Toy company Hasbro is removing one of its toys from distribution in the wake of complaints about a feature of the doll that some people found alarming.
The move comes after a Change.org petition begun by parent Jessica McManis, who discovered the toy—Dreamworks Trolls World Tour Giggle and Sing Poppy doll—has a very strange on/off switch—a button placed in the doll’s “privates” that makes the doll make sounds that could be construed as sexual.
A video showcasing the doll’s feature has gone viral, especially among far-right conspiracy theorist circles.
People claimed the doll’s design could send dangerous messages to kids and could even be used as a grooming tool for pedophiles.
WARNING: Follow-up tweets/replies contain speech of a trans/homo-phobic nature
Is @Hasbro normalizing grooming & facilitating child abuse? 🤔👇
— Sam Parker 🇺🇲 (@SamParkerSenate) August 5, 2020
In her Change.org petition, McManis highlights potential messaging she thinks children could receive from the doll’s odd button placement.
“What will this toy make our innocent, impressionable children think?”
“That it’s fun when someone touches your private area?”
“That pedophilia and child molestation are ok?”
Speaking to the Providence Journal in Rhode Island where Hasbro is based, spokesperson Julie Duffy said any sexual connotation was unintended, but they understand why it raised concerns.
“This feature was designed to react when the doll was seated, but we recognize the placement of the sensor may be perceived as inappropriate.”
On social media, some people were disturbed by the doll.
People who aren’t freaked out by the poppy troll doll thing actually SCARE me
— savannah valentine (@azsva) August 5, 2020
I can't believe people are defending Hasbro's Poppy Troll Doll's "giggle button". We're not prudes for being disgusted by that. Children shouldn't be exposed to sex so early. These toys could be used to groom them and normalize the idea of underaged sex to them. 1/
— 🅺🅸🅼🅰🆁🅸🆂- a bean about to be roasted. (@Kimaris_XX) August 6, 2020
Exactly. Poor design and execution. Nothing nefarious going on. Someone’s gonna get fired and they are pulling from shelves. https://t.co/cW9N1zAuHy
— ClockDrawingContest (@FartsUSA) August 7, 2020
yoo what was up with that troll doll?
— carmen 👷👷👷👷 (@carmen0winstead) August 7, 2020
Someone needs to be fired. Actually whoever approved it and whoever designed it. Too sick, even for 2020 standards. https://t.co/G7O2wqqD2C
— Indigo Ocean (@IndigoOcean) August 6, 2020
But given the controversy’s ties to conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and QAnon, and accusations of a transgender-indoctrination agenda, others found it ridiculous.
hasbro recalling a troll doll because qanon people decided it was grooming children is very funny
— benji (@_pierrotlunaire) August 6, 2020
Ppl insisting that inappropriate Hasbro Troll doll is trans bc it has pink & blue hair.
So I watched the music video for the tie-in film. A happy rainbow turns her hair & clothes blue, green, pink & yellow at 3:27.
Most things really aren't conspiracies. https://t.co/IfCgjKnuKL
— 🟥📚Tibby ♀️✡ (@tibby17) August 7, 2020
On today’s episode of what are people being stupid about on fb people are sexualizing a troll doll. Wtf went wrong with y’all.
— em (@daddyy_Emily) August 5, 2020
— Elma Hajric (@elmahjc) August 6, 2020
Conspiracy theories aside, Hasbro took what many see as the best course of action given the controversy.
As spokesperson Duffy went on to explain to the Providence Journal, the company is pulling the doll and offering replacements to anyone who purchased one.
“…We are happy to provide consumers with a replacement Poppy doll of similar value through our consumer care team.”
“We are in the process of removing the item for purchase.”
Hopefully they’ll think more carefully about design in the future.