”, and then you fuck off. It's slightly less fun than I'm making it sound.

Photo © Jai'me Jan

There are five main M&M characters depicted around the store: red, orange, yellow, green and blue. The green M&M is a lady. The male M&Ms are allowed a range of character traits such as smart, dumb, sassy, gormless—a full gamut of cartoon emotions—but the lone female M&M simply makes a range of slutty facial expressions, goes clothes shopping and rides in the smart M&M's car. It's funny because it's true, right girls?

Middle photo © Jai'me Jan

For floor after floor this ride continues, immersing you in an ocean of products so defiantly useless that the place makes the Disney Store look like a builder's merchants. It's not unknown for this to evoke an overpowering feeling of emptiness, which is why caution is strongly advised if you bring your children to visit the park. Indeed, in such a weakened state, full-blown existential horror can then be induced by outbreaks of enforced jollity such as the staff occasionally "spontaneously" dancing with each other, sporting their rictus grins.

In the film The Omen III: The Final Conflict—bear with me—Damien Thorn, the (spoiler!) Antichrist, owns a thinly disguised analogue of Monsanto that has developed a genetically modified crop which is ostensibly designed to end world hunger but in fact has no nutritional value whatsoever, meaning that no matter how much of it they eat, the world's population will starve. M&Ms World is a vivid illustration of the same principle, and serves as a salutary warning about where we could end up as a society if we're not careful. The only possible consolation is that it obviously isn't real. It can't be.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2012 09:01 am (UTC)
You know the myth that green M&Ms are an aphrodisiac, right?
Jun. 5th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
Amazing. A whole chunk of American lore I had never encountered a single reference to. Of course, believing that different colours of M&Ms have their own significance and even powers isn't much more ridiculous a belief system than many others. With that in mind, I'm only disappointed that conspiracy-minded occult nuts haven't ever seen fit to draw M&Ms World into their elaborate human-enslavement scenarios.
Jun. 5th, 2012 11:05 am (UTC)
Poor P!
Jun. 5th, 2012 11:09 am (UTC)

I find myself particularly disturbed by the price of that jacket. It makes no sense at all. But having been previously ignorant of the existence of Swarovski, purveyors of revolting expensive tat, at least I learned something today.

Edited at 2012-06-05 11:09 am (UTC)
Jun. 5th, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
Christ. There is no hope. We're fucking doomed.
Jun. 5th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
Oh dear god. At least it spawned your post, which was jolly amusing.
Jun. 5th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
Oh please, put me in this hellish place and then have some fool bounce up and ask me what I "need".
Jun. 5th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
It reminds me strongly of World of Coca-Cola (which I tried to link to, but apparently that gets your comment zapped as spam) which I had the misfortune to visit when at Tech-Ed Atlanta - which was made especially 'entertaining' by the way you could only enter through this bizarre airlock-style entrance where you could only go in so many at a time and had to watch an introductory film before being allowed to proceed into the inner sanctum...
Jun. 5th, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
I like it there.
Jun. 5th, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
The Ritter Sport museum in Berlin is great, though.

And don't tell me you haven't bought that jacket and cut it up into ties.
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
My Falling Down moment is going to involve me shaking someone holding an M&Ms World bag to death.

Poor research. In addition to plain and peanut M&Ms, there is also a kind with a sort of bland biscuit in the middle.

Also apparently there's now a 2nd female M&M, who presumably hasn't made to the UK. She's called Mrs Brown and is voiced by Vanessa Williams.
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
And is there anything in there to confirm my friend Mark's assertion that the yellow one has Down's?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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