Spoiler-alert: Rey, from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, is one of the main characters. Spoiling this fact is what Hasbro says prevented it from making a Rey figurine in their Force Awakens Monopoly set. The game was released before the movie, and Hasbro claims “Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.”
Since the game’s release, fans have taken issue with this omission, however, and have demanded her inclusion, starting a Twitter campaign called #WheresRey. Because how much does a Monopoly character actually tell you about the film? Rey was prominently featured on most movie posters, suggesting she had an important role.
Hasbro now says Rey will be included in the Monopoly Star Wars game out later this year, and that Rey action figures, of various sizes, will also be released. Some industry insiders have claimed that Hasbro deliberately left out Rey, as they were worried about sales when featuring a female protagonist. Lucasfilm has not commented on this.
Monopoly is not the only set which has excluded Rey, and she is far from the only female character to be missing from official merchandise. Earlier this year, Target had a boxed set of characters that included Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, a random Stormtrooper, Chewbacca and an unnamed TIE fighter.
Why exactly was one of the main characters of the movie excluded, in favor of masked villains? Honestly, I can’t think of a reasonable explanation. One theory posited by fans is that the company wanted to balance out good guys versus bad guys: Poe and the TIE fighter, Chewbacca and the Stormtrooper, and Finn and Kylo. Of course, with this theory, you instead could’ve included Rey and Captain Phasma or Hux or any number of other bad guys in the movies.
And Rey is far from the only female character in a major franchise to be excluded from sets like this. Gamora, from Guardians of the Galaxy, also dealt with similar nonsense, as has the Black Widow. In one Hasbro toy, Black Widow wasn’t just ignored, she was replaced; instead of her jumping out of the Quinjet on her motorcycle, as seen in the newest Avengers, Captain America was the one on the bike.
Many people have come to the defense of these companies as they’ve repeatedly ignored female characters. One popular argument, in Black Widow’s case, is that she doesn’t have her own movie, like most of the male Avengers, and Hawkeye is generally absent from toys as well. They don’t have their own toys because they won’t make money.
That argument certainly holds some weight. But then again, there’s a Avengers: Age of Ultron toy pack at Target that has the heroes assembled to defeat Ultron. The heroes included? Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor, Vision, Quicksilver and War Machine. Yes, War Machine was also at the final battle. But so were Black Widow and Scarlet Witch.
Another argument, usually brought up as a last ditch defense against all-out calls of sexism, is that female-centered things, whether that be action figures or movies, don’t sell well. Boys don’t want female figures, the argument goes, or else the companies would be willingly making a killing off of all the female characters in action movies.
Now, there’s not enough space or time to fully delve into this argument. In Rey’s case, I can’t imagine having one of the main characters as part of your set could, in any way, detract from sales. After watching an entire movie in which she figured prominently, I doubt most people would put that boxed set down because it had Rey, instead of a TIE fighter. There are some indications that Rey toys are selling out quickly because people enjoyed her character so much. Because, spoiler!, she helped save the day.
But that’s the problem. Companies continue to do things like this because we let them. As consumers, we have a great deal of power. If people want more female representation, then they need to demand it.
Lots of people have complained over the exclusion of Rey in the Monopoly set, and the company said she would be in the next one. Was she always slated for just this Monopoly set? We’ll probably never know. What we do know is that people had some sort of power, to make the company acknowledge there was a problem.
Actions like this continue to reinforce stereotypes about what each gender is into. Yes, some boys might only like playing with male action figures, and some girls may only want to play with princesses. But a lot of them don’t mind either way; instead, societal pressure and parental buying habits determine what toys they have.
While the separation of boy and girl toys is nothing new, some research, including that by Dr. Elizabeth Sweet, at University California, Davis, suggests gendering of toys has increased since the 1950s. More and more toys are gendered according to color or design, which leads to a culture in which societal pressure determines, to a large degree, what toys children play with.
And if you think this gendering is okay, are you okay with allowing racial stereotypes to come into play? Would it be okay to market a toy to African-American or Latino children, based on stereotypes, because they “play different” than Caucasian children? I hope most people would say no, and then question why we allow gender to determine so much. Segregating toys based on one chromosome makes little sense, especially if you consider it could lead to segregation of play and, to a certain degree, affect presuppositions about gender.
If people want to change the current dynamic, which I hope they will, they have to continuously make it clear to companies. Unfortunately, right now, “women (and people of color) don’t sell” can be used as a last-ditch effort to excuse females repeatedly being left out even as main characters because people only try to dispel this excuse when a movement like #WheresRey occurs.