Generally, you don't think of potatoes as having gender, but since 1952, Mr. Potato Head and his counterpart Mrs. Potato Head have been a staple at children's playtimes (and the Toy Story film franchise). Soon, though, there will be only "Potato Head," with the genders removed from the toys. The move is being viewed as a progressive gesture toward inclusivity of trans and non-binary people, but it has the practical financial upside of making the Potato Head base -- which was the same for both the male and female versions of the character -- more versatile and less costly to package and market.
Hasbro is couching the move as a "modern makeover," aside from the aforementioned production advantages, it will likely consolidate shelf space for the Potato Head line of products. Clearly gendered toys like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head tend to be displayed in clearly gendered aisles at toy and big box stores. That can mean that kids looking for Potato Head accessories would miss anything not displayed with the potato they're looking at, if they aren't specifically aware that they need to go looking elsewhere.
The characters of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head -- inasmuch as there are characters outside of their depictions in the Toy Story movies -- will continue to exist in some form, according to Hasbro, who owns the property. Rebranded "Potato Head" toys will start appearing on store shelves this year.
Hold that Tot – your main spud, MR. POTATO HEAD isn’t going anywhere! 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 pic.twitter.com/6I84KrxOLQ— Hasbro (@Hasbro) February 25, 2021
Originally, the Mr. Potato Head concept was just the toys that kids would add on to their own -- real -- potato. That changed after Hasbro bought the IP and started releasing plastic, hollow potatoes that both conserved food and served as a receptacle to carry the accessories around (there's a door in the rear of the Potato Head, where kids can hide away the body parts when it isn't in use).
One genuine change may be how the Potato Head toys are played with after the rebrand. According to Fast Company, studies have shown that one of the most popular ways the toys are played with is by toddlers who create families. A less-gendered Potato Head toy, then, may allow them to replicate family units they recognize, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of their household.
One of the most popular Potato Head products of the last couple of decades is the Tater Tub -- nee Mr. Potato Head's Bucket of Parts -- which provides a wide array of accessory options. These have traditionally always been a mix of male- and female-coded Potato Head parts. In recent years, the Mr. Potato Head brand has also branched out, embracing brands like Marvel and even the Alien movies to have potato versions of those characters in collectible releases.