Skip to content

Ryan’s Regards: Potato toy’s gender nearly starts World War Three

Censorship over children’s toys and books have become quite the topical conversation this month
A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

After Hasbro announced that they were dropping the “Mister” from their classic potato head toy, an all out social media rumble erupted. Some called the decision “ridiculous,” others argued whether or not plastic toys or potatoes have a gender.

Filtering through the 500-plus comments on Facebook left this columnist feeling as though a war over plastic vegetables was going to break out at any minute.

Thankfully no such event arose, but a few days later the very of mention of Dr. Seuss classics like To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street going out of print threatened to plunge the fleeting peace into utter chaos.

These announcements make it oh so evident that humans don’t like change; particularly when brands or items that have been there our whole lives suddenly vanish or become slightly different.

There’s something comforting about the familiar. Nostalgia guides us into pushing old songs, sports teams, and grocery items onto the ones we love, even if it causes pain for others.

Knowing there are others in this world who take an interest in those little nuances we remember seem to give validity to our own lives. Warm feelings from a more “innocent time” are hard to argue with.

Now, when the owner or investor or whoever’s in charge decides to bring their brand up to speed, people’s nostalgia alarms ring out on high alert.

If I wanted to change the name of the entire Aldergrove Star newspaper to Ryan’s Regards, for instance, people would be upset.

But I believe it wouldn’t stem from people opposing my own views or monetary reasoning behind the change – it’s because we have had The Star for half a century.

It’s very name is a fixture in the community, and people take comfort in having that familiarity and connection.

READ MORE: Ryan’s Regards: Where have all the colours gone?

Change is happening at a rapid pace in the name of inclusion, and we have to face that more fixtures that we love in our culture will disappear.

My grandfather of 89 years passed away last month, and in a slide show video of his life, we included the Dean Martin song “Not Enough Indians,” a problematic tune that has the classic crooner complaining that there’s too many chiefs in his tepee.

We put it in there because he sang it ad nauseam in the late 1960s.

It was his favourite because he was a product of his time. No one ever told him, or frankly anyone for that matter, that the song could be considered insensitive or racist. Times change.

“Not Enough Indians,” does not play on radio airwaves, nor will it likely be ever released on a Dean Martin CD collection again.

But yet, that song is still in our lexicon and it brought us much comfort in the wake of grief and loss.

Is it right to still listen to that song?

Is it okay if happy family memories are associated with fixtures that are no longer, and were never, appropriate? Can we or should we disassociate?

The way I see it, no one is plucking these memories from our heads.

I have memories learning to read by tackling If I Ran The Zoo.

I have memories playing with Mr. Potato Head, laughing hysterically with my mother at the french translation – Monsieur Patate.

But it’s the memories itself, not the products. There will always be plenty of products.

The complete erasure of history is a dangerous road.

The past should be kept in the public eye for people of all ages to learn from. To see what life was like and how we’ve evolved (hopefully for the better).

Ultimately, the choice is not ours to decide what should be done with brands like beloved potato toys.

We don’t own these songs or books or products.

But we do own the memories associated with them.

As we move forward, hang on to your nostalgia, but don’t let it cripple you. Let go of the product.

Have a story tip? Email:
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.