Mr Potato Head goes gender neutral

Mr Potato Head (left), seen here with Mrs Potato Head, will soon be known simply as Potato Head. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Hasbro is giving its venerable Mr Potato Head toy a more gender-inclusive identity by dropping the "Mr" from its brand name and packaging.

"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 a statement on Thursday (Feb 25).

After it announced the change, the company issued a clarifying statement on Twitter saying that the Mr and Mrs Potato Head characters would retain their individual courtesy titles.

"Hold that Tot - your main spud, MR POTATO HEAD isn't going anywhere!" the company said. "While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the 'MR' I yam proud to confirm that MR & MRS POTATO HEAD aren't going anywhere and will remain MR & MRS POTATO HEAD."

In the fall, the company will introduce its new "Potato Family Pack" that will encourage children to "create your Potato Head family." The pack will come with two large potato bodies, one small potato body and 42 accessories.

The name change will be accompanied by "a whimsical colour palette and more inclusive messaging," the company said.

GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy organisation, applauded the move.

"Hasbro's decision to introduce Potato Head as a gender-neutral toy is the latest move in a larger movement towards greater diversity and inclusion in toys and media aimed at kids," said Mr Rich Ferraro, Glaad's chief communications officer.

By having a toy that exists "outside of the binary of male and female," he said, "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."

Hasbro is the latest toymaker to update or reinvent some of its classic brands to make them more inclusive and diverse.

Last year, Mattel rolled out several new Barbie dolls that it described as its "most diverse line," one that featured "more skin tones, hair types and body shapes than ever before." One doll is bald, another has a prosthetic limb and another has her dark hair brushed away from her face to show that she has the skin condition vitiligo.

In 2019, Mattel unveiled a new line of customisable gender-neutral dolls called Creatable World that allows "kids to create their characters." The box includes several wardrobe options, accessories and wigs so children can style the dolls "with short or long hair, or in a skirt, pants, or both."

In 2016, Mattel announced that it was expanding its Thomas the Tank Engine franchise by adding more female train characters and friends from countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico. And American Girl, the maker of 18-inch dolls, introduced a boy doll in 2017.

Mr Potato Head has been a signature toy for Hasbro since it was introduced in 1952. The company said it was the first toy to be advertised on television.

The toy, which allows children to swap out different parts such as eyes, mustaches, glasses and hats, has long been associated with Rhode Island, where Hasbro is based. Over the years, the toy has been featured in parades, campaigns and even on state license plates.

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