We need to talk about Rey.
I know, I know: “There he goes, talking about Star Wars again,” right? Well, I’ve restrained myself since seeing the new movie (a few times) but now it’s time to talk about sexism.
Ugh. It’s such an ugly word. Don’t let it sway you.
If you haven’t seen it, the main character of “The Force Awakens” is Rey, a mysterious young woman left abandoned on a desert planet. Rey kicks butt. She takes trash talk from nobody, including the movie’s Darth Vader-wannabe, Kylo Ren. And (minor spoilers) she has a certain way with a lightsaber.
My four-year-old daughter, who previously idolized the tough-as-a-wampa Princess Leia, now is all starry-eyed over Rey. And that’s perfect. The character is a shining example that women are every bit as strong as men, even in a galaxy far, far away.
The only problem is play time.
You see, we ventured out this past weekend to Toys R Us, the Disney Store, Target, and Wal-Mart and found something both surprising and upsetting: almost zero Rey toys on the shelves.
Now, I say almost — there was a lonely Rey dress-up set tucked away on a bottom shelf. And a Disney Store figurine pack carried Rey as one of 15 small character toys packaged together. We already own that one and the figures are really more for display. They aren’t posable and easily break.
When it came to durable Rey action figures with movable arms and legs, we found none. Oh, we spotted literally thousands of Kylo Rens on our trip, as well as Poe Damerons, Finns, a General Hux, Chewbaccas aplenty, even a bunch of Constable Zuvios. The last didn’t even appear in the movie (his scene was cut).
What I was really hoping to find was a Rey in the standard 3.75-inch size or the now-in-vogue 12-inch size. A Target exclusive 12-inch six pack featured Finn, Chewie, Poe, Kylo Ren, a random stormtrooper, and a TIE fighter pilot — but not the main character of the movie. Captain Phasma, a female stormtrooper with cool silver armor, is also nowhere to be found.
Hasbro recently took heat for failing to even put Rey in its “The Force Awakens”-branded version of Monopoly, relenting when millions of Internet voices cried out. Toys for the Disney cartoon “Star Wars Rebels” were also released in a six-pack with — you guessed it — no sign of the series’ female Mandalorian hero, Sabine Wren.
This is a problem. And it’s sparked the #WheresRey hashtag online to protest the exclusion of girls and women figures from many toy lines.
The Star Wars ommisions are just the latest in a startling trend that I’ve noticed as a dad who spends more time than ever in the toy aisle.
For example, when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” hit theaters this past spring, 12-inch toy packs included the boys club of Marvel heroes but not Black Widow, the hard-hitting super spy.
My daughter’s first hero was Wonder Woman. Luckily, we found her action figure among Fisher-Price’s ImagiNext lineup of DC superheroes. But just try finding a Wonder Woman in and among the newly-appearing merchandise for “Superman vs. Batman,” due out in March, which has the Amazon princess in its trailer.
Common wisdom seems to be that only boys play with these kinds of toys. Common wisdom is just plain wrong. While she loves stuffed animals, her little ponies, and everything pink, my little girl also deserves to play with female action figures who are about punching bad guys and saving the universe.
Because I believe she can do those things too.