When reports about the lack of The Force Awakens’ Rey toys and figures started pouring in from around the country, none of us were fooled. Between Hasbro’s extremely foolish exclusion of a Rey token from the Star Wars Monopoly set to the ridiculous claims about not releasing some action figures because of “spoilers,” we simply weren’t buying the what the publicity machine was attempting to sell. It’s one thing to know something in our hearts and heads, and quite another to have it outright confirmed. There’s a quick and terrible transition from suspicious and disappointed to utter dismay, not unlike the way we’re feeling about the Oscar nominations. How long is it going to take us to see real change effected?
If you’re anything like me — with kids who are absolutely insane over The Force Awakens and Rey — it is utterly incomprehensible that these tone-deaf idiots are in charge of what makes it to the gender-segregated toy aisles. But, guess what? Indeed, the crusty old cronies are still running the world.
Speaking anonymously with Michael Boehm at Sweatpants and Coffee (sounds like my kind of place), an “industry insider” present at the merchandising meetings with Disney and Lucasfilm opens up the boardroom doors to give us a peek at the ugliness behind the decision to exclude Rey. When vendors made their first presentations at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Center in San Francisco, Rey was “prominently” featured among the merchandise prototypes. The inside source says that though initial discussions were positive, the inclusion of female characters became an issue among some of the executives present. The vendors were finally directed to specifically exclude Rey from all Star Wars merchandise.
The source added that he/she was told:
“We know what sells. No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”
Sorry about that, I couldn’t help myself.
The insider’s account is reinforced by John Marcotte, the founder of Heroic Girls, a NPO promoting positive role models for young women.
“I’ve spoken with Disney people, and they were completely blindsided by the reaction to the new Star Wars characters. They put a huge investment into marketing and merchandizing the Kylo Ren character. They presumed he would be the big breakout role from the film. They were completely surprised when it was Rey everyone identified with and wanted to see more of. Now they’re stuck with vast amounts of Kylo Ren product that is not moving, and a tidal wave of complaints about a lack of Rey items.”
If the Rey business wasn’t so upsetting, Ren as the breakout character would be kind of hilarious, and if by “breakout” you mean the latest Twitter star, maybe ramp up an Emo Kylo Ren figure who spouts Cure lyrics at the press of a button. Seriously, have at it geezers, because that might actually sell well.
Like I mentioned, this confirmation isn’t anything we really didn’t know, nor is it the first time we’ve heard insider information about the willful withholding of movie-related female merchandise. The same sort of allegations were made after fans complained about the lack of Black Widow figures and toys after Avengers: Age of Ultron hit theaters, and Marcotte also addressed that controversy.
“There was a scene in which Black Widow drops out of the belly of a jet while riding a motorcycle. It was an iconic moment for the character. And yet, when the toy product from that scene was released, it came with several different characters from that movie—Captain America, Iron Man, Ultron—that you could use with that toy. All male. And no Black Widow. She was removed from her own best scene.”
The S&C source confirms with an added “family values” kick, saying that in the toy industry, Black Widow is considered “unusable.”
“She has a tight black outfit. Our main customer is concerned with ‘family values’. Princess toy sales are in freefall. Disney can’t give away princess toys anymore. [Yet the directive is:] Maintain the sharp boy/girl product division. Marginalize girl characters in items not specifically marketed as girl-oriented.”
For the record, here are some of the Avengers action figures, including Captain America and Thor in their skintight costumes:
And here is Black Widow, who is apparently not family friendly because...boobs?
Here’s a little bit of information for you marketing executives: Many families have moms. Moms have boobs. Surprise! If I had to guess, my money would be on the anonymous source being a dude, since so many dudes seem to be in on these executive meetings; meaning, HEY DUDES, YOU ARE LOSING CONTROL OF THE DUDEROOMS. Regardless of gender, these little leaks are becoming more common, and we — the general public — are getting a good look at the behind-the-scenes ugliness that is your terrible decision making. And, we the general public are sick and tired of your archaic gender bullshit driving what is or isn’t appropriate for the young minds of the world. Rey is the breakout star of The Force Awakens, and our kids — regardless of gender — are completely taken with her, so you’d better toss off your obsolete ideas of what girls and boys want or will play with, because as you can see, we’re not going to put up with it anymore.
In closing, I’d like to use the words of my daughter, who is so enthralled by Rey she wrote about her in a school scrapbook assignment:
This post was originally published at Pajiba.
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Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for over seven years, and is currently the Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter.