This week, toy company Hasbro announced that it would be changing the name of their Mr. Potato Head series to simply “Potato Head.” Much outrage came forth as members of the public confused this move with removing Mr. Potato Head from the market entirely.
Hasbro stated that they did this move to make the toy line more inclusive and intends to launch a Potato Head set that will not include Mr. or Mrs. in the description to allow children to create their own family pairings.
While their intentions may have been noble, the specifics of this scenario make the impact near zero. This appears to be another meaningless gesture by a company to generate controversy for free press. Hasbro has merely touched upon the goals of social justice without actually aiding in its goals.
Firstly, Mr. Potato Head will not be leaving the shelves. The company explained via Twitter that “MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD” so the name change affects little.
Secondly, the toy has always been able to be gender-bent, for its customizability is what makes the Potato Heads a staple of toy history. If a child desired to make a nonbinary potato, they could already do this easily.
The company also suggested that kids would now be able to make single and same-sex family households, but, again, this was already possible. The number of accessories makes the possible combinations endless. I’ve witnessed a child make a Buzz Lightyear winged Darth Vader with a purse.
Frankly, it’s a bit insulting to suggest that kids can’t imagine their toys being something else without it being explicitly stated on the box. Frankly, this move may help some kids, but likely not the vast majority of the world’s already most creative, playful demographic.
What Hasbro has done, like many companies in the past, is appropriate the topics of inclusivity and diversity while promoting nothing. Like with Colin Kaepernick and Nike, the press gathered from social justice language increased sales while the company maintains abhorrent practices.
This is a continuation of the endemic of “woke” brands who want to tap into the younger, more socially conscious generations without doing real work towards change. Hasbro shouldn’t be commended for these actions but called out for a blatant PR stunt for increased profits.
This author absolutely believes that inclusion and creating space for diverse perspectives is desirable. However, this goal won’t be met by supporting a company’s shallow marketing efforts. Changing the Mr. Potato Head brand by dropping the gendered parts is, simply put, a hollow symbol, a signal that “we care, but not enough to do more than this.”