barbie dolls

Big Names That Changed to Avoid Being Canceled

View Slideshow
M&Ms: 1941
Wikimedia Commons

Big Names Forced to Change Course

More people, products, and companies are updating their images to make sure they're on the right side of history. These changes are nothing new, however — rebranding is a time-honored way to keep up with consumer tastes or recover from public relations nightmares like corporate scandals. Here are some of the most notable initiatives and transformations, including swapping heels for sneakers on M&M's characters in the name of gender equality.

Related: Biggest Retail Boycotts of All Time



The M&M's characters are getting a makeover, though you may not even notice the subtle differences that promote gender equality. Everyone is getting new shoes, including swapping Green's go-go boots for sneakers and lowering Brown's heels to a sensible pump. The goal was to make the characters, especially the female ones, more representative of the consumer, according to the company. Green and Brown will be receiving promotions as well, appearing front and center in more ads and packaging in an effort to promote better gender representation.

Related: The Forgotten History Behind Your Favorite Candies

Elvis Costello And The Imposters Perform At Hammersmith Apollo
Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello will be back to touring this summer, but one song won't be coming with him. He's decided to stop performing "Oliver's Army," a song he wrote in 1979 about the Troubles in Northern Ireland that ended up becoming one of his most notable tracks. The lyrics include a racial slur, and have been censored on the radio since 2013. Costello wrote a new verse for the song about censorship, but ultimately decided to retire the song, and asked radio stations to do the same. He'd think twice about writing the same lyric today, he has said, "but people hear that word, go off like a bell and accuse me of something that I didn't intend."

Related: 36 Bucket-List Destinations for Music Lovers



Amid criticism of its commitment to racial equity, including a lawsuit from more than 50 Black former franchisees alleging discrimination, McDonald's has pledged to increase diversity among its restaurant owners with a five-year, $250 million plan. The lawsuit claims the company steered Black franchisees toward low-income neighborhoods where costs would be higher and offered white franchisees, who often have easier access to the capital it takes to open a McDonald's, better loan terms. McDonald's diversity plan, which focuses on recruitment, training, and alternative financing, is the latest step the company has taken to increase diversity among its ranks, including prioritizing purchasing from minority-owned businesses.

Related: 23 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About McDonald's

Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus
Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus by Chris Devers (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

After a six-year hiatus, the circus is aiming for a comeback in 2023 — but without those signature lions, tigers, and elephants. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ceased operations in 2017, citing a number of factors despite constant pressure from animal-rights groups for decades of its 146-year run. The company dropped elephants from its show in 2016, but kept lions and tigers. When the show returns, it will be sans animals altogether, a decision cheered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Ringling Bros.’ announcement perfectly reflects our society’s intolerance of the practices of carting elephants and other nonconsenting animals across the country and bullying them into performing stupid tricks," PETA said in a statement. "Fifty years ago, less-informed audiences may have felt wonder at seeing a tiger jump through a hoop or laughed at a pig spinning on a pedestal. But times and tastes have changed."

Related: Circus World and Other Weird Museums Across America and Beyond

The Rolling Stones: 2021 "No Filter" Tour
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The Rolling Stones

Observant fans may have noticed something surprising during the Rolling Stones' recent "No Filter" tour: The band's massive 1971 hit "Brown Sugar" hasn't been on the set list. The controversial song, which references slavery and the sexual abuse of Black women, was dropped by the Stones, but whether it will stay off limits remains to be seen. Keith Richards, who says the song is actually about the horrors of slavery, insists he hopes the band can "resurrect the babe in her glory" at some point in the future. 

Related: 50 Classic Albums Turning 50 Years Old

Select Lego Products


Lego is pushing back against gender stereotypes and has pledged to remove gender bias from its toys. The move comes after the Danish company conducted research about jobs, hobbies, and toys, and found that parents were much more likely to encourage girls to play dress up and boys to play sports. Shockingly few — only 24% — would encourage their daughters to play with Legos. While Lego hasn't announced exactly how it's going to becoming more gender inclusive, controversial sets like Lego Friends could be on the chopping block. 

RelatedMost Amazing Lego Sets of All Time

Jeff Probst
Kevin Winter/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images North America


Jeff Probst, host of the long-running CBS reality TV show "Survivor," is making a subtle but meaningful change: In an effort to be more inclusive, he recently said he will no longer use his gendered catchphrase, "Come on in, guys," when he greets contestants. During the recent premier of the show's new season, Probst and contestants discussed the issue, leading to a decision to ditch the greeting, according to USA Today. 

