When The Force Awakens was released, fans were overjoyed for a bunch of reasons. It's an awesome film, paying homage to the beloved originals while introducing fantastic new characters. Rey especially kicked all kinds of butt, and, as Star Wars' new protagonist, she was sure to get a huge amount of merchandise, right?
Rey's Absent In A Lot Of Merch And It's Ridiculous
Of course Rey has a few action figures and she's featured on many T-shirt designs. The problem comes when we compare her merchandise to the sheer amount of toys, LEGO sets, games, etc. which feature only the male characters of the #StarWars franchise, because Rey's merch definitely falls short. (Oh, and good luck finding Leia anywhere.)
Sometimes this erasure is shortsightedness, but sometimes it feels like they're deliberately ignoring her. For example, you can now re-create that awesome moment when Rey flies the Millennium Falcon... without Rey.
Oh, she only piloted the Falcon (twice)! Really, it's no biggie to eliminate her from the toy set.
Hasbro has come under fire recently for not including Rey in their Star Wars Monopoly set. The set includes figures of Finn, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader — but no Rey, and definitely no Leia. Before the film was released this wasn't really surprising, as the trailers made sure to play down Rey's importance. But after Rey was revealed to be the hero of the movie, it seems nonsensical not to include her.
Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.
I'm pretty sure including Rey in the Monopoly set would have just spoiled the fact that she was, you know, in the movie. As long as they didn't depict her with a lightsaber then absolutely nothing about her role would have been spoiled.
But hey, at least Hasbro is releasing a new set with Rey included. Mission accomplished. Now we just need to get a new Millennium Falcon set with Rey. And a new action figure set with Rey. And a new.... you get the point.
In fact, Huffington Post found that Rey was only present in 17 of 267 Star Wars products on the Target website, while there 54 of Kylo Ren. Sigh.
So Why Does This Happen?
Lucasfilm executive Paul Southern was surprised at the demand for Rey merchandise, commenting to Bloomberg that it was "unexpected". Which seems strange, as it's not like girls don't buy toys. But that's exactly what the toy producers and distributors think: girls don't like sci-fi or superheroes, and boys don't like to play with female action figures.
Of course, many studies have proved this wrong again and again, but it's hard to break with tradition. Producer Paul Dini (Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, etc.) commented on the prevailing opinion in this interview.
"They're all for boys 'we do not want the girls,' I mean, I've heard executives say this 'They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys'."
This circular argument isn't just ignoring a huge amount of factors in why girls "buy different toys", it's also a self fulfilling prophecy. If the girls aren't buying as many action figures as boys do, perhaps that's because the action figures predominantly depict male characters, and that young girls are shoved out of the genre before they're even old enough to understand that they're victims of institutionalized sexism. Basically, the idea that girls won't buy these kind of toys means that action figures and LEGO sets and board games aren't made with girls in mind — so they don't buy them.
The Force Awakens is groundbreaking in a lot of ways, and this is due in no small part to Rey and Finn being the new stars of Star Wars. Here's hoping that their merchandise producers can catch up with this, because kids everywhere should get the chance to help Rey pilot the Millennium Falcon, fight Kylo Ren, and just generally be a huge badass.