Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Mr Potato Head is an American toy produced by Hasbro, launched over 70 years ago, consisting of a plastic potato body and accessories to attach to attach with pushpins. Made famous as a character in Toy Story in 1995, you’re probably familiar with the concept. More recently, it has made headlines as Hasbro has announced that the toy will be going gender-neutral, dropping the honorific ‘Mr’, and simply going by ‘Potato Head’ in future. And people are really mad.
First of all, Hasbro are not ditching the original Mr and Mrs Potato toys, which will continue to be available. This also has no reflection on the Toy Story character either. What Hasbro are doing specifically is releasing a new toy, ‘create your potato head family’, and rebranding as ‘Potato Head’, to reflect their full line of Mr, Mrs and family toy sets.
So why are people mad?
Such a change in direction has been pounced on by many as ‘massive companies making these decisions to appease the wokies’, as eloquently put by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. He called the change ‘utterly ridiculous’, and ‘symbolic… of this rapidly encroaching abandonment of gender terminology.’
The dropping of the honorific has been taken very poorly by those who feel making toys gender-neutral is a personal attack. Sure, because potatoes are famously gender specific normally.
Personally, I think that this is a great change. Firstly, it makes sense from a marketing perspective because it advertises their range of products, instead of just the singular male model (which they are continuing to sell anyway). For the family set product, it makes sense to have a name which is not gender specific, since it is referring to a group of more than one person (potato?).
Secondly – inclusivity! While Mr Morgan and his followers are terrified of this prospect, there are more than two gender expressions, and different sexualities. Having a family set where the toys are customisable is ideal to represent lesbian, gay, or non-binary people, parents and families.
Thirdly, extremely gendered clothes and accessories are just unnecessary. It makes sense and is ideal that a potato can wear whatever clothes it (or the child playing with it) wants. Skirts, dresses and high heels for girls as the norm is not representative or relevant anymore. Most girls I know live in jeans, especially after 2020. Giving the male toy a thick moustache and bowler hat? Doesn’t sound very 21st century. Enforcing these gender stereotypes on children is just ridiculous these days.
Ultimately, this comes down to people feeling threatened by something that challenges their worldview. This decision by Hasbro does not stop children from constructing cisgender, heterosexual potato families if that is what they desire. It’s the objection to inclusivity for other people that this stems from, and it’s the usual suspects, including Piers Morgan, who are making their complaints heard.
This has become yet another disappointing sage of the culture war being waged against the left wing and progressive ideals. This government backed ‘war on woke’ (more accurately, war on anything that isn’t conservative) is damaging from the perspective of any kind of social progression. This specific case and the subsequent outrage is an attack of non-binary lives. There are also undercurrents of homophobia too, given the outrage of potentially depicting non-heterosexual families with (again, I cannot stress the emphasis here) potatoes.
A lot of this is the same bigots making a lot of noise trying to ruin nice things for other people, but it remains disappointing nevertheless. This happened in the same month that over 30,000 people signed a petition in outrage that Cadbury’s featured a gay couple in their latest advert for the 50th anniversary of the Crème Egg. So I guess we can’t have nice things after all.