Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars Merchandising (Or: "Disney, you suck.") (No spoilers)

Today I was in the stores, including The Disney Store.

They had action figures for most of the characters in The Force Awakens.  One was notably missing.  The main fucking character.

Her name is Rey, everything in the movie depends upon her.  I can't say much more without spoilers but, again, she's the main fucking character.  As you might imagine without her things default to:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Because that's what happens when you remove the protagonist from a story.

The Force Awakens drew heavily on Star Wars for its plot (how heavily?  Can't tell you, promised not to spoil.)  With that parallel in mind imagine her as Luke, but more important.  No damned figure.

Now this would be a problem in general but note that they were action figures.  She out actioned the people who did get figures.

Kylo Ren has two seperate figures (because it makes more money to sell two entirely different figures than sell one with a removable mask.)  Now I'm not going to insult Kylo Ren here, anyone who has seen the movie can tell you that he fills his part in the story with the utmost adequacy, but he can't hold a candle (or a triple bladed lightsaber) to Rey.

Any reasonable person, if told they could only make a figure of one of the characters of Rey or Kylo would choose Rey.  If you've seen the movie you'd kind of have to.  In fact, even if you just read a short plot summary that's the only choice you could make.

Hell, even from a "Fuck the plot, we want Cool Action Accessories!" standpoint she's got two melee weapons (one of them with historic and intrinsic value) and a blaster to Kylo's one dinky red saber.  Kylo's one dinky red saber that appears to have its power regulation somewhat fucked up (damn thing always looks like it's about to blow up and take Kylo's hand with it.)

But that wasn't the choice.  They could have made toys for both, and if they really couldn't be bothered to make one more figure than they did, they could have made one of her in place of the redundant second Kylo figure.

In fact, if anyone ought to have two figures, it's her.  Her mask is cooler and serves an actual fucking purpose.

Also of note is that you can buy her vehicle even though it's impossible to get her.  She's not just being erased, she's being erased in a way that makes the erasure unmissable.  Much more the Egyptian style of damnatio memoriae than the Roman one.  They want you to know that there was someone there, and be faced with the unmistakable fact that that person was intentionally erased with excessive animosity (remember, the bad guys were not erased, just like the Egyptians didn't chisel out those they waged genocidal war against, no the hatred necessary to do this is significantly greater than that you have for the people who killed your entire family, for only then do the Egyptians pull out the chisels.)

So, why the hell is Rey being erased from a movie that is, almost entirely, about her?

The answer is boobs.  Rey doesn't wear particularly gendered clothes so we can't talk all that much about what she presents as and nothing in the movie involves what's under them, so what we're left with is outward appearance and what sets her apart from the people who are allowed to have action figures is that she has boobs.

Stormtroopers in sensible armor (totally a thing) don't have visible boobs because: sensible armor.  Rey in clothes that involve the reason the word "cloth" is in "clothes" does have visible boobs.  From there it's a small leap for people to assume she's female unless otherwise stated (Han Solo does) and then we come the only reasonable explanation for the absence of Rey in the merchandise of Star Wars: The Story of Rey (in theaters now, available in I-Max 3D) apparently you can't have an action figure for a female character.

There's no other explanation.  There is nothing, save sexism, that can explain the absence of Rey.  The movie is her god damned story.  Of the characters in the movie she's the only one from the planet where the story starts, the only to go everywhere the story takes place, and the only one the plot fucking revolves around.

Don't get me wrong, Fin and Kung-Fu Panda Poe are great, but it's not their story.  The story begins when they end up (inadvertently, by the will of The Force, and lots of narrative handwavium as well) coming to Rey.

The reason that she was left out was that she was a boob-haver and we can't market them.

Beyond being stupid and evil, this is damnaging.

Do you want to know why Boba Fett became such a big fucking phenomenon that they ended up retconning the Clone Wars into being nothing more than the origin of Boba Fett?  (A kind of stupid an annoying origin story at that.)

He had a cool action figure.

That's it.  That's why he's so popular.

Boba Fett is The Star Wars Holiday Special personified and that thing is "Don't remind me" Anti-Canon on a level not even the Ewok movies have managed to pull off.  (For those who didn't know: Yes, there are Ewok movies.  Plural.)

In the original trilogy he does only one semi-competent thing.  Do you remember what it is?