For more stories like this,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

This famous California ski resort announced in September that it was changing its name to Palisades Tahoe, effective immediately. In a press release, the company said the former name was unacceptable: "'Squaw' is listed and accepted as offensive, derogatory, racist, and misogynistic by the vast majority of modern sources and references. Stated differently, our name is generally accepted to include an offensive and derogatory slur." The local Washoe Tribe said it supported renaming the site, which is best known for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Victoria's Secret

Victoria's Secret

This lingerie juggernaut has had a rough go of it in recent years, with customers increasingly turning away from the brand's image of unattainable beauty and supermodel-perfect bodies. In response, Victoria's Secret has been working to include more diverse faces and bodies in its advertising. Most recently, it has partnered with athletes, actors, and activists like soccer legend Megan Rapinoe, actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio as its new spokespeople. 

Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began

Monopoly board game
martince2 / istockphoto


What could possibly be offensive about Monopoly, a board game that's been around for almost 90 years? Hasbro thinks Community Chest card topics "like beauty contests, holiday funds, and life insurance" feel out of step in the 21st century. Making the initial cut in a round of voting for replacements: cards about rescuing puppies, shopping local, and weeding the community garden.

Related: Things You Didn't Know About Your Favorite Board Games

Mr Potato Head
Spencer Platt/Getty

Mr. Potato Head

Excuse us: It's just "Potato Head" from now on. Hasbro announced in early 2021 that one of its most iconic toys is officially dropping "Mr." from its name in an effort to broaden its appeal. The gender-neutral makeover will also include a play set that allows kids to create their own potato families, including with two moms or two dads, according to the Associated Press. 

Related: Toy Brands That Are Still Made in America 

Aunt Jemima
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Aunt Jemima

Quaker announced in early 2021 that its eponymous Aunt Jemima syrup would be getting a new brand name and logo: Pearl Milling Company. The brand's origins were "based on a racial stereotype," executives have acknowledged, and the logo had already been tweaked several times, including to remove a kerchief from Aunt Jemima's head. 

dixie chicks
Kevin Winter/Getty

The Dixie Chicks

Years after stirring up controversy for their vocal opposition to President George W. Bush and the Iraq war, the Dixie Chicks were back in the spotlight in 2020 for their decision to drop "Dixie" from their band name — becoming "The Chicks" instead. They felt the word "Dixie," still widely associated with the Confederacy, simply didn't hold up in light of their efforts to promote racial justice.

Where to Donate for Racial Justice in Every State

Lady Antebellum
Terry Wyatt/Getty

Lady Antebellum

The Dixie Chicks may have been spurred on by another big country group that beat them to the punch. Lady Antebellum, henceforth known as "Lady A," decided to shorten its name in 2020, too. The band said it had to consider the "associations that weigh down this word," including slavery. The name change then faced more controversy when the group ran afoul of a Seattle-area blues singer who has been going by the name "Lady A" for years.

Washington Redskins
Rob Carr/Getty

Washington Redskins

Rebranding an NFL team is a costly affair, but the Redskins decided 2020 was the year, especially after prompting by major sponsor FedEx and other investors. Long considered offensive by many Native Americans, "Redskins" has been replaced with the most generic of temporary names: the Washington Football Team. New names that may be under consideration include the Warriors, Hogs, and Presidents, according to Sporting News.

Dolls and Action Figures
Uncle Ben's
Justin Sullivan/Getty
Land O' Lakes

Land O' Lakes

Notice something different about your butter? Land O' Lakes recently redesigned its logo, leaving off the Native American woman who has been on its packaging for nearly 100 years. While the brand publicly says the changes were meant to emphasize its relationship with dairy farmers, most observers see the rebranding as a convenient way to get rid of an "embarrassing, outdated, and downright racist" logo.

Mrs. Butterworth's

Mrs. Butterworth's

Aunt Jemima isn't the only brand of syrup in line for an update. Its Conagra-owned counterpart, Mrs. Butterworth's, is undergoing a brand and packaging review, a spokesman has told Forbes. Though the brand has said its syrup is supposed to "evoke the images of a loving grandmother," others say it perpetuates slavery-era stereotypes similar to Aunt Jemima.  

cream of wheat

Cream of Wheat

This decades-old brand of hot wheat cereal announced in 2020 that it, too, would perform "an immediate review" of its brand packaging. The label owned by B&G Foods includes the image of a smiling Black chef in a bowtie based on an offensive stereotype. The company says it "will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism."

