The yellow Starburst is peerless in disdain. Have you ever seen someone open one of those “party size” two-packs of Starburst to find it with two yellows? It is the face of someone crushed by an imploding galaxy of broken promises.
If someone asks you for a Starburst, and you hand them a yellow one, they could bludgeon you death with a hole-puncher and no jury would convict them, because there wouldn’t even be any jury, because any prospective juror in your county would immediately disqualify themselves in the interviewing process by dry heaving at the mere mention of yellow Starburst.
You could say the same about pineapple on pizza, or savory ice cream, but those have their respective champions (myself included); nobody defends yellow Starburst. When people on Instagram or celebrities on twitter mock the yellow Starburst, they never get “called out” or “dragged”.
But listen: if we hate them so much, where do they go? Have you ever found a fully-wrapped yellow Starburst in the trash? If someone shows up to the candy jar, and all the red and pink are taken, do they Take A Principled Stance and abstain? Or do they, and I say this without judgment, look both ways, make sure no one’s looking, and take a yellow for themselves?
The yellow Starburst is the unexplainably juicy pariah, a Two Minutes Hate belying decades of internal conflict and debate about beauty and fairness.
Why doesn’t the lemon-flavored yellow Starburst get the benefit of association from the lemonade of our youth, or the lemon bars of weekend community gatherings?
We don’t hate the yellow Starburst for it’s flavor. We hate it because it isn’t pink.
The pink Starburst is undoubtedly the favored child of whatever profoundly unhappy person discovered how to make packaged food even more wasteful. A pink Starburst is heaven on earth, a prom-dress colored care package, a love note written in gelatin and food dye.
We don’t just love the pink Starburst; we aspire to towards it. Inside each of us, we hope, is a pink Starburst waiting to burst through our yellow or orange wrapping.
Pink is strawberry. What do you do with strawberries? You dip them in cream. You put them in milkshakes and daiquiris. I’m told you can use them in face masks.
The most negative connotation people might have to strawberries is that milk, when going sour, will begin to reek of strawberries. But the blame for this is quickly deflected to negligent roommates or going out for coffee too much.
What do you do with lemons? Besides make lemonade. When you smell lemons, what do think of? It probably isn’t dumping a tablespoon of lemon juice into an apple pie mix to countenance the sweetness of the apples. And it probably isn’t squeezing a bit of lemon over fresh fish at a restaurant on the pier. Or slicing lemons very, very thin, sprinkling sugar on them, and eating them straight because your friend had lots of lemon trees but never had any food in their house.
Let that childhood innocence so cajoled by the candy of your youth also enable you to be honest with yourself.
You think of cleaner. You think of the pungent, saturating citrus aura that permeates a freshly cleaned floor.
Pink isn’t a team captain; it’s the outsider, an exception.
Lemon, and sometimes orange, get used to clean up the messes. The next time you taste the red Starburst, you will now reflexively taste cough syrup, and maybe feel the cool burn of a melting cough drop wafting through your sinuses. Or maybe you never get sick. Which means you’ve had a lot of time to drive or ride around in cars with cherry, lemon, and orange air fresheners.
Sometimes strawberry will help clear up someone’s complexion, and maybe someone will use it to describe a type of blonde hair. But it’s not a laborer. It’s never had a callous on its hands. It’s never had to run errands in a work uniform, immediately written off as a dirty, charmless drone. No one ever looks at pink and then says to their children “do well in school or you’ll become the pink Starburst.”
We aspire to be like pink, to be “unique” but also somehow universally palatable, to walk into a room and have everyone want to like us or want to be us and never know the fear that comes with offending someone with more power, clout, or drive to harm us.
We want to be able to push people in and out of our circles at will. We want to overstep the emotional labor of self reflection and acknowledging privilege — anyone who criticizes or opposes you is just a yellow Starburst. You know how they are.
Doing the work, having to clean up after others or care for them, is the punishment for not being cool or witty or friendly or interesting or whatever enough. Pink goes to a good college, and got caught smoking weed out after curfew when they were young but the cop just drove them home and shook their dad’s hand.
Pink attends Pride every year but thinks there’s “two sides” to the “transgender bathroom issue”. They quote MLK in their email signature but thinks protesting “achieves nothing”. Pink is proud to know of an “authentic Thai place” their friends didn’t know of; Pink doesn’t understand why people find it so hard to “immigrate here legally” like her ancestors did.
Pink voted for Hillary but wants Donald Trump to know they have their full support.
Straight up: pink sucks. Pink is not something to aspire to. And even if you could make it to pink’s level, they will never let you forget where you came from. Any time pink can’t take command of a social situation — anytime they say something sexist, homophobic, or racist , anytime they hijack a conversation to be about their feelings and get called out for it — pink will look to you to clean up for them. And then later, to care for them. To assuage them, to reassure them.
The world doesn’t need more pink Starbursts.
The world needs more yellow. We need bitterness. We need resentment. We need to take up the space we’re told we don’t deserve. Every Starburst pack in your life — your workplaces, your communities, your streets — need to be filled with as much unflinching, unapologetic sour, righteous lemony displeasure as we can fit.
The pinks of this world have gotten by in part because they know that the great candy factory that is life and all its concentric struggles have conditioned many of us to strive for pinkness. They are able to exploit that internalized shame at where we came from and what we look like, holding out the carrot of honorary pinkness (or maybe an orange Starburst formed into a carrot) as a way to get us to betray our origins, sell out our communities, and crowdfund the buses our sisters and brothers and those beyond and in between will be thrown under.
Without the spectre of the lemon, the looming threat of cultural revulsion, the pink Starburst would be insignificant. It doesn’t even taste like strawberry. It would be exposed as mediocre and unnecessary.
You do not need the pink Starburst, but the pink Starburst relies on you, desperately.
And really: the yellow Starburst isn’t that bad! It’s more sharp and tart than outright sour. It’s really good when chewed together with an orange Starburst. And once you’ve finished your Starburst, lemon’s down to help you clean the bathroom and remove scratches from the furniture and freshen up your glass of seltzer water.
Because lemon knows, man. Lemon’s been there, and will be again. It’s a long, long way to a house that can shelter and heal and spur growth — and to get there, we have to work together, unashamed of where we’ve come from, and actively interrogating our processes which cause us to assign shame and mockery to people with different wrappings.
(Author’s Note: I’m trying to stick with the metaphor without falling into the very problematic “people are different types of food” comparisons.)
(Another Author’s Note: Please don’t use my attempt to write a thinkpiece about Starburst as permission to overlook important factors like race, gender, disability, etc to conflate working class people as a monolith.)
The pinks of this world are accustomed to making messes and walking away. We must surround them, fill up their tubes, get up close in those little “party size” moments of life. When we roar our terrible roars and gnash our terrible teeth, this is not making a mess; this is cleaning up after the rotting, festering carcass of the world they’ve erected, and we will not merely clean around them.
If life is sweet, then we must be sour. Unexplainably sour.
Author: Jetta Rae
Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae