Post the record-breaking success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Walt Disney Company has been attracting fresh plaudits for its commitment to storytelling. But there’s an uglier sequel to that story. Disney’s marketing partners, notably Hasbro, have been less than ready to take up the Rey character from the movie, because … well, she’s a gurl. And the omission has become so glaring that even the film’s director J.J. Abrams has been moved to call Hasbro out on it.
As quoted in Entertainment Weekly, Abrams professed to have no prior knowledge of Hasbro’s decisions. “I’m learning things as you are,” he said, but continued: “I will say that 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 merchandizing …I read that she wasn’t in the Monopoly game and was quickly making phone calls about this because if it were true — and it is true, and now Hasbro, of course, has said they’re going to put Rey in — it doesn’t quite make sense why she wouldn’t be there.”
Hasbro apparently claimed before that Rey was absent to avoid a spoiler. Now the film is out, though, that explanation seems flimsy to say the least, because there doesn’t seem to be any obvious plot point involving Rey that would be revealed in the course of a Monopoly game. And, as Abrams remarked drolly, “she’s somewhat important in the story.”
It looks like the toy industry has learned precious little since TeleRead covered this topic in December 2013. Then, I quoted Emmy-winning comic strip writer and producer Paul Dini from the Fat Man on Batman podcast, on the influence that toy manufacturers had on the choice of characters in films, TV shows, and comics, and on the sexism baked in to their choices. “They’re all for boys ‘we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this … ‘We do not want girls watching these shows … They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys’.”
Some tweeters using the #WheresRey hashtag have insisted that the whole discrimination issue has been blown far out of proportion, and that there are many Rey toys out there if you care to look. That said, Hasbro is hardly insignificant or unrepresentative of the toy industry as a whole, and their haste to drop a Rey figure into their Star Wars Monopoly game is pretty suggestive in itself. And if Abrams and Walt Disney were courageous and forward-looking enough to challenge public expectations — and public prejudices — with decisions like the foregrounding of John Boyega’s Finn in the film’s trailers, it’s a pity that toymakers didn’t follow their example.
Personally speaking, I’m bitterly jealous of one ex-girlfriend. Possessiveness? Romantic obsession? No, it’s because she got a Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon — and I didn’t!
Yes, the nerd gurl Star Wars fans are out there. And it’s time the toy industry accepted them. Because right now, toy merchandising execs are living a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And the Force is evidently not with them …