Keeping pace with modern times, Hasbro made a shocking announcement on Thursday: Mr. Potato Head is no longer a mister. The company is rebranding its iconic toy tuber as genderless Potato Head, while apparently retaining Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head as character options. The goal is to better relate to today’s open-minded tots. “It’s a potato,” Ali Mierzejewski, editor-in-chief of review site The Toy Insider, told the Associated Press (AP). “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.”
While the notion of a gender-neutral Potato Head brand immediately (and predictably) enraged more than a few conservatives, Hasbro’s decision stems from research on how real toddlers play with the hard plastic spud. “The sweet spot for the toy is two to three years old,” Kimberly Boyd, an SVP and GM at Hasbro, told Fast Company. “Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families, because they’re learning what it means to be in a family.” She noted the toy is an enduring favorite because it’s inherently ridiculous, which little kids love.
When Hasbro launched Mr. Potato Head back in 1952, you had to provide your own potato. The toy came with little plastic body parts and accessories, like a pipe and a mustache, that kids could stick onto the starchy root, turning it into a miniature person with a disproportionately big noggin. What’s not to love? The next year, Hasbro introduced Mrs. Potato Head, with feminized accessories like high heels and hair bows.
In subsequent decades, Hasbro began pushing Potato Head family sets, with a male and female character and smaller potato tots.
But heteronormative propaganda doesn’t fly with today’s kids. “Culture has evolved,” Boyd said. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists — with the 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' — is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.” And so, Hasbro’s solution is to drop the titles from its brandname altogether — while keeping the Mr. and Mrs. options — that lets its potato people to serve as blank slates on which toddlers can project their own ideas about gender.
When you break down the “why” of it all, genderless Potato Head is kind of cool, although some did find Hasbro's hammy announcement over the top and (rightfully) roasted it on social media.
Still, the real tuber tantrums are being thrown by extremely online right-wingers incensed by the emasculation of an iconic toy spud. Just another day on the internet, folks.