Thursday February 25 2021
“No, really,” I say. “Mr. Potato Head used to be just the parts. You had to supply the potato body, hence the name.”
“I don’t remember that and I’m older than you,” said my friend.
“Well,” I say. “I probably only remember because of the drama. My little sister stepped on one of the pieces and punctured her foot.”
Gads, the screaming that beset us all that fateful day when Dutchie got a Mr. Potato Head facial feature stuck in the sole of her foot. I don’t remember if it was an eye, ear, or those weird red lips, but there was a time long ago when the parts were sharp as tacks, so a child wielding one could personify an actual potato by stabbing a face into it. Those were different times.
It wasn’t too much later Hasbro changed the design of Mr. Potato Head after complaints about rotting vegetables found under beds, still smiling with those eyes that never blinked. Creepy and gross enough, I guess, but the parts were also small enough for a child to swallow. And of course, the multiple puncture injuries were hurting sales.
A side note to remark that if you’ve never found a rotted and liquified potato in the back of your pantry, you’re missing out on one of the most foul smells ever. Same if the thing is in the bottom of a toy box with multiple piercings on its little spud body. That’s not how you make vodka, kids.
So anyway, Hasbro changed the complete design of Mr. Potato Head to a safer toy before expanding the line to Mrs. Potato Head and her weird friends (Mr. Ketchup Head, Frenchy Fry, and Frankie Frank showed up in the sixties, go fig). A plastic body was now included in the kits, along with non-stabby eyes, ears, nose, and such. And over the years, the Mr. Potato Head brand has become iconic.
The original Potato Heads also went through some changes of their own during the mid-1960s. In 1966, Mr Potato Head acquired a new wrinkle with the addition of Jumping Mr and Mrs Potato Head. These bigger-sized models had spring-loaded legs that would make them jump around when a key in their back was twisted around.
The Mr. model came with a kite, a fishing rod, and a jackhammer while the Mrs Model included a feather duster, a dinner bell, and a popcorn popper.nostalgiacentral.com
The toy giant, Hasbro, is back in the news this week by announcing the removal of “Mr.” from the Potato Head line. I don’t have any proof, of course, but one could suspect this as a purposeful diversion from all the unpleasantness of the recent Troll Doll Scandal*.
“Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are going gender neutral.” said the social media headlines. “Cancel Culture Steals Mr. Potato Head’s Manhood.“
“OMG. That’s crazy,” said the collective public while reminiscing about childhood toys and puncture wounds.
“Oh, that,” said Hasbro, after waiting for the frenzy to peak. “No, you misunderstood us. We’re only changing the branding to Potato Head. Mr. and Mrs. will still live to see another decade. But hey, thanks for talking about us so much. Really helps the bottom line.
“Don’t say bottom,” says the public. “Because we’re still pissed about the troll doll*”
What a successful franchise built on a simple concept though. Mr. Potato Head and company have made it intact with nary a scandal for 70 years. How many American kids have had these body parts scattered all over their bedroom floor over the years? And if a little rebranding drama gives sales a kick in the pants, that’s not a bad thing for this long beloved toy.
*Right. About that doll. I thought it was it was all hyperbole and pearl-clutching until I saw the thing. So apparently you lift this girl doll’s skirt and place a finger between her legs at pretty much g-spot territory to press a button that makes her gasp and giggle. I shit you not. How the heck did that even get past the design team’s drafting table? Hasbro has issued an Oops public statement, saying that’s not how the doll is supposed to work. The button, they say, is activated when the toy is placed in a seated position. But how is that any better, Hasbro? Should we just put the thing on a washer with an uneven load? The tin-foil hat community is claiming this is yet another attempt by those in political power to groom little girls for sex trafficking, in case you were wondering how wackadoodle this has gone.