- Hasbro announced it was dropping the “Mr.” from its line of Potato Head toys.
- The decision stirred strong feelings online, with critics blaming the choice on “woke” activism.
- But the rebranding is part of a broader modernization movement in the toy industry.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
America’s favorite anthropomorphized spuds are getting a rebrand.
Toymaker Hasbro announced on Thursday that it’s dropping the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” from its Potato Head toys beginning this fall. According to Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran, the decision was based on the way toddlers play with the toys: Young children often make families with the Potato Heads, and not all families look the same.
“Culture has evolved,” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice president and general manager at Hasbro, told Fast Company. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists – with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ – is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”
Dropping the titles will allow kids to adding whatever type of clothing and accessories they want to the potatoes, allowing for more varied expressions of gender and sexuality, Fast Company reports.
Hasbro noted in a tweet Thursday afternoon that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys it currently sells aren’t being discontinued, but will be part of the broader Potato Head product line.
But the decision to modernize the spuds seems to have stirred some strong feelings, particularly among conservative critics, who are calling the decision silly and over-reactive.
TV host Piers Morgan has tweeted multiple times about the move, saying it was made in order not to “upset a few wokies.”
—Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 25, 2021
Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, also implied that the rebranding goes too far in a tweet posted Thursday.
—Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) February 25, 2021
Political commentator Ben Shapiro has also tweeted about the name change several times, making multiple tongue-in-cheek remarks about the effects of the decision.
—Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 25, 2021
While much of the social media uproar surrounding the potatoes and their genders appears to be at least partly joking, the decision to drop their titles does point to a broader trend in the toy industry: modernization.
As Insider’s Tanya Dua reported this week, other legacy toy brands including Mattel are thinking of ways to reposition their decades-old brands. Barbie, for instance, has transitioned from a plastic supermodel with impossible proportions and a fixation on dating to a role model for young girls – these days, Barbie is speaking out about racial equality and pursuing a career that has nothing to do with Ken.
And she’s no longer just a thin, white, blonde woman: Barbie now comes in 175 different skin tones, ethnicities, eye and hair colors, body types, and abilities. As a result of these changes, sales have increased 19% year-over-year, according to Insider.
Hasbro, for its part, has also seen sales rise, even amid the pandemic. But as CNBC reports, its success is driven in part by its relationship with Disney: Hasbro holds the master toy license for Marvel and Star Wars content, and it also makes companion toys for wildly popular franchises like “Frozen.”