As a lifelong female geek, a feminist, and as someone who’s dabbled in marketing via graphic design, of course I have thoughts about the glaring lack of Rey toys on the market. Very minor spoilers herein.
What ticks me off the most about the whole thing is what a huge failure of marketing this all is. I mean, I know marketing is a reflection of the larger culture in which it exists, but it also acts as a reinforcement of that culture, so I’m of the opinion that we should be very, very careful what we market.
I’m not a huge fan or follower of the marketing industry as it stands anyway – I’ve rarely ever seen an advertisement that I felt was created to appeal to anyone I knew or cared to know – but I know what I’ve observed, and what I’ve observed is that Disney can sell water to a drowning man. And yet Disney doesn’t think it can sell female action heroes, or doesn’t care to try. Their failures are legion: try to find a Merida or Mulan doll that’s actually packaged with a bow or a sword. Try to find a Black Widow that doesn’t appear as part of a team picture on a lunch box or backpack. And now, finding a Rey toy is like finding the goddamn Holy Grail.
There are always excuses whenever this happens. Merida and Mulan? Why, they’re Disney Princesses, they have to be stuffed into the same mold as Cinderella and Snow White. Black Widow? I suspect a discomfort with Widow’s perceived* sexuality is behind her disappearance from the Avengers toylines. Rey? Um. Um. ShitquickthinkofsomethingWE WANTED TO AVOID SPOILERS. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
This is nonsense. This is transparent nonsense. Brothers and sisters of the Internet, they think we’re stupid.
The existence of Rey was not a big secret. She was right there front and center on the poster. If you didn’t want it getting out that she was a Force user, then don’t package her with a lightsaber! This isn’t hard to figure out, and I cannot believe that the people Disney employs to make/package/market their merchandise are dumb enough not to figure out how to design a toy and its packaging so as not to give major plot points away, so there has to be another reason why she’s not more overstocked than Bumblebee in 2007. Why, while Lucasfilm is joyously going LOOK AT THIS MAGNIFICENT LITTLE BABY WARRIOR GODDESS, ALL SHALL LOVE HER, Disney is acting like they’re ashamed of her.
And that’s the core of it, isn’t it? No matter what it says in the internal memos, no matter what the marketing department is telling itself, the end result is that they’re acting like a warrior who happens to be female is something to be hidden and not talked about and certainly not looked up to or emulated by children. Think about the message that sends to some little girl who was so excited to see someone just like her being the center of the narrative, being the <i>hero</i> just like the boys who get Captain America and Ninja Turtles and Optimus Prime. Think about the message that sends to some little boy who otherwise might have been happy to welcome Rey into his stable of imagination. They get to the toy store, see a boatload of Finns** and Stormtroopers and Kylo Rens but not a Rey in sight, and – no, the world hasn’t changed after all. Get thee exiled to the pink aisle, little girl, and little boy, wouldn’t you much rather play with this much manlier toy?