Star Wars: The Force Awakens quickly became the most anticipated movie of 2015, as fans worldwide were excited to see what would happen next. Even though original favourites, such as Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and the droids all have a role in the movie, the storyline focuses on a younger group, especially the female protagonist, Rey. Unfortunately, while Rey has an important role in the movie, she is unrepresented in the toy industry and has been left out of various Star Wars games and action figure sets. Not only has this outraged the fans, but it has also irritated the director, J.J. Abrams.
“It seems preposterous and wrong that the main character is not well represented in what is clearly a huge piece of the Star Wars world in terms of merchandizing,” said Abrams. The exclusion of Rey is unfair and suggests that Star Wars is a series only loved by the male population, which isn’t true.
Last November, the #WheresRey Campaign began after fans noticed that a box of six action figures from the new movie in store at Target, was missing a Rey figure. To add further insult, Hasbro released a Star Wars edition Monopoly board game with four characters: Luke Skywalker, Finn, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, but not Rey. Not only is this upsetting because the main protagonist is missing, but putting Darth Vader in the game makes very little sense. His character died in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and there is another female villain, Captain Phasma, in the new movie who should have been included instead. Upset fans protested against this and won, forcing Hasbro to announce last Thursday that they will be putting out a new edition with Rey.
Although Hasbro attempted to support their original decision of omitting Rey, by saying they didn’t want to spoil any part of the movie, I agree with other fans because the company’s reason is faulty. Star Wars Monopoly did not have to be released as early as it was and could have come out after the movie. Also, the designers of the posters should have met with Hasbro, because the fact that Rey is front and center, holding a lightsaber on the movie posters, is a much bigger spoiler alert than a small game piece.
Kristina Timmons, a Hasbro representative, has also tried to defend the company’s decision by saying, “we know that Star Wars is… universally loved and that is why we always have and will continue to offer characters that appeal to every age and gender.” Really? That’s not true. Rey was purposely omitted from Star Wars Monopoly and it took a public outcry of anger to make Hasbro rethink their choice; it had nothing to do with the company itself.
While the #WheresRey Campaign deals with Star Wars, I believe that this issue runs deeper as a result of the way the toy industry has become too gender-specialized. Stores are displaying their toys in gender-specific isles and labeling certain toys for either “girls” or “boys.” Why does our society feel the need to do this? Why can’t a girl like dolls and Lego if she wants to? Looking back at my own childhood, I would consider myself a tomboy, because I often played more with my brother’s toys than I did with my own and that never seemed to be a problem.
Rey is not the only strong female character to recently be excluded within the toy industry. Others include Black Widow from Avengers and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. This is wrong, because all main characters should be equally represented, not just the male ones. Girls watch these movies and TV shows and they look up to these characters for their admirable qualities and this should be encouraged.
Toys have a big influence in a child’s life and by not representing all characters equally, we discourage girls from liking what they are interested in. Unfortunately, companies such as Hasbro have a lot of influence and if they continue to hold onto their old fashioned views of “girls” and “boys” toys, things will never improve. It is up to the public, who can and should demand change.