The XX Factor

Clue Changes Out Mrs. White, a Housekeeper, for Dr. Orchid, a Female Scientist

Bye, Mrs. White.


In what can only be the doing of a devious feminist branch of the Illuminati, the makers of the board game Clue plan to replace the character of a female domestic worker with a female scientist. Come August, Mrs. White, the housekeeper-slash-cook-slash-nanny of the mansion where the game takes place, will be toast. Dr. Orchid, a biologist with a Ph.D., is set to take her place.

Orchid’s backstory is suitably sinister: The adopted daughter of the game’s mansion-owner, Samuel Black, Orchid was expelled from a fancy Swiss boarding school after a “near-fatal daffodil poisoning incident.” Then, Mrs. White herself (gasp!) homeschooled Orchid, who went on to get her Ph.D. in plant toxicology. In promo images, Orchid looks to be of Asian descent, making her the only discernable person of color in the game.

“It was a difficult decision to say goodbye to Mrs. White,” a Hasbro marketing executive said in a statement, “but after 70 years of suspicious activity, we decided that one of the characters had to go.”

Why poor old Mrs. White, though? Lizzy Acker of the Oregonian suspects White’s termination may have been a result of her uninspired name. It could be also that, seeing the modernizing shifts traditional toys have made in the name of diverse and realistic representation—Barbie, for one, can now be “curvy,” a game developer, and a political black film director with hair twists—Hasbro higher-ups opted to pre-empt any protests of its matronly servant in a maid’s outfit by swapping her out for someone with a sexier STEM career. Or maybe Dr. Orchid just seemed more relevant to our contemporary age of global terrorism, in which the threat of biological warfare looms larger than that of death by candlestick.

In some ways, the White-Orchid switcheroo represents a return to form for the game. Some reports claim that White was originally conceived as a nurse, and the game’s arsenal of weapons included a syringe. This made her far more career-driven than any of the other female characters in the game: Mrs. Peacock is a widow and socialite; Miss Scarlet is a femme fatale with no apparent occupation, though some versions of the game describe her as an “aspiring actress.” Hasbro might have been better off revealing that one of those two had a secret plant toxicology business on the side instead of changing out the only woman who had a job to begin with.

Or why not change the gender of one of the male characters? All three—Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, and Reverend Green—have nongendered titles. Given the news that black women are now the most educated demographic in the U.S., the recent campaign to make women Catholic priests, and the fact that women (both cisgender and transgender) can now serve in all military combat roles, making one a female murderer would be a timely shift.