The incredible success of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has gifted Disney with a merchandising market that is wide and varied, ranging across age, gender, geography, and financial background. So why is the film’s main character Rey so consistently absent in The Force Awakens‘ initial line of toys?
Spoilers ahead for The Force Awakens.
Rey’s peculiar absence was highlighted this week in the character token line-up for Hasbro’s newest edition of Monopoly: Star Wars, which touts the inclusion of characters from The Force Awakens, but only includes Kylo Ren and Finn as usable player pieces. In response, upset and angry fans have been tweeting #WheresRey, demanding explanations.
Hasbro tried to explain the gaffe as its attempt to avoid spoilers:
The Monopoly: Star Wars game was released in September, months before the movie’s release, and Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.
This explanation has not been well-received by those wondering #WheresRey, as Rey was clearly positioned in the film’s trailers as a dual protagonist alongside Finn. While it would be considered a spoiler that Rey is the one who ultimately receives the Skywalker lightsaber and uses the Force (Disney has confirmed that some Rey figurines were kept out of stores specifically to avoid spoiling that moment) a Monopoly token of Rey with only her staff (complementing Finn with his blaster) would not have spoiled the climax of the film.
Polygon‘s entertainment editor Susana Polo theorized that it’s more of a marketing issue, that Star Wars can’t intrude on Hasbro’s traditional “girly” markets for My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop, and so on, but Hasbro has previously shown that it does not typically ignore one gender in favor of another in the creation and marketing of its toy lines, releasing a My Little Pony set aimed at “bronies” as recently as September 2015, only three months before The Force Awakens debuted in theaters.
The controversy over the Monopoly: Star Wars character token set is just one example of the puzzling absence of the film’s main character in The Force Awakens toy sets. This six-piece action figure set from Target, also released in September, features Finn, Chewbacca, Poe, Kylo Ren… and “First Order Stormtrooper Officer” PLUS “First Order TIE Fighter Pilot.” Matt Goldberg, the managing editor of Collider, handily sums up the issue:
Because when given the option of playing with Rey or “First Order Pilot,” kids are definitely going to go for beloved character “First Order Pilot.”
Twitter user @ErinKGilson posted this photo that perfectly encapsulates #WheresRey, and the disappointment of fans:
Yes, there are Rey action figures, as more than one tweeter is keen to point out. But the problem is, this stock is released in lower quantities, and those that do get snatched up are being resold on eBay for two to four times their original value. That said, those listings don’t have many bids, which may indicate that particular market is cooling off. Meanwhile, kids are taking matters into their own hands to get a Rey doll; in one case, a makerspace encouraged kids to “hack” Bratz dolls to create their own homemade Reys:
The absence of Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens evokes similar outcry over the past few years over the absence of Gamora and Black Widow action figures, but while it is still almost impossible to find those characters grouped with their compatriots in toy sets, Rey’s central presence in The Force Awakens does seem to be shifting the perspective on the demand for female action figures. Hasbro also explained that Rey does show up in its other products, including Guess Who, Hands Down, and chess, and that she would be appearing in the next wave of 6- and 12-inch action figures. And Hasbro tweeted on January 5 that it would indeed be rereleasing Star Wars Monopoly with a Rey figurine:
We love your passion for Rey, and are happy to share that we will be including her in the Monopoly: Star Wars game, available later this year.