I have read about “cancel culture” and how it is wrong to apply that label to the decision around removing the “Mr.” from Mr. Potato Head. They end with something along the lines of, “Change is good if it relieves the pain of the past.”
Call me cis-privileged, but I fail to see how that applies to neutering a line of plastic representations of a potato.
Hasbro admonishes us to “just use your imagination, kids” as though that is new advice, but absent the definitive body parts, what do they think we have been doing?
In fact, cross-dressing of potatoes has gone on ever since Mrs. Potato Head joined Mr. just a year after he was introduced. Brother Spud, Sister Yam and the Spud-ettes followed soon after. I recall playing with all of these, and I don’t recall anyone standing over me enforcing gender, age, or even species norms. Parts were mixed and matched freely and no tears were shed over feelings of exclusion if I chose to stick a Spud-ette kitty cat eyeball onto the face of an otherly-specied body and to call it anything I liked.
These toys smuggled a bit of Andy Warhol-style absurdism and John Waters-style transgression into American living rooms, yet now they are called offensively exclusionary.
Supporters of Hasbro’s change were quick to clarify that only the name of the line of toys, not the name of one individual, was changing to drop the “Mr.” Well hallelujah, there’s your change that relieves the pain of the past. But why stop there? What about the name of the company itself?
The “bro” in “Hasbro” reeks of toxic masculinity. Why can’t it be “Hassis” for sister, or “Hassib” for sibling? But what about only children? Isn’t (that) just rubbing their lone status in their face? So let’s drop “bro” all together, shall we, and call the company “Has.”
Oh, but haven’t we become a society of haves and have-nots, thanks to unrestrained capitalism leading to rampant inequality? Thanks, “Has,” for reminding me that I don’t have.
Where does it end?
It ends with us unable to use words to name anything, to even tentatively label anything, without bringing on a storm of grievance-mongering protests and endless exercises in dissecting words to find, and display with a righteous sneer, the gruesome prize of that-which-now-offends-me.