Colonel Mustard. In the Conservatory. With a candlestick.
Cluedo, the Classic Detective Game, provided my sisters and I with hours of fun in the days of old-fashioned, unplugged entertainment.
We must have played this game hundreds of times. I loved the thrill of solving the mystery. Who, where & what. It reminded me of all those legal battles Jimmy Smits, Jill Eikenberry and Harry Hamlin so cleverly fought in L.A. Law. It made me want to become a criminal lawyer. It made me want to stand up in a courtroom, slam my fist on the table and shout “OBJECTION!! Badgering the witness!”
In all those years of murder, suspicion and accusations around a 20”x20” board, I never once questioned why the male characters were professionals whereas only one of the three female characters had a job, and she was a housekeeper. Nothing wrong with being a housekeeper, of course, but a little bit of research revealed that Mrs White was originally supposed to be Nurse White. This was altered before the game was produced. Hmm…
Are you familiar with the Cluedo crew?
The men: Reverend Green (a reverend), Colonel Mustard (a colonel), Professor Plum (a professor).
The women: Mrs Peacock (a socialite), Miss Scarlett (a ‘femme fatale’), Mrs White (a housekeeper).
I suppose one could argue that the titles – Professor, Colonel, Reverend – are non – gender specific, and then the joke’s on you for your politically incorrect assumptions, except that there are actual illustrations of these three professionals and they are most certainly male:
Obviously I am not the first person to realise this. Much has been written about Cluedo and feminism, especially in 2016 when Hasbro released a revised edition of the game in which they decided Mrs White was no longer required at the Mansion. She was replaced with Dr Orchid: a female, Asian biologist with a PhD in plant toxicology.
A victory for feminism? Not in the 21st century.
Girls (and boys!) all over the world will see that women have cool jobs too. I’m all for that. More girls interested in Science, brilliant. But poor Mrs White. After years of service as a housekeeper and fellow suspect, she is kicked out by a good-looking, young scientist.
Not everyone is happy about this ‘modernisation’. Most of the concerns seem to fall into 3 categories:
1. Why young?
Why didn’t they just turn Mrs White into a scientist? Is a 50 year old female scientist such an improbability that they had to make her young?
2. Why hot?
Are we all so superficial that we need a new character to be attractive before we can like and accept her?
3. Why Mrs White?
Why was it Mrs White that had to be replaced? She was the only female character bringing home the bacon (and cooking it). Why couldn’t they have eliminated the femme fatale or the socialite?
Oh, Mrs White. You’ve been replaced by a younger model. But you’re not the only one. Look at what they did to the rest of them:
It is a murder mystery board game. Not an Instagram fashion parade. Have the makeovers really made them more relatable? The 2008 version also added new rooms to the game, including a theatre and a spa, as well as new ‘modern’ weapons.
Dr Orchid. In the spa. With a dumbbell. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
And then I hear Harry Styles in my head: “Just stop your crying/ It’s a sign of the times.”
©2018 Seetha Dodd