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Potato Head Has Always Been a Nonbinary Icon

Every kid who had this toy discovered how fluid gender can be

Sorry liberals, there’s only one gender: potato.

If you keep abreast of the culture wars, you already know that Hasbro is updating their classic Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys to be gender-neutral. In practice, this doesn’t mean a whole lot: As always, kids will have the freedom to accessorize their Potato Heads however they want. (Personally, I always liked to give mine an upside-down face.) But the models and packaging will remove the his-and-hers honorifics, introduce more versatile add-ons and no longer lean into the hetero family structure. Depending on your politics, this is either fine, irrelevant, a huge win for the LGBTQ community or a sign that the radical left is trying to indoctrinate children.

Most of all, though, it’s effective marketing. Conservatives will want the new Potato Heads so they can shoot them with automatic weapons and post the videos on TikTok, while progressive parents will trample each other to buy them for their woke toddlers. It’ll be the most anybody discusses the product outside the release of another Toy Story film. Really, it was this or we cancel Potato Head for being an offensive Irish stereotype. The only people who won’t have a take are three-to-five-year-olds yet to be poisoned by an atmosphere of American grievance.

That’s because even “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Potato Head showed children the malleability of physical form and identity. They’ve been gleefully pairing red high heels and a bushy black mustache for years — experimenting, if you will — and nobody had a problem with it. The changes to the toy are only acknowledging what’s already the case: that Potato Head is a nonbinary, genderfluid character. It’s a fucking potato! Not until it’s officially released from the categories of male and female would right-wingers think to fill their diapers over this long-standing blank slate. And where were they when Pixar strongly implied that the Potato Head couple is into ass play?

As far as hot-button distractions go, however, this debate may be short-lived. We have actual members of Congress, who have an actual say in the shaping of U.S. law, feuding across an office hallway over the right of trans and nonbinary people to live without harassment and demonization from reactionary bigots whose lives are absolutely unaffected by the wider spectrum of gender experience. The Potato Head thing is, uh, small potatoes compared to that ugliness. At most we can anticipate some Twitter tantrums and maybe a go-nowhere boycott of Hasbro, which won’t scrap its plans and stands to increase sales from the controversy itself.

Or maybe, in the midst of the fray, they’ll throw us another curveball that confuses the issue further:

What? Okay. I guess we’re having it both ways, and bowler hats are still unambiguously masculine. I’m sure there’s a way to get mad about this, too — why is Mr. Potato Head stuck in the fashions of decades past, while his wife gets a more contemporary blonde pixie cut? — but we’ve spent long enough dwelling on a set of plastic objects that preschoolers use to brainstorm impossible anatomies. Fact is, when you’ve got an arm growing out of your nose hole and a mouth where an ear should be, you’ve ascended beyond the sexual politics of the human world. The spuds, and the youth, are making it work how they see fit. The rest of us are just making it about ourselves.

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