There’s a bittersweet truth in the world of confectionery: one of the nation’s playground favourites is starting to leave a sour taste in the modern mouth. First minted in the fifties, Love Hearts are proving increasingly difficult to swallow in 2019: for many, their perky pick-up lines fall flat in an age of sexual autonomy and #metoo activism. In order to get to the heart of the matter, I chose not to approach a spokesperson from Swizzels Matlow, the sweet’s manufacturers, but instead secured an exclusive one-to-one meeting with two packs of Love Hearts. The text below is a precise transcript of our conversation, conducted in the privacy of a London Eye pod.
Thank you, Love Hearts, for agreeing to meet in person. As I mentioned to your agent, I’m here with a few questions about the modern message of Love Hearts, which should hopefully help clear the air.
So, may we begin?
*The Eye at this point began to rotate.*
Now, it’s clear that you’re designed as a light-hearted confectionery, seeking to please any consumer, regardless of their circumstances.
But you’ll know that there are serious concerns about the message that you are perpetuating in 2019, one of anachronistic chat-up lines, hackneyed gender stereotypes and worrying body objectification.
And in a climate of heightened awareness about the importance of consent and the danger of sexual harassment, such concerns seem legitimate. Some of your messages are undoubtedly direct, and at times almost aggressive.
Meant to be.
Meant to be aggressive? Well, that impression is only intensified when each message is embossed in block capitals.
OK. So, to clarify first of all, is the credit for composing the messages yours?
So complaints should be directed to you personally?
Er, right. But, to be clear, these are twenty-first century complaints. When, for instance, an uninitiated consumer of Love Hearts panics on reading messages such as ‘You’re Mine’ or ‘True Lips’, what is your advice to them?
I’m sorry, but these are really important issues meriting proper concern. Many prominent figures have expressed their deep-seated worries in the public domain.
I’m afraid that tone will seem patronising to many. In a recent tweet, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock argu-
I am talking about Her Majesty’s Minister for Health, whose view should command respect.
Now look, whatever you think of politics, you have to accept that some sweet users could misinterpret what they read. Your messages, which inundate them at random, could be used – or rather abused – verbatim in real-life exchanges.
Oh, don’t be so glib.
No, glib: this is a serious matter, and genuine relationships require expressions of serious emotion.
For instance, yes. So couldn’t a message such as ‘I surrender’ alarm someone suffering from, say –
Is that a thing? Do you mean some kind of romantic malaise?
Ah. Well, whatever the scenario, shouldn’t we take the utmost care not to offend? For instance, I’m more than happy to ask whether you have a preferred pronoun.
I Want You.
Thou art indeed progressive. I respect thy choice and will refrain from so speaking lest I offend thee.
In turn, then, given that you do acknowledge the very real danger of offence, how do you assess Love Hearts’ future prospects?
Really? I’m surprised. Just how long do you expect these messages to be fit for purpose?
But, as the classic album goes, ‘forever changes’.
No, not the iconic prog-rockers, but Arthur Lee.
Exactly. So, given that times have changed, what messages would you still deem appropriate?
That is, for younger consumers?
You think I couldn’t handle that?
You’d be surprised.
*At this point, the pod came to a halt. The atmosphere was palpably tense.*
Anyhow, we really must round off our discussion, do you have a message to those still concerned?
Just Say No.
To the Love Heart or the proposition?
And if propositioned?
Dear dear. Well, I’m sure most of the nation will remain worried.
Nope, there’s also Mr Hancock…
Cuddle? You’re a powdered tablet.
That’s not appropriate. Nothing’s going to happen between you and me.
You and I.
No, that’s a hypercorrection.
*At this point, I felt I was losing control of the situation. To expedite the close, I rifled through the remaining Love Hearts at pace. My closing responses are, I believe, too muffled to make out.*
Sweet Heart… You’re Fab… Lover… Marry Me… Don’t Cry… I Love You.
*Disclaimer: since the interview was conducted, the author has entered a formal relationship with a replacement pack of Love Hearts. The expiry date, he informs us, is ‘20XX’.*