When Star Wars fans headed to stores for memorabilia, many of us couldn’t find the character we were looking for. Like Marvel’s Gamora and Black Widow before her, new heroine Rey had been left out of too many toy sets. Most egregious were a set of action figures that featured male leads Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, along with Chewbacca and a generic pilot and Stormtrooper and the Millennium Falcon playset that featured Finn, Chewbacca and BB-8, even though Rey is the one to fly the ship in The Force Awakens.
But in spite of the growing hashtag campaign #WheresRey, the lack of Rey went largely unnoticed by the general public until recently when a tweet, featuring a letter from an 8-year-old who wanted toy manufacturer Hasbro to know “girls matter,” went viral. The letter was in response to Rey’s absence from the company’s Star Wars Monopoly game, where you can play as Finn, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker (the latter two of whom either don’t or barely appear in the new movie).
Finally, Hasbro was forced to address the issue, but their official statement raised more questions than it answered. They told Entertainment Weekly: “The Star Wars: Monopoly 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.”
Admittedly, spoilers for The Force Awakens were a BIG DEAL in the days leading up to and directly following the film’s December release, and Disney even claims they planned this lack of Rey toys to avoid spoilers. In an interview, Paul Southern, head of licensing for Lucasfilm, said, “The fact that she was the ultimate heroine of the film was one of the significant plot points we did want to protect.” This makes a kind of sense, except apparently, the fact that Finn is also a hero of the movie wasn’t considered too spoiler-y.
As many fans have pointed out, including Rey in her scavenger outfit (which she wears almost all of the movie) shouldn’t have been considered a spoiler. Rey was a key figure in The Force Awakens’s trailer, and it only made sense that she was an important part of the movie. If this was solely related to the fact that Rey ends up with Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and it awakens the force within her, the lightsaber didn’t have to be included in early-release toys.
Southern admits that the passion for Rey toys – which are selling “exceptionally well” at Target – caught Disney by surprise, saying, “The excitement around her is a lot more than we were expecting it to be.” Admitting there’s a problem is a good first step, and with Disney now releasing more Star Wars toys that feature Rey because The Force Awakens spoilers are less of a problem, it may seem like our worries over the missing Rey were unfounded.
But #WheresRey proved a point that fans have been making for years: we want female characters in our merchandise. If Disney – and by extension, Marvel – can finally see that in profit, the language they speak best, maybe we won’t need any more hashtag campaigns. Although I’ve got a bad feeling about leaving it up to the companies, we have made our voices heard. Disney and Hasbro have commented on this issue, so they have no more excuses.
While we wait to see if anything has been learned, rejoice in the Rey merch (new and old)! I picked out a few things that I need to run out to the store and get ASAP, so take a look at my list or check out Entertainment Weekly’s full rundown to figure out what you want.
Released prior to The Force Awakens, this Lego set helps you recreate Rey’s speeder from her time on Jakku. It comes with extra studs for you to shoot – although it’s probably not recommend you do what I would do and shoot them at people – and an adorable Rey Lego figure. Plus, the price isn’t half-bad for a Lego kit.
When I was kid (and honestly, also now), the number one thing I wanted was a lightsaber, and this one lights up and makes noises! This toy may just be a dream come true, as long as the price is right.
I already have several of these itty bitty stuffed animals, so I may be a little biased on this one. But take one look at Rey’s super cute face and tell me you don’t want one. Just go ahead and try.
The new Rey action figure features her in her “Resistance outfit” that she wears at the end of the movie, and it comes with a lightsaber for her to hold. Whether you end up getting this one or the scavenger version released in September, it’s a win for you either way.
The latest version of Disney’s Rey action figure has her lightsaber, but it’s extra cool that you get her staff too. Besides, BB-8 comes along too, and how can you not want a tiny, adorable droid?
In all the controversy surrounding #WheresRey, perhaps TIME contributor Darlena Cunha said it best when she wrote:
“Little girls need to see themselves as heroes. Little girls need to see that they can grow up to be powerful and good. Little girls deserve a chance to imagine strength and perseverance in their own gender. They deserve someone to look up to.
Just as important, so do little boys. Little boys need to see that women are strong and fierce, and that women characters are just as magnetic as men characters. And they need confirmation of their inner monologue when they see a movie that shows just that. The merchandise should match that experience.”
Welcome to the world, Rey. Sadly, because of the current lack of diversity in toys, you may be our only hope at changing things around. But with any luck, in the future, you won’t be alone. May the Force be with us all.