I hated Avengers: Age of Ultron. Anyone who brings it up gets an earful. Joe only just watched it recently, which made some rants in his presence more difficult. As an aside, a coworker of his, knowing that I hated it, suggested it was because Natasha is unable to have children. Omg, that isn’t even why and I’m even more frustrated that it wasn’t clear to someone else. So, to make it clear, here is why Age of Ultron is the worst: they take the one female character that they’ve actually allowed into the franchise (save Elizabeth Olsen, who I love, obvi) and instead of being a badass Black Widow superhero, she gets kidnapped. And needs to be rescued. By a man. Who she has a crush on. SERIOUSLY MARVEL? Think of how much better the movie would have been if the Hulk would have been kidnapped instead. Natasha to the rescue! Because women can save others too. Women need not only be victims, MARVEL. I’ll save the anger of the absence of her from the cover and toys for later.
Going into Star Wars, I felt there was no hope for Disney. I assumed that unless a woman was a princess, she didn’t matter. I honestly didn’t even want to go but I’m a good fiancé and stuff so I did. Enter Rey! Wow, I loved Star Wars The Force Awakens so much. I couldn’t even stay awake for Return of the Jedi, and now I want to see The Force over and over again.
I left absolutely in love with Rey. Holy crap, talk about a fantastic character. She has the mommy/daddy issues that I can relate to, and then is powerful in response. What a great role model. Further, Finn. How many people of color have even been in any Star Wars, and now one stars in it? I love it. Also, he is that great mix of naive and sweet. He wants to be a gentleman and offer Rey a hand, but boy, she’s got it. Ahh, love the chemistry so much.
After the movie, I couldn’t wait to buy my little brother the Rey action figure. She’s clearly the star, and I love to encourage the feminist I know is in him. So guess how many Rey action figures were available at Target on December 20th. Spoiler: the answer is zero. “Were they totally sold out?” you ask? No, my friends, they were not. Finn, Kylo Ren, and Stormtroppers were fully stocked. So I looked to the app! It told me Rey was in stock the next store over. We made the trek. They were not. Turns out, Target didn’t differentiate the SKUs and it read all of the Star Wars Black Series figures as the same. Fail. Well, at least they exist, right?
I then wondered: was the Rey outage a result of supply or demand issues? My gut told me supply, Joe suggested demand. Twitter had the truth. #WheresRey surfaced all of my frustrations and more. Why the fuck isn’t Rey the dominant character within the products for The Force Awakens? Why isn’t she one of the pawns available in Monopoly? Why isn’t she include in the 6 figure sets currently on shelves?
Turns out, Disney’s answer is “spoilers.” What fucking bullshit, excuse my language. How is the existence of Rey a spoiler? How can Finn be included and have this not be a spoiler but Rey’s inclusion would be? And, if the mere existence of Rey would be a spoiler, how does that reflect on Hollywood that we can’t even have a woman be a character without it being a spoiler. Ugh, it seriously doesn’t make sense.
Because this doesn’t make sense, and because I was on my MBA Entertainment Career Trek last week, I asked. Specifically, I asked Disney’s Senior Vice President of Consumer Products why Rey didn’t have a more dominant role in their products.
I can’t say that his answer satisfied me, because I am angry and I’m not sure anything could. He basically said it was 50% Hasbro making the decision and 50% them not wanting spoilers. Mmmkay… but then how come Black Widow wasn’t featured on the cover of the DVD? As this lovely fivethirtyeight article points out, this is also the case with Gamora from Guardians. Caroline Framkie also agrees in Vox that this isn’t a “spoiler” problem, but an ongoing sexist theme in toys.
A lot has been written on this topic and I’m not necessarily trying to add anything to the conversation other than my own anger. I care about the messages the entertainment industry sends to women and I want them to change. I want to have my Rey action figures and strong female characters and less sexism too. Some day soon I hope to be able to do more than just talk about it.