Toy manufacturer Hasbro stirred controversy immediately after it announced the launch of a "modern” version of its iconic Mr. Potato Head toy line that will drop the honorific “Mr.,” to be more “inclusive” and to let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads.
“Hasbro is making sure all feel welcome in the Potato Head world by officially dropping the Mr. from the Mr. Potato Head brand name and logo to promote gender equality and inclusion,” the company said in an announcement Thursday about the new line that will be released this fall.
Soon thereafter, in response to numerous responses on Twitter against the name-change and "inclusion," the toy giant updated the announcement: “Hasbro is officially renaming the Mr. Potato Head brand to Potato Head to better reflect the full line. But rest assured, the iconic Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters aren’t going anywhere and will remain Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.”
In a promotional video for the new line, Hasbro said it's offering a "modern look for modern families."
The new version will come with two non-gendered “adult” potatoes, one “baby” potato and 42 removable parts like eyeglasses, a mustache, nose and mouth, Bloomberg quoted a Hasbro spokeswoman as saying. That will let kids decide the parents’ gender, rather than being told they are “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
“They are looking to broaden the franchise,” The Associated Press quoted Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys, as saying. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.”
The removal of “Mr.” from the name of the toy line is likely to encourage other companies to not assign genders to their toys, Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy-review site the Toy Insider, was quoted as saying.
“It’s a potato. But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with,” Mierzejewski added.
A prominent gay rights organization, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, welcomed the move.
“Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” Rich Ferraro, the group’s chief communications officer, said in a statement.
Mr. Potato Head was launched in 1952.
In 2019, GLAAD started pushing for 20% of all television characters to be LGBT by 2025.
In a report called “Where We Are on TV,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis noted that “less than one-quarter of Americans have a close friend or family member who is transgender,” meaning that many Americans “learn about trans people from what they see in television, movies, and news.”