The most-recent “Star Wars” Monopoly set did what the villain of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” couldn’t, sidelining Rey, the film’s female protagonist. Four game tokens are included in the game: Finn (one of the other heroes), Kylo Ren (the villain) and Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker (two characters from the old trilogy who don’t match Rey’s role in the new movie). No women, no Rey.
Fans signed petitions, wrote letters, and tweeted their outrage using the “#WheresRey” hashtag. Some saw her as the latest blockbuster heroine to be excluded from tie-in merchandise after Gamora from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Black Widow from “Avengers” also appeared to be left out of promotional material and toys. “Star Wars” director J.J. Abrams was also concerned, and said Rey’s exclusion was “preposterous and wrong.” The controversy reached its climax when Hasbro, the maker of the game, said Rey will be represented in new editions.
To see whether Rey’s absence was local to Monopoly or more widespread across all “Force Awakens” toys, I did what any sensible data journalist would do: I went to a toy store. Well, a digital one. Toys R Us lists 256 toys in their online “Force Awakens” store,1 but only 70 of them include any of the major characters introduced in the new movie.2 Rey holds her own among this group.
The real conclusion is that nice guys (and girls) finish last. While Rey appears roughly as often as Finn and Poe, her fellow heroes, Kylo Ren, the film’s antagonist, appears in more than twice as many toys as any of the heroes. Captain Phasma, despite her small role, also is represented in more of the toys than any of the heroes. (It probably isn’t correct to call her toys a victory for female representation — Phasma never removes her helmet in the film, and isn’t visually identifiable as a woman.)
The good guys’ numbers may appear equal, but X-Wing pilot Poe is on screen for less of the movie than Rey and Finn and doesn’t go through the same sort of arc of self-realization as the other two. Yet he has more toys than Rey. (Perhaps toymakers, like other tie-in creators, were besotted with Oscar Isaac’s “tousled hair.”)
Leia, the other most prominent female character in “The Force Awakens” is completely absent from the tie-in toys. Although Toys R Us included a few “New Hope”-era Leia toys in their “Force Awakens” category, there were no toys that showed her as General Leia in the new movie. Han Solo, as he appears in “The Force Awakens,” is included. (I couldn’t count how many “The Force Awakens” versions of Chewie were sold, because a lady never guesses a wookie’s age.) But even Constable Zuvio, a character who didn’t even make it into the final version of the new film, manages to get more toys than Leia.
The women who get the rawest deal are female shoppers. Toys R Us allows a shopper to filter toys by the gender that they’re intended for, and, if a user clicks “Girls,” 83 percent of the toys are removed from the results. (I called Toys R Us for comment, but have not yet heard back.) That includes things like a fairly gender-neutral looking set of Darth Vader hat and gloves and a Lego Millennium Falcon set (which includes Rey). Only one toy is excluded from the “Boys” filter: a Rey dress-up kit.