In New York, there’s an M&M store on Times Square. It’s a bright explosion of colour (sorry – color), chocolate, and Americanness. There’s an M&M dressed up like the Statue of Liberty, there’s an Elvis. It’s loud, and brash, and in your face. Everything from mugs and bags to clothes and bric-a-brac is available in bright colours with smiling chocolate faces on it.
As a statement of intent from an American company, to Americans, it’s close to peerless.
But now, they’ve opened one in London – in Leicester Square. It’s almost a carbon copy of the New York store, except that they’ve tried to make it a British M&M store. So there’s a Buckingham Palace guard. The four Beatles walking across the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Road. A big red Routemaster Bus. It’s still bright, and loud, and brash. Four floors of outstanding colour.
But here, it doesn’t fit quite so well. It’s not that the stereotypical reserved stiff upper lip gets in the way. British culture certainly has it’s loud bits – there are Union Jacks everywhere, and there is the whole Spice Girl / Punk / Celebrity vibe. But it comes across as a fiercely nationalistic and patriotic sort of loudness. That Geri Halliwell dress typifies it, in my mind.
And so having a US company come in and put their stamp all over the icons of UK culture just jars a little bit. As though they’re almost ashamed of their American roots and think that blatantly plagiarising Britain will work better with the locals. And maybe they’re right – the place was hopping. But if they’d gone with Lady Liberty and a yellow taxi instead, I might even have bought the bag of M&Ms from them, instead of from the Tesco Express just down the road.