I have a vivid memory of playing with a plastic 1980s-era Mr. Potato Head, at maybe five years old, and thinking “why is it a potato?” It was a brown plastic blob, it could have been shaped like anything. Why specifically a potato? Then suddenly an epiphany struck: it must have originally been a set of face parts that you were supposed to stick into an actual potato, but now it’s a plastic potato because everything now is fake bullshit (I was Gen X literally from birth).
I didn’t really think about it again until yesterday, when the AP broke the news that Mr. Potato Head would become a gender-neutral Mx. Potatx Head. That link is a screencap, because the story was disavowed by Hasbro and the AP significantly rewrote it. The usual suspects tried to start an argument about… wanting to have sex with the potato toy I guess? It’s not totally clear. Anyway, no one is trying to take the precious gender away from your plastic potatoes.
But all of this led me to investigate whether little Rusty was right, circa 1981. Was the original Mr. Potato head a set of face parts intended for a real potato? Probably made of lead and mercury and with very sharp spikes? The answer is: yes, mostly, and also Mr. Potato Head’s history is a nightmare menagerie of mutant vegetable horrors. Here’s a gallery, all found via some very cursory Googling:
I don’t know what to do with any of this, emotionally or intellectually.
It’s Friday! Hit the 💬 below if you’re a subscriber and tell me something you realized as a small child that seems surprisingly perceptive now. Or what you’re doing this weekend? I’m just trying to provide a range of levels you could engage at, here.
I wanted to say I’m really enjoying these open threads. Being scarred from many years of moderation wars I was kind of wary about comments but I already really look forward to Fridays now because it’s like a brief moment of the best of the old forum days, those rare times when everyone was around at once and riffing on the same subject. Thanks for making it fun.
I had a Mr. Potato head and every time my Dad would see it he'd say "In MY DAY it was a REAL POTATO!!" as if playing with raw produce was a sign of toughness or something and I was weak for having a plastic toy.