The iconic Hasbro’s children’s toy, Mr. Potato Head, is now going gender neutral. This past February, it was decided that Mr. Potato Head would no longer have the title “Mr.” and will now go by “Potato Head,” according to a story from ABC News. The infamous Mr. Potato Head has been around since 1952, a time in which non-binary gender identity was not heavily discussed. Today, there is much more dialogue surrounding the topic of non-binary gender identity. However, the change of name of this children’s toy has stirred up a bit of controversy itself, with some consumers, including myself, being upset that the toy they grew up calling “Mr. Potato Head” will now just be “Potato Head.” 

Mr. Potato has been a fan-favorite of children for many many years. Growing up, Mr. Potato Head was one of my all-time favorite toys, so I was a bit sad to hear the news of the rebranding of this product. However, this revamping of the name that will start to be seen this Fall will be an immense change for consumers. It is very understandable as to why Hasbro has made this decision, as our country is continuing to make strides towards gender inclusion for all. With that in mind, I do not think Hasbro had to go as far as to change the entire rebranding of the product. I believe that there were many alternatives Hasbro could have made in order to avoid a rebranding of the product. 

The adaptation to shifting to cultural cues is something that many toy companies have been doing for numerous years. Hasbro’s rebranding is one way the company is adapting to our society’s ever-changing cultural cues. This rebranding and new addition of a non-binary potato head will offer kids an opportunity see toys as toys, rather than as binary male and female toys. In an article from CNN Business it was stated that Hasbro believes this new implementation will encourage children to be their authentic selves by going beyond the traditional norms of gender. While the name of the physical toy will be changing, the box for the packaging of the toy will still display Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head’s names in remembrance.

When I would play with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head as a child, I always found that I was given much freedom to decorate and dress the potato heads. Thinking back on this made me question why Hasbro may have thought their product was not up to date on today’s cultural cues. Unlike many other childrens’ toys, such as Barbies, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head were much more open-ended for children, allowing them to express the characters however they pleased. With all of this in mind, this led me to believe that maybe Hasbro was receiving some pressures in regards to the name of the product. This would make much sense, as the name is “Mr. Potato Head,” making it specific to the male gender. However, I personally do not see an issue with the name. The name does not dictate who is and who is not able to use the product, nor does it distinguish in any way that the toy is strictly for males only. As I mentioned earlier, growing up as a young girl I would play with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head all the time. To my recollection, I never once questioned the acceptance behind the product due to its name. 

Despite my disagreement towards the change of name to this renowned toy, I did find that the rebranding of Mr. Potato Head was a well-intentioned decision made by Hasbro. I think it was great that Hasbro did not choose to completely remodel the original Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, as that very well could have been an option they were considering. I do not necessarily think the addition of a non-binary potato head baby was necessary to implement, as most children playing with the Mr. Potato Head products are very likely to not even be familiar with the terms binary and non-binary. This could stir some confusion in children’s minds to be playing with a non-binary toy.

Due to the young age of the children who typically play with Mr. Potato Head, the introduction of a non-binary potato head will most likely prompt the child to ask questions in regards to what non-binary is and means. While this will be a form of exposure to our society’s gender cues, I feel as though children will not still have a firm understanding of what it means to be non-binary because of how young they are. As a twenty year old myself, I still find that I do not have a full understanding of our society’s gender norms and cues, and could only imagine how much more difficult it would be for young children to try and formulate an understanding and meaning of this terminology. 

With the cultural and gender cues alive in our society today, many brands, companies, and organizations strive to keep up with those norms and cues in order to remain alive. Companies such as Hasbro want to continue to be a company in which consumers continue to buy their products. The goal of this rebranding could have been Hasbro’s way of being more accepting, but also could have been their way of their company and products being more accepted by consumers. Whatever the reasoning may have been behind Hasbro’s rebranding, I do believe the decision was well-intentioned. It will be sad for me, and many others, going forward and no longer seeing “Mr. Potato Head’s” name on boxes. Many people are already in a bit of an uproar about this rebranding, so it will be very interesting to see how the public reacts once the name is officially changed this upcoming fall.

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