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Yesterday our friends at Yakface notified us that the 3.75″ Princess Leia “Ceremonial” figure, which was scheduled for waves 7 and 8 of the Black Series, has been pulled. Instead, the figure is being replaced by a Stormtrooper in wave 7 and a Clone Trooper in wave 8. That collective groan you hear is fandom’s response to yet more Stormtroopers/Clones. I think our own Johnamarie Macias had the appropriate reaction:
— Johnamarie Macias (@BlueJaigEyes) March 16, 2015
Johna wasn’t alone in her frustration. The lack of support of female characters in Hasbro’s Star Wars lines has been well documented. Fans of Star Wars Rebels were beyond disappointed when Hera and Sabine weren’t included when the Rebels toys were first announced. That frustration mounted when those figures, which were subsequently announced, were nearly impossible to find in stores. Even now, with the first season of Rebels in the books, fans are still struggling to find either figure in stores.
— Ryan Kidd (yes I got sucked back into WoW) (@Talionbot) March 7, 2015
Note the date stamp on that tweet above – March 6th. I personally have never once seen a Sabine or Hera toy in any store…and I have a toddler…so “going out” to me means going to Toys R’ Us, Target or Walmart. It’s…discouraging.
Many fans have speculated for years that Hasbro doesn’t believe that female figures sell and thus are reluctant to make those figures. It’s pure business from their point of view – if female figures don’t bring profits, then they need to stick with the kind of figures that do. However, the flip side of that conversation is how consumers could show that they will buy female figures if Hasbro doesn’t make them or their production runs are so limited that they can’t be found in stores. It’s a classic chicken or the egg dilemma. So which is it? I personally believe that Hasbro’s rumored stance on female figures is founded on economic theory…that is outdated. Here’s why:
Then and Now
I believe, without any empirical evidence, that the rise of female fandom is a somewhat recent occurrence. I think it very well may have been true in 1977 that most little girls didn’t buy action figures, and most boys preferred to buy Luke or Han over Leia. A lot of that probably had to do with social norms and marketing bias, but that’s a much larger discussion. What’s more important for our purposes is that it hardly seems to be the case now. Ashley Eckstein has built a company from the ground up on the belief that female fandom is real, substantial and has both buying and staying power. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that Her Universe has been a huge success. Fangirl flailing is a thing (Johnamarie is quite the prolific fangirl flailer). I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen male fans ask sheepishly if they can fangirl flail too. The female voice in fandom has grown consistently and their presence is notable and welcome. Hasbro needs to adjust to recognize that.
Further, there are more and better female characters now than ever before. During the OT era, over 3 films and 6 years we had Princess Leia. That was about it. Even in the PT we had Padme Neberrie as the only substantive female character. That means that as recently as 2005, we really didn’t have many great options when it came to female Star Wars figures. How many versions of Leia could Hasbro possibly make and count on fans to keep buying? That’s been changing in recent years through 6 season of The Clone Wars and now with Star Wars Rebels. Now Star Wars fans, of both sexes, have a variety of great female characters to get to know, cheer (or jeer) for, and…spend money on! It’s not just women either. As Ryan Kidd tweeted above, male consumers definitely want female character figures. After all, who would want a collection of the Ghost crew without Sabine or Hera? Hasbro needs to recognize that and make the right changes. It only makes financial sense to respond to consumer demand.
Photo above from Yakface.
Girls AND boys of all ages love Ventress, Dutchess Satine and Bo Katan. Oh…and I heard the return of this one character in the season finale of Rebels was met with some fairly positive reactions:
Art above by 800 Pound Productions.
A New Hope?
The anger from fandom is justified and understandable. It’s naive at best to downplay the frustration of those who demand that Hasbro change their approach when it comes to female figures. Hasbro needs to do better. But here’s why I think there’s hope for the future – the release of Star Wars The Force Awakens marks the true launch of this new era of Star Wars. I know to you, me and most of those who will be in Anaheim next month, the new era has already started. But to the general audience, that’s just not the case. With The Force Awakens, we will have a deluge of new Star Wars products and toys. Star Wars will be EVERYWHERE.
As evidenced by the complete lack of any real Star Wars news at Toyfair last month, I think Hasbro and many other toy companies are in a holding pattern. They’ve been in that holding pattern since the fall of 2013 when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. Everything we have gotten from Hasbro since that point has been a stop-gap. There has been virtually no innovation, just recycling and keeping the boat afloat. I write that as someone who is a huge fan of the 6″ Black Series line (which thus far has had ONE female figure which was a colossal flop).
However, when September 4th rolls around and new merchandise is released, I do believe we will see more female characters. We’ve seen small hints that Hasbro might be making some adjustments in the right direction. While 3.75″ Leia may have been pulled from the Black Series, Wave 9 of the 6″ line will feature the VERY cool Leia in Boushh disguise:
Further, as soon as the season finale of Star Wars Rebels concluded, Hasbro was on top of it all, releasing images of their upcoming 2-pack:
Is there any question this 2-pack won’t sell like hot cakes? Hasbro knew this and that’s why they were ready with this news. So this gives me hope. I think Hasbro is adjusting. They have to. After all, I’ve heard there might be another fantastic female character coming to the Star Wars Universe soon:
Definitely good points to consider. I don’t know why Hasbro decided to pull Ceremonial Leia. But the bottom line is that Hasbro can’t keep doing variations of Leia. They need more Ahsokas, Sabines, Heras and Ventress. Hopefully The Force Awakens will have a richer pool of great female characters to make toys of, and they will actually make them!