— Callum Main (@EECallum) July 5, 2016
Hasbro. In the boardroom. With a news release.
That’s who killed Mrs. White, one of Clue’s primary suspects in the murder of Mr. Boddy. This coming August, the aging housekeeper will be replaced by a much more professionally accomplished character: biologist Dr. Orchid, who holds a PhD in plant toxicology and appears to be of Asian descent.
Her back story is one of privilege and intrigue. She was “privately schooled in Switzerland until her expulsion following a near-fatal daffodil poisoning incident.” In a shocking twist, she was then home-schooled by Mrs. White.
Dun dun dun.
In a statement published by Mental Floss, Hasbro Gaming’s senior vice president of global marketing, said, “It was a difficult decision to say goodbye to Mrs. White — but after 70 years of suspicious activity, we decided that one of the characters had to go. Dr. Orchid is a brilliant new character with a rich back story and links to the Black fortune. We’re sure families around the world will continue to create thrilling murder mysteries with all six suspects inside of the iconic Tudor Mansion.”
Though Hasbro hasn’t publicly stated its reason for the change, many see it as a feminist victory.
Oregonian writer Lizzy Acker called the move a “feminist coup.” As Time pointed out, this makes Dr. Orchid the first female character in the game to have an official profession, as Mrs. Peacock is a widow and socialite and Miss Scarlet is, well, a mystery.
And it’s something that’s been sought before. A petition launched on Change.com roughly three months ago seeking to give Mrs. White a medical degree was signed by more than 1,800 people.
The petition stated:
Hasbro should change Mrs. White to Dr. White. By portraying her as a white-coated physician, surgeon, or scientist, it would show support for women in general, and give young girls an everyday image of an accomplished professional who just happens to be a woman. It may not seem like much, but it is these kinds of small gestures and images that subtly combine to make up the impression that young people have of other people and themselves.
There’s a slight irony here.
Clue — or Cluedo in Europe — was conceived of during World War II by English musician Anthony E. Pratt and his wife Elva and was first released in 1949. Why the pair created the game remained unconfirmed. As the Orlando Sentinel noted, one story claimed he came up with the idea while working in a factory that created tank parts. The most common story is that he created it for people to pass the time in bomb shelters.
What is confirmed is patent paperwork from 1944 showed that Mrs. White was originally supposed to be Nurse White, according to the Guardian.
Not everyone is happy with the decision.
Hasbro eliminated Mrs. White from CLUE. Ageism and sexism strikes again.
— Seth Abramovitch (@SethAbramovitch) July 9, 2016
So #Cluedo drops Mrs. White as a stereotype but then introduces an Asian character called "Dr. Orchid". From one stereotype to another
— Gavin McMahon (@gjjmcmahon) July 5, 2016
So Hasbro has dropped Mrs White from #cluedo
Over my dead body.
In the conservatory.
With the spanner.
— Peter Thornton (@insidewrite1957) July 10, 2016
Still, it’s in keeping with current trends. Replacing or updating traditional characters with ones that reflect a more diverse set of characteristics is increasingly common in toys and fiction, from dolls to board games to comic books.
Earlier this year, Mattel changed the classic Barbie shape by adding three new body types: petite, tall and curvy. In addition, they added seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles, “an effort to make the dolls look more diverse,” according to The Washington Post.
More recently, Marvel announced a change to its Iron Man comics that shocked some longtime fans. Tony Stark, the white man who had always been the one to don the superhero suit and become Iron Man, will be replaced by Riri Williams, a black teenage girl with a genius-level IQ. And last year, Marvel announced that a new Hulk character would be a Korean American teenager.
The move to replace Mrs. White with Dr. Orchid on Hasbro’s part is less controversial if one considers that this isn’t the first time Clue has been restructured. (Nor, it should be noted, are all versions the same — in Europe, the American “Mr. Green” is a reverend).
In 2008, the game was updated to include three more weapon options and a second deck of cards, NPR reported. The mansion gained new rooms, such as a spa and a theater. Finally, the characters were given more involved back stories — Colonel Mustard, for example, was now a former football star and Victor Plum lost his professorship to become a video game designer.
When explaining the changes, Rob Daviau, who helped design that version, told NPR, “We wanted something that the mom or dad who’s bringing home for the family [could say], ‘This is what I remember, and this is what I want to play with my kids.’ At the same time, we wanted something the kids would feel like it belonged to them. And this is something that’s very appealing to them. So we tried to blend those two worlds. It plays like Clue, it feels like Clue, but it just feels like Clue that would have been created in the 21st century.”
The same, it seems, could be said of the new change.