When Mr. Potato Head first appeared on the market in 1952, the toy was very different from the smiling plastic orb we see in the “Toy Story” movie. The original Mr. Potato Head was basically a box of body and face parts with sharp prongs on the back so you could cram them into A REAL POTATO. And, of course, the set came with a pipe because everyone smoked back then.
Mrs. Potato Head was introduced a year later and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head mashed and had kids. It was all so heteronormative. In fact, I remember my little sister had a bride ensemble for Mrs. Potato. It’s what children needed: potatoes to teach them that marriage is between one man potato and one woman potato.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who, as a kid, realized that a Mrs. Potato Head meant that Mr. Potato Head could now dress in drag. Nor was it lost on me how hilarious it was that you stored their extra face pieces in their butts. They literally had junk in the trunk. I wish I could have been in that meeting at Hasbro.
Say what you want about this toy, but it has endured. Yeah, it’s really weird. But it’s been around so long that generations and generations have played with it at some point.
So you might think that Hasbro’s announcement of a product line refresh would be no big deal, and certainly not controversial. But you would be wrong. Because on Feb. 25, Hasbro announced that they are ditching the “Mr.”
Conservatives lost their minds, assuming that Potato Head was now non-binary and/or transgender. Glenn Beck said on his BlazeTV show, “Buy Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head because it’s the end of an era. It is the end of freedom in America.”
According to CNN, Fox New’s Greg Gutfeld referred to Mr. Potato Head as “neutered” and Rep. Matt Gaetz called the toy “America’s first transgender doll.”
During his speech at CPAC Gaetz said, speaking about so-called cancel culture, “Look out, Mr. Potato Head, you’re next! I’m sorry, I think now he’s going by Potato X. He can’t be Mr. Potato.”
In case you’re wondering if Hasbro plans to kill Mr. Potato Head off, perhaps make him into french fries or hash browns, that is not the case. Hasbro is literally just getting rid of two letters in their logo: “M” and “R.” Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are literally still named that and exist in all their rigid gender glory roles. They are not being banned. Maybe Beck has stock in Hasbro no one knows about?
What’s actually happening at Hasbro is the release of a new Potato Head Family set that they call a modern look for modern families.
In a release Hasbro stated, “Launching this Fall, the ‘Create Your Potato Head Family’ is a celebration of the many faces of families allowing kids to imagine and create their own Potato Head family with 2 large potato bodies, 1 small potato body, and 42 accessories. The possibilities to create your own families are endless with mixing and mashing all the parts and pieces.”
In other words, we’ve come a long way, baby. Now a kid with two moms or two dads or two non-binary parents can make a Potato Head family that looks like their own family. Clearly the work of Satan.
A video accompanying the announcement begins with the old Mr. Potato Head logo, and then the “Mr.” part of the logo explodes into a cascade of body and face parts, which is actually incredibly disturbing if you think about it, leaving behind the new, colorful Potato Head logo. The new logo has two sets of eyes, one with lashes and one without, an arm and one ear. Apparently all that was left after the explosion.
“There’s no wrong way to play,” the video announces and we see a montage of different configurations of the pieces in the plastic potatoes making the presumed parents assume a wide variety of gender expressions. The only thing about the baby that changes is the pacifier. When it’s in, the baby seems chill, when it’s out, the baby seems to be screaming.
And isn’t that the real lesson that kids should take away from this? That raising a baby is really hard work with wildly fluctuating highs and lows? And if you’re lucky enough to find a partner to raise a baby with, great! The bottom line is you get to choose the partner, though the set doesn’t allow the two big potatoes to choose whether or not they want a little potato. That’s something to work on, just saying. You get to create your life, or the life of your Potato Heads, however you want. Doesn’t sound like the end of freedom to me.