Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Removing the Star from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Considering a lot of the serious global issues out there, it might seem trivial to bitch about a fictional movie character being left out of cash-grabbing merchandise. But, the pervasive influence of toys and games (as an extension of the greater influence of pop culture) in childhood development is hard to deny.

The Force Awakens is a great, fun movie. Rey, played perfectly by Daisy Ridley, is a strong lead who, despite her intentionally mysterious and vague backstory, will clearly be a lynchpin in the new Star Wars mythos. Moreover, she's a multidimensional, nuanced character who breaks a number of female stereotypes over the course of the movie.

Knowing this, it's an absolute travesty that Rey, a key character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is being left out of a number of game and toy lines tied to the movie, namely a set of Target action figures, and now the newest incarnation of Star Wars Monopoly.

Under normal circumstances, even the most incompetent toy/game manufacturers would still include the top 3-4 characters in any line of merchandise so fans can have a chance to collect, own, and play using their favourite characters. As io9 points out, it seems like manufacturers are intentionally leaving out primary female characters, which would be laughable if the same was suggested for a male character of similar stature. Think of not including a Chris Pratt figure in a Jurassic World playset.

Okay, yes, I'd bet that there are still more boys playing with male action figures than girls playing with female action figures. So, without getting into the gendered toy/gendered play side of things too much (that's a debate for another day), I'll admit the case for representation can quickly become a chicken-or-egg debate.

BUT, if we're really supposed to believe that The Force Awakens is a step in the right direction for relevant female representation in sci-fi/action and blockbuster movies, that representation has to translate to merchandise as well. Sure, there are lots of better ways to empower little girls that are less focused on consumerism, but as long as we’re playing the consumerism game, they should at least have the opportunity to play the game with strong female characters as well.

Update: After the internet lost its collective mind at the absurdity of leaving out the protagonist of a movie, Nerdist is reporting that Hasbro has announced that Rey will now be included in the game. While Nerdist tactfully states "Unless there are any other changes, she will be the only female character token," I think Hasbro would prefer to say, "Things will not change and she will be the only token female character."