I love the Catch 22 the toy industry has created for itself. They claim female characters don’t sell. But they rarely make female characters and when they do they are short packed, hyper-sexualized, or they look like Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Female Star Wars action figures are problematic because for the most part, your distribution methods are problematic. You know what doesn’t sell? Bad toys. Weak toys. Or toys no one really wants. I can go my local Target and still see a Dengar from two years ago. The same logic that says female toys don’t sell should also say male toys don’t sell because we’ve seen more male “peg-warmers” than females on the shelves.
As a kid, when Star Wars was at its quietest moment, Batman took over my imagination. When the sequel to Batman came out, I wanted a Catwoman figure desperately. But they were 1 to a case. Collectors and second hand retailers (i.e. scalpers) bought them all up. I never got my Catwoman. I never had the chance. So the cycle repeated. For that line, boys didn’t play with women characters because they didn’t have the opportunity to do so.
Today Star Wars is facing a similar, but perhaps worse dilemma. The Star Wars Rebels consist of a man, a boy, two women, a monster, and a droid. It appears the women are not getting action figures. They’re not even giving us the opportunity to buy female heroes! To make it even worse, one woman is an alien and a pilot which makes for a great toy. The second is a freakin’ Mandalorian with a Jetpack, the epitome of fun and action in a toy. These aren’t handmaidens, these are freakin’ heroes that fit the spiritual definition of action in “action figure.”
As a boy, I bought every Princess Leia action figure. You know why? She was a good character. She captured my imagination. I was in love with her, sure. But as a character, as far as I could tell, she was equal to the boys. In fact, she was the boss for the most part. So in the early 1980′s I played with Princess Leia, in her white outfit, her Hoth outfit, her Bespin outfit, her Boushh disguise, and her Endor poncho. She was an integral cast member and my boys needed her because she was an essential part of the team.
I can only imagine how limiting it would have been if I never had a Princess Leia action figure as a child. The stories I would have told myself with the figures would have been drastically different. The stories by design would have be exclusionary and male-centric.
As a father today, I don’t like the idea that my boy will grow up without women in his imagination if he plays with Star Wars Rebels toys. So much of the roleplay that ensues while using the action figures to make playtime stories is about team building (a pilot, a leader, a gunner, and so on). It is about relationships and roles. By excluding women from that fantasy, you’re creating a constructed common sense in which women are not integral. You’re removing half of the population from the child’s imagination. You’re defining roles as doers and non-doers and women sadly fall into the non-doer roles by default under such a system.
If boys are excluding women from their imaginations, it isn’t biological. It is cultural. It is something we are collectively doing wrong as a society. Something we can fix and we cannot begin to fix if there are no female toys to play with.
Star Wars is for everyone. There are boy heroes. There are women heroes. Please don’t be such quitters. Don’t throw your hands up and say “boys don’t play with girls and girls don’t play with action figures.” That simply isn’t true. As a child I played with action figures with girls many times, and they played with my action figure more than I played dolls with them because they were more fun.
Star Wars is forever and Star Wars is for everyone. Perhaps if Hasbro cannot adhere to that philosophy, they’re not the toymakers Star Wars needs? I will say this, I believe they can be. I believe Hasbro can solve this problem. I hope the Star Wars fanbase challenges them and holds them not only to the standard of detail we demand in Star Wars products, but also to our cultural standards we demand are upheld as well.
I urge everyone to get in contact with Teresa Delgado as we figure out a way to solve this mess:
I want to make it clear that I don’t think there are a bunch of men in a smoky room deciding how to exclude women from Star Wars. I feel perhaps the more likely scenario is that there people at Hasbro that want to make sure they keep their bottom line in tact and they’re fearful about trying something to rectify an injustice of the imagination. I have faith in them and I believe they can and will fix this if we give them the motivation to do so.
I don’t know if refusing to buy a Star Wars Rebels action figure until the female main cast members is the way to go. In that instance, the toy line suffers, and then there’s no chance to get our female Star Wars Rebels figures. But this can be solved.
I just got word that they are infact making Hera and Sabine action figures, just not part of the initial wave. Thank you, Hasbro!— Jason Ward (@MakingStarWars) February 17, 2014
I do have to commend Hasbro for making the figures. That’s great news. Some are going to say that it isn’t cool they aren’t coming right now up front. To an extent, I agree with that assessment. But I also think as long as they get to us in a timely manner, we really cannot complain. In a perfect world, one of the female characters would have been in the initial wave. But they are on the way, and that’s a good thing. Every wave of figures has to have a few “star” figures if you will, and perhaps that when Hera and Sabine are on the way.