Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rey, it isn't so!

So, let me admit it: We are slowly but surely picking up a stockpile of Rey toys. It's not necessarily easy, but it's certainly not as hard as, say, finding Black Widow riding the motorcycle that fell out of the Quinjet (Captain America, Iron Man, and Mark 30 have all replaced her in various sets leading me to say bad language words). But hey, we found Rey. And if we could find Rey, couldn't anyone?

That's right, I'm raising a Honeybadger, a Sith Yoda, and a straight up, badass lady Sith. 
Sure, she's still not included in the cool 6 figure 10" toy set along with all the boys and that's not okay, but this household's collective lady rage had dulled to a quiet simmer. Because it's been easier to pick up Rey toys these days, I didn't want to believe the folks over at Sweatpants and Coffee or Hypable but the 'Star Wars' toymakers story is picking up steam. I tried to double and triple check the reliability of the sources, because there's a peculiar confirmation bias at work in my soul as I hear that toymakers intentionally excluded Rey from manufacturing because boys don't want toys with girl characters in them.

This, of course, flies in the face of the Disney/Lucas claim that they intentionally excluded Rey to avoid spoilers. To be fair, we kind of smelt it when Disney dealt it, but I've got a little message for them:
Spoiler alert: Turns out, fans can smell your bullshit from a mile away. 
Now out of my system that have I gotten childish Yoda image of mine, I'd like to talk a little about why this is important. Captain Yoda above with the devilish grin likes to play The Force Awakens. So do his sisters. They'd like to do so with a full set of action figures. Like, say, that sweet slick 6-figure set from Target, for example. But there's no Rey that size. Get a different one, folks say. Shut up. Stop whining. There are some Rey figures for sale, so you shouldn't complain.

To that I say: Uh, no. That's not how representation works.

The toys we make - and how we package them - tell a story. Narratives aren't just about the words we are saying - and a grand storyteller like Disney/Lucasfilms ought to know that. Right now, with their various individually packaged Rey figures, The Force Awakens is telling a slightly better story than, say, Disney's Avengers set (which I covered already) or Disney's missing Gamora (which I covered here), but it's still a story wherein the girl doesn't get to hang with the boys, can be cast aside, and is, inessential in the The Force Awakens toy lineup.

You can't have the movie The Force Awakens without Rey, but you're suggesting that boys just go ahead and play the movie without her. Because who wants a female action figure mucking up their important playsets?

But it gets worse, because industry insiders claim that you've actually come out and said - behind closed doors of course (heaven help you get off message in front of Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams - who create strong female characters as a matter of course) - that boys don't want to play with toys that are girls. This confirmed our suspicions. Now, not only are you telling female fans that they are inessential, you're sending that message to males as well. These playsets reach our culture's boys during their formative years. The story you are writing in your merchandise tells the future husbands, best friends, uncles, and fathers of the world that what they really need for the games of their youth - which expand to the reality of their adulthood - are playsets without girls. You are telling them that not only can women be cast aside, but that they should.

And hey, no worries, you'll do it for them.

But here's the surprise twist: Women and the men who love them are increasingly aware that such narratives are harmful to ourselves and our children, and we aren't quiet. We speak to our children and friends about the situation and are willing to use our social media and buying power to ensure that everyone can hear the story you create with your toy lines and, now, at least according to an inside source, your words.

Disney/Lucasfilm, you're storytellers. Make your story better.
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