With Star Wars: The Force Awakens bringing in over $1 billion worldwide, tie-ins and toys are hot properties. Star Wars toys brought in over $700 million last year, much of it on September 4, the day toys from the new installment of the saga made their debut, AKA “Force Friday.” One of the most popular toys is the Star Wars Monopoly game. But when buyers saw the playing tokens, which included Darth Vader (who isn’t in the film) and excluded Rey (the star of the story), they were puzzled. When the hashtag #WhereIsRey went viral on Twitter, Hasbro, the manufacturer of the game, issued a dubious statement about not wanting to give away a plot point.
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.
This is nonsense. What could possibly be revealed by making Rey a token in the game?
But the Monopoly controversy is the tip of the iceberg. Though Hasbro says that Rey will be featured in upcoming toy releases, the question remains: why was Rey excluded from toys in the first place? After all, she is the star of the movie. The Force awakens in her, she is instrumental in the plot and action. So, where is Rey?
An insider from the toy industry spoke to Michael Boehm of Sweatpants and Coffee on condition of his anonymity, telling Boehm that Rey was left out of the toys on purpose.
Toy and merchandise makers and vendors met with Lucasfilm in January of 2015, pitching their ideas for tie-ins. During those meetings, many potential products featured Rey prominently. But, as the talks wore on, Rey became the object of concern. So much so that vendors were eventually told, specifically, to exclude Rey from their merchandise. The insider says that he was told:
We know what sells. No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.
The insider revealed that female characters are being excluded in many toy lines including Marvel’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, Power Rangers and Paw Patrol. Strong female characters don’t sell, they say. Their costumes may be provocative — or, at least, that’s the excuse for Black Widow and Gamora.
The toy industry has drawn gender lines for their products ever since Reagan-era deregulation of advertising made it viable. Toys like Star Wars and Avengers playsets are geared for boys so female characters are not allowed in the clubhouse. They are marginalized on purpose. What kind of message does this send to the boys who play with these toys? It’s okay to exclude girls, girls aren’t worthy of attention, girls can’t play with us. Girls have their own toys and never the twain shall meet.
It’s bad enough that toy and merchandise vendors exclude female characters from any toy perceived to be for boys only. But that they do so in a deliberate and cynical attempt to keep boys and girls separated in play is even worse. I remember playing with my brother as a child; toy soldiers in the sand dunes behind our house. Being a girl never kept me from sharing toys with him and vice versa. It’s a real shame that today’s toy makers are so narrow-minded as to not allow children to play together.
Featured Image via StarWars.com