Eskimo Pie

Eskimo Pie

What might have been your favorite childhood ice-cream treat has a new name: Edy's Pie. "Eskimo," considered offensive by indigenous groups like the Inuit, got the heave-ho, as did the mascot, a young boy in a furry hooded robe and boots. Parent company Dreyer's said it "recognizes the term is derogatory" and had been reviewing the brand, recently acquired from Nestle, for some time.

Fair & Lovely

Fair & Lovely

Though not as recognizable stateside, Fair & Lovely has long been a common sight on drugstore shelves in much of Asia. The Unilever-owned brand of skin-lightening cream recently changed its name to "Glow & Lovely" in recognition that "the words 'fair,' 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right." 

Abercrombie & Fitch


Several years ago, the struggling Abercrombie brand had an image problem of its own making, with a CEO who reveled in excluding customers who didn't fit Abercrombie's oversexed mold, and lawsuits from employees over various issues, including being forced to wear company clothing without reimbursement. But starting in 2014, the chain embraced a more wholesome look, closed underperforming stores and beefed up its mix of products. 

20 Famous Brands That Refused to Die

Joe Raedle/Getty


If the name "ValuJet" conjures the image of plane wreckage in the Florida Everglades, that's exactly why the company decided to change its name. After a crash killed more than 100 passengers in 1996, the airline — which had already been dogged by accusations that its safety procedures weren't up to snuff — merged with another company the following year and was reborn as AirTran. AirTran was then acquired by Southwest in 2014. 

ally bank logo
ally bank logo by Toomuchcash (None)


GMAC played a pivotal role in the 2008 subprime mortgage debacle and subsequent housing collapse, eventually accepting a government bailout worth billions. Understandably, that left a bad taste in plenty of consumers' mouths, so the lender decided to rebrand itself as Ally Bank. By all accounts, the switcheroo has gone well, as Ally continues to rack up accolades for being one of the best online banks from publications like Money and Bankrate. 



Back in 2002, the World Wrestling Federation discovered the hard way not to step into the ring with pandas. That's when the federation changed its name to WWE — World Wrestling Entertainment — after a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Federation. The wildlife group, known for its cuddly panda logo, accused the wrestlers of using its trademarked WWF initials a little too liberally, violating a previous agreement not to refer to itself as WWF except in very limited instances.

26 Companies That Are Doing Good Deeds With Your Dollars

Land O' Lakes
Tom Pennington/Getty

Lance Armstrong Foundation

What's a charity to do when its founder and namesake becomes embroiled in one of the biggest sports scandals of the century? Change its name, of course. The Lance Armstrong Foundation, then only informally known as Livestrong, officially adopted its nickname in 2012 after Armstrong's doping scandal rocked the cycling world. Though his seven Tour de France wins were nullified and he stepped down as the group's chairman, he remained on the group's board.  

34 Famous Cancer Survivors

comcast xfinity


If the name "Comcast" sends a shiver down your spine, you aren't alone. In fact, you're in such good company that Comcast rebranded its cable service as Xfinity in 2010. Officially, the move was to better align its new products, platforms, and data speeds, but distancing itself from "notorious bad customer service and technical difficulties" was certainly a happy side effect.  

blackwater academi


This government contractor was so tainted by scandal that it changed its name not once, but twice. The private security firm became a household name when a group of its employees killed several Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, an attack that investigators later determined was unprovoked. In 2009, the company switched its name to Xe; two years later, it became Academi and remains so today. 

bausch and lomb
Justin Sullivan/Getty


This prominent Canadian drugmaker became so mired in twin scandals that it had very little to lose with a complete rebranding. The company was involved in an accounting scandal, and it was also dogged by allegations that it was buying drugs and artificially inflating their prices. The toxic press sent its stock price off a cliff in 2015, after which the company decided to rebrand as Bausch Health, inspired by one of its most prominent product lines, Bausch and Lomb eye care. 

Verizon Wireless
Jonathan Weiss/shutterstock


Anyone who knows much about corporate accounting scandals would undoubtedly put WorldCom near the top of their list. The telecom giant fudged its books to the tune of some $11 billion, leading to what was then the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history in 2002. Two years later, the newly restructured company also adopted a new (old) name: MCI, the name of the company WorldCom had absorbed during a 1996 buyout. MCI was not long for this world, either, as it was snapped up by Verizon in 2005. 

Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable by Ildar Sagdejev (CC BY-SA)

Time Warner Cable

Comcast isn't the only cable company that has played the name-change game. Time Warner Cable also embarked on a rebranding quest in 2017, switching its name to the much-flashier Spectrum after merging with Charter. Arguably, its efforts have been more successful, with customers reporting much higher satisfaction levels with the "new" company.