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Hollifield: Mr. Potato Head in the eye of the outrage storm
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Hollifield: Mr. Potato Head in the eye of the outrage storm

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Mr. Potato Head is back in the news — wait, was Mr. Potato Head ever previously in the news? I seem to remember unsubstantiated reports of a harassment suit from Barbie’s lawyers back in the 1990s, but it appears that matter was settled out of court and never discussed publicly again.

According to media outlets that cover fake outrage and potato-related matters, including The New York Times, toymaker Hasbro initially announced in February it was dropping “Mr.” from the brand name, making the Potato Head characters more gender neutral.

“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.

That sure didn’t go over well with people who feel strongly about potato gender.

Radio host Glenn Beck implored his listeners to “buy Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head” while they can because this is “the end of freedom in America.”

Soon, people were equating the change in Mr. Potato Head branding with the decline of western civilization, because we don’t have anything else to worry about like a deadly virus or a recently attempted coup.

Hasbro, not one to stir the potato pot, tried to clarify the situation in a subsequent tweet.

“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.”

It seems our long national nightmare is over.

Still, I am going out on a limb here, which is not where potatoes grow, and make this controversial statement: Mr. Potato Head was one of the most boring mass-produced toys of my generation.

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According to the Mr. Potato Head entry on Wikipedia, the “toy was originally produced as separate plastic parts with pushpins that could be stuck into a real potato or other vegetable. However, due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body within the toy set in 1964,” the year I was born.

It was just a hunk of plastic filled with holes where kids jammed smaller pieces of plastic — eyes, ears, lips, mustaches — to make a character that had no special skills, no superpowers, nothing but a pipe that might convince kids that smoking was cool.

In elementary school after Christmas break, we were sometimes allowed to bring one present we received for show-and-tell.

“You’ve got a what?”

“Mr. Potato Head. A woman who works with my mom ordered one from the Sears Wish Book and they accidentally sent her two, so she gave one to me. Mr. Potato Head!”

Later at recess, G.I . Joe and Evel Knievel are battling villainous forces in the dirt beneath the monkey bars.

“Hey, fellas, can Mr. Potato Head and I join in?”

“What’s he do, Scotty?”

“Why, he’s a master of disguise. He can sneak unnoticed behind enemy lines.”

“He’s got a mustache where his hat should be.”

“Like I said, a master of disguise.”

Call him what you will — Potato Head, Mr. Potato Head or Senator Potato Head — a boring toy by any other name is still a boring toy. And fake outrage by any other name is still fake outrage.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C.,and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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