UPDATE: According to Mashable, Hasbro has announced they will include the character of Rey in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens edition of Monopoly. Due to fan outrage and the #WheresRey Twitter hashtag, Hasbro released the following statement: "We love the passion fans have for Rey, and are happy to announce that we will be making a running change to include her in the Monopoly: Star Wars game available later this year." It's a small step, but one that proves fans—and their wallets—hold some power.
Within the first 15 minutes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, your eyes are glued to the character Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), a fearless scavenger who can pilot a spacecraft. You don’t know her name yet in those first dialogue-free moments, but it’s obvious that she is the film’s heroine—its beating heart.
Characters like Rey aren’t frequently seen in Hollywood blockbusters. She is a strong, independent young woman, and little attention is paid to her gender—she is just as capable as any of her male counterparts. The Force Awakens is both nostalgic and utterly new, and it has inspired thousands of kids, including my 10-year-old daughter.
The outcry peaked last week when it was discovered that a new edition of Hasbro’s Monopoly board game for The Force Awakens doesn’t include a character token for Rey. (The game contains four character tokens: Finn, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—the last of whom doesn’t appear in the latest film.)
But the uproar over the Monopoly game is only the latest example of Rey’s exclusion. Target carries an exclusive set of six action figures for The Force Awakens that includes four male characters (Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren and Chewbacca), one unnamed First Order Stormtrooper Officer and one unnamed First Order TIE Fighter Pilot (this set isn’t available in Canada). How did two unnamed action figures make it into the set? Rey isn’t even part of Hasbro’s Battle Action Millennium Falcon playset. Despite the fact that Rey both fixes and commandeers Han Solo’s iconic ship, it’s Finn (accompanied by Chewbacca and BB-8) who gets to pilot it around your kids’ rooms. (Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, and Hasbro licenses the name to create some of the merchandise.)
Casual searches on websites for Walmart and Toys“R”Us reveal that Finn’s action figure is much easier to find than Rey’s. Granted, Hasbro sells a Rey action figure alongside her speeder bike, but her face is totally obscured by clothing so you can’t even tell that she is a woman, let alone Rey. Most toy websites claim that this item is currently sold out, which is either a testament to how popular she is or a sign that Hasbro simply underestimated the demand for her. And if you’re looking for Captain Phasma (played by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie), the female commander of the First Order’s legions of Stormtroopers, you can forget it: She is even harder to find on toy shelves than Rey.
An eight-year-old girl recently wrote a letter to Hasbro asking for Rey, noting that there is no awakening of the Force without her.
A Hasbro spokesperson responded to the public’s #WheresRey question with a response quoted in Entertainment Weekly: “The Star Wars Monopoly game was released in September, months before the movie’s release, and Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.”
Well, that was very considerate of them, given that all the posters and trailers for The Force Awakens prominently feature Rey. The Hasbro spokesperson also said: “Fans will see more Rey product hitting store shelves this month, including six-inch and 12-inch Rey action figures. We are thrilled with the popularity of this compelling character and will continue to look for ways to showcase Rey across all of our product lines.”
More likely, the makers of the game didn’t think boys would want to own female action figures and are now furiously working to catch up to the demand. Am I being too cynical? I don’t think so. We’ve seen this issue before. Last year, Black Widow, one of the main Avengers (portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in the films), was missing from superhero playsets. There was a similar outrage when Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) was missing from T-shirts featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy cast.
I’m starting to envision all toy manufacturers and marketers as the old men at the bank in Mary Poppins. They’re increasingly out of touch with the modern world, simply nodding their heads as kids run past them. The strict gender lines between products are becoming much more fluid, but the last ones that appear to take notice are the ones manufacturing toys. And since toy companies aren’t providing these options, they’re depriving kids of the chance to prove them wrong. All that consumers are left with to battle this issue are wallets and hashtags.
For the first time ever, the National Retail Federation announced that Star Wars toys were on the top 10 lists for both boys and girls—these are the kinds of numbers that retailers should listen to. I hope this is the last time I ever blog about a prominent female character being excluded from a playset for kids. Hey, a girl can dream, right?
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