Star Wars Toy Manufacturers Get a Wake-up Call

Daisy Ridley arrives at the world premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Ridley plays the role of Rey in the film. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Daisy Ridley arrives at the world premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Ridley plays the role of Rey in the film. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

When Ironman 3 came out, they sold replica helmets. When Frozen came out, they sold Elsa and Anna singing toothbrushes.  And even before the new Star Wars release, we were inundated with BB-8 and Kylo Ren paraphernalia.

Rey is Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ indisputable heroine. However, there are hardly any toys available that include her. The question many fans of the franchise are asking is, “Where’s Rey?”

A shelving unit at Target dedicated entirely to men’s Star Wars graphic t-shirts.
There is only one t-shirt for women related to Star Wars, which simply has the Star Wars title logo on a gray background.
There is only one t-shirt for women related to Star Wars, which simply has the Star Wars title logo on a gray background.

Toy manufacturers have received backlash from consumers, tweeting with #WheresRey, and many believe that the lack of merchandise featuring Rey is due to the persistent idea that Star Wars is “for boys”.

I asked two renowned Star Wars fans at AVHS what they thought about that “for boys” idea. Both had already heard about the #WheresRey phenomenon. You may have seen Meaghan Murphy sporting Rey’s signature hairstyle or lightsaber hair pins, or read possibly hundreds of Nate Williams’ Star Wars related retweets.

“There are definitely female fans, but it almost feels ‘wowish’ when I meet multiple Star Wars fans that are girls…I think it’s made for all genders; it’s not gender specific,” said Williams.  “But I also think that less girls go see it. I think this may be due to the lack of female characters. There are really only Leia and now Rey as female main characters.”

Star Wars is not just a ‘boys’ movie, this saga is meant for everyone,” added Murphy.  “That’s why there’s a strong female lead in every single movie.”

Director J.J. Abrams himself has expressed his disappointment in Rey’s underrepresentation. “Star Wars was always a boys’ thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to, as well.”

In another interview, he said, “[It] seems preposterous and wrong that the main character of the movie is not well represented in what is clearly a huge piece of the Star Wars world in terms of merchandising…It doesn’t quite make sense why she wouldn’t be there.”

Abrams sarcastically added, “She’s somewhat important in the story.”

One product that has received considerable complaints is Hasbro’s Star Wars Monopoly game, which was released September 2015. Its four character pieces are Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and…Finn. Now, there’s nothing wrong with John Boyega’s lovable Stormtrooper-turned-resistance fighter character, but to fans, it is obvious that Luke Skywalker is to Darth Vader as Rey is to Kylo Ren.

8-year old Annie Rose wrote a colorfully worded letter to Hasbro, which her mother shared via her Twitter account and received over 2500 retweets. To quote Annie, “Without her, there is no Force Awakens! It awakens in her!”

Tweet from Carrie Goldman's account, showing her daughter Annie Rose's letter to Hasbro regarding their Star Wars Monopoly game.
Carrie Goldman
Tweet from Carrie Goldman’s account, showing her daughter Annie Rose’s letter to Hasbro regarding the Star Wars Monopoly game.

Hasbro announced two days after the tweet that they will be re-releasing their Monopoly set. Their Twitter account posted, “We love your passion for Rey and are happy to share that we are including her in the Monopoly: Star Wars game, available later this year.”

Another product, a Target-exclusive six-piece action figure set, contains figures of an unnamed Stormtrooper and First Order pilot, but not Rey.

This set contains Finn, Chewbacca, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Stormtrooper, and First Order Pilot.
Sophia Moschkau
This Target exclusive set contains Finn, Chewbacca, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Stormtrooper, and First Order Pilot.

Action movie lovers recall that Black Widow from the Avengers received similar treatment. Both were erased from signature scenes in their respective movies when merchandise came out. An Avengers toy set has Captain America instead of Black Widow riding her famous black Harley. A $140.00 Millennium Falcon toy set includes a Finn figurine but not Rey, when she (spoiler alert) is the one who first pilots the “trash” ship out of a Jakku junkyard.

What do toy manufacturers have to say about this? Disney Senior Vice President Paul Southern says, “Rey and [Captain Phasma, another female character] feature prominently across hundreds of products, and are selling exceptionally well. In many stores and e-commerce destinations, products featuring Rey are selling as quickly as retailers can restock shelves. Fans will also be seeing a lot more of Rey with a new wave of product coming in January.”

Southern also brought up the point that much of the Rey product was delayed in release to prevent spoilers. “The fact that she was the ultimate heroine of the film was one of the significant plot points we did want to protect.”

A large Captain Phasma toy at Target, but the only one I could find of the character.
Sophia Moschkau
A large Captain Phasma toy at Target, but the only one I could find of the character.

Recently, Disney has released new Rey figurines in 6” and 12” versions that show her wielding the blue lightsaber. Although this is a step in the right direction, people are still tweeting #WheresRey. Toy manufacturers like Disney and Hasbro have responded to the outcry from fans, but only time will tell if they have done enough to quiet it.

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