As US toy giant Hasbro announces that it is "officially renaming the MR. POTATO HEAD brand to POTATO HEAD to better reflect the full line," queer, feminist, and drag theory researcher Nick Cherryman comments on the significance of this decision:-
"This change to a ‘gender-neutral’ toy clearly marks an awareness of Hasbro of their changing demographic, with many of the current young/soon-to-be parents being more comfortable with conversations around gender fluidity than previous generations. This echoes the change of other toy companies, such as Hamleys in London, which removed their ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ signs in 2011 and their blue and pink colour scheme, tapping into the upcoming millennial generation of parents.
"Hasbro, however, is clearly preparing for some backlash because whilst they are changing the name of the toy to just Potato Head, they publicly tweeted to confirm that the Mr and Mrs characters ‘aren’t going anywhere’. Clearly Hasbro are very aware of the shift in conversation but are trying to maintain a loyal base they’ve built for the toy over the past 70 or so years – especially since the resurgence of popularity in the toy since the film Toy Story was released. They are treading the fine line between an older, more conservative generation when it comes to discussions around gender, and a younger more open generation.
"This does seem very much like Hasbro is staking a claim in where the money lies in this debate though, and as they are such a massive company they are likely to influence future decisions in the toy market from others. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘Potato Head’ conversation becomes a go-to example in future years to highlight this gradual tipping point in conversations around gender."
26 February 2021
- Nick Cherryman is a researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Their work focuses on the disruptive nature of drag and the way it disrupts, destructs, and constructs gender. They are interested in modern media portrayals of gender and queerness.
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