He doesn't catch anyone, he doesn't win fights, he doesn't demonstrate combat or piloting prowess, he doesn't demonstrate a quick wit, he doesn't stop the person threatening to vaporize him with a thermal detonator, he doesn't do much of the actual work involved in his job (instead he watches Vader do it for him and acts like a spoiled entitled brat about it), he doesn't track, he show particular skills at investigation or hunting bounty.  So, do you remember what he does do?

He waits around to see if any clues turn up after everyone else leaves the scene of the crime.  Well, that's the charitable interpretation.  He could have just had his engine stall out.  But charitably he waits around, which allows him to see where the Falcon is going, calls up Vader, says, "I haven't done what you hired me to do, but how much will you pay for me to point you in the right general direction?" and that's where he stops doing anything of value.

At that point he doesn't even have a name.

In Return of the Jedi he gets a name right before he's defeated by accident by someone who doesn't even know where he is and isn't trying to beat him.

But he had a cool toy.

This created a sort of feedback loop.  People who played with the toy wanted to know more about him, to fill that need people put him in EU stories, which led to him being more popular, which led to more merchandise and people wanting to know more about him, and to fill that need her was put in more EU stories and so on.

And that's where the phenomenon came from.  He had a cool toy.

Rey doesn't have a cool toy because she doesn't have a fucking toy.

This is a problem.  A male character with two lines and less impact on the overall story than the person who said not to fire on the life-pod with not life signs in it gets a cool toy and is catapulted into being a cultural phenomenon.

A female character who one of the movies is actually fucking about is denied a toy and ... well that's where we are now.

Like I said, just think of it like leaving Luke out of original trilogy merchandising.

(Skip to 36 seconds if you want to get straight to the point.)


  1. I believe a Rey figure exists as "Jakku Scavenger". may be of interest; the writing style is horrid but the message is good.

    1. I looked up Jakku Scavenger, it's not her.

      There is one figure of her. In theory at least. Every place I look it up says that the figure is out of stock. Things tend to be that way when you don't order any stock in the first place.

  2. According to a Disney rep, the company started making efforts to expand its licensed Star Wars offerings beyond traditionally boy-targeted toy lines when it acquired Lucasfilm. That means creating more female-skewing items like home and apparel products aimed at women and girls that feature The Force Awakens' Rey and Captain Phasma, two fierce characters who have already proven popular with fans.

    See, it's not that they don't care. It's that they think that Rey and Phasma fans would prefer a Rey-themed apron or Captain Phasma miniskirt. Totally not sexist at all.

    (Seriously Disney, that response makes you look worse than saying nothing at all)

    (That said, there's a compelling theory that they're just holding back to inflate demand on the theory that every parent who promised their children X action figures for Christmas will be tricked into buying them X now and one more when Rey releases three months later.)

    1. If Disney had their way Phasma would have been male. They only cast a female actor after the public learned of the dearth of female actors being cast. In other words, "Rey and Phasma" == "Rey and that part so small we could recast it after the public was outraged that we didn't want to have non-Rey women in this movie".


      Also, "traditionally boy-targeted toy lines" is right. They're traditionally targeted at boys. That's the problem. They should be targeted at kids.

      Mind you, boys are capable of playing with female action figures regardless you stupid fucks at Disney!

    2. I mean, not only is "No, star wars fans clearly won't want to reenact their favorite scenes" stupid, but also, like, there used to be a different name for "action figures" before '80s marketing bullshit forces took over.

      They used to be called dolls.

    3. Demand is definitely inflated. But that doesn't help if you actually want some of this stuff for your kids and/or self to play with.

  3. I hate that toys have gotten MORE gendered since I was a kid. When the original trilogy came out, there were Leia toys/dolls/action figures/whatever they were called back in the mists of time. Kids had them. Not girls, kids. Because, you know, she was one of the main characters, and the whole point is to be able to reenact the movie (and make up your own additional adventures). Which requires having toys of all the main characters. On account of them being main.

    And now...thirty-five years after my childhood memories of playing with a (male) friend's enumerable Star Wars toys (including Princess Leia)...they're leaving out the fucking main character because she's female? WHY WAS THE WORLD OF 1980 MORE PROGRESSIVE TOY-WISE???

    1. Yeah, this melts my brain too. Growing up I didn't understand how much backlash and rolling back of antisexist cultural stuff was happening. Legal stuff not so much, maybe, except re: reproductive health/justice, which is HUGE...