Right now the whole world awaits the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the two trailers that have been released are exciting and seem to heavily focus on a growing new threat to the Republic and a central female protagonist played by Daisy Riley known only as “Rey.”
Today Vanity Fair magazine released a pic of an up and coming issue devoted to “The Force Awakens” with the new cast by Annie Lebowitz that harkens back to when “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” both came out. (Don’t get me started on the cover tag line “The Empire Reboots!” – hello it’s a story continuation, not a reboot you idiots!) What we can tell immediately from the photo is that Rey is certainly the central figure.
So if “The Force Awakens” has it’s story surrounding a female protagonist, what are the chances that Disney and Lucas Film Limited will create merchandise aimed specifically for girls for the film?
If you think the chances are good, think again. Hasbro’s attempts with the prequels to market to girls fell flat and as a result, they’ve never attempted to merchandise Star Wars to girls again. (Read my article “Where are the Padme dolls and collectibles” article for more.)
Currently Avengers 2 has hit the theaters and Black Widow, who is the most popular female comic book character in film today is blatantly missing from all merchandise. Irate cries from fans were met w/ shoulder shrugs from Disney execs who truly only see boys as a viable market for superhero movies and refuse to try to expand the market to girls.
This is asinine.
The entertainment world is a different landscape than it was back in 1999 when “The Phantom Menace” came out. Nerd girls have always been out there and now they’re reading, writing, drawing, and creating their own comic books that depict strong female characters. In the world of toys, Mattel’s “Monster High” toy line that’s filled w/ dolls who are not glamorous and can be viewed as scary are outselling Barbie by a huge gap. They’re a girls toy line that men also collect, proving that if done right sci-fi/fantasy/ horror collectibles can easily cross gender lines.
Today sci-fi television’s numbers are skewing towards equality: 60% male, 40% female are the viewing stats for the various sci-fi related genres. Men tend to lean towards more hard, technical sci-fi, women love supernatural, paranormal sci-fi. “Star Wars” has always been a unique franchise because it’s “sci-fi” meets western meets mythology. There’s something in the universe to appeal to anyone, regardless of your sex, geographic location, or age.
So if this is the growing trend that boys/girls interests are now blurred (need further proof of that, goto a convention where Chandler Riggs from “The Walking Dead” has a panel – you’ll be shocked – and horrified – by the vast numbers of little girls who come up and want to ask him questions) why is Disney so disinterested in trying to make more money by selling merchandise for everyone? Ever since the ’90’s with “The Little Mermaid” being a smash hit, Disney cashed in on the princess success wagon and rebuilt their financially crumbling empire by making a fortune off of their princess films. They tried unsuccessfully to find films on their own that were as lucrative as the princess films for the boy market.
They finally found that happy place with Pixar – but even Pixar films don’t bring in as much boy merchandising money as the princess films. Enter their unions with Marvel and Star Wars. Both of these franchises are huge for merchandise rights. They already had built in MALE fanbases and Disney wanted to exploit that by bringing in dollars that can be on the same scale as the Princess lines but now from the boy market that they never had a hold on.
If Disney were to have candid talks with Hasbro about how merchandising sales have worked for them in the past, Hasbro will tell them that their attempt to make girls doll lines fell flat in 1999 and their pregnant Padme figures for “Revenge of the Sith” did not sell. This must mean girl figures don’t sell, right and girls don’t like these toys?
Well no, I explained in my other article why the Padme/Queen Amidala dolls didn’t sell – and the pregnant Padme figures were aimed at BOYS, not girls. It’s not shocking that boys would find no play value in a pregnant girl figure, whereas a series of pregnant Padme figures/dolls aimed at girls would have sold well.
There were leaked sketches a while back that there will be a 6″ Black Series Rey figure and there will likely be other Rey or old Leia toys in the Hasbro toy line. There are also two other female characters who were added later who will likely get figures. This is good news, but they’re still toys aimed at boys and not girls.
Her Universe is out there for girls to get their geek t-shirts and apparel on – but will there be Star Wars shirts for girls at mass market places like Walmart and Target? Will Disney ask Mattel or Jakks Pacific to make dolls of the main characters for girls like they did with “Cinderella” or “Maleficent?” I’d like to think that these things will happen but I’m doubtful. If none of this happens, if the toys are only made for boy and girls are ignored, will Disney even care or pay attention to angry cries from fans and mothers, or will they just say, “Pffft – here’s a new Elsa doll, shut up.”