Currently causing consternation: The omission of female Rey from a Star Wars gift set being sold at Target, which has spawned the hashtag #WheresRey. It’s the latest in a long line of complaints about the franchise forgetting women are fans, too. A really long line.
Legion of Leia wrote up the absence of Rey from a toy set that included some rando Stormtrooper, instead. Admittedly, the set is exclusive to Target, and in fact Rey has been prominently featured in the merch offerings thus far. She’s even fully dressed!
But you have to read this particular dust-up in the context of the dust-ups that’ve gone before. For instance: Last year, a mom tipped us off that “Slave Leia” was the only Leia she could find a Toys R Us. It was also noted that two years after Disney had acquired Lucasfilm, Disney stores didn’t have any Leia dolls or Star Wars toys billed as being “for girls,” unleashing a vocal wave of annoyance.
Social media is making it easier to air these frustrations, but they’re not new, either. Witness this letter to the editor from a 1983 edition of Prescott, Arizona’s The Courier. “The shelves are full of Strawberry Shortcake, Tinkerbell cosmetics and Care Bears,” says this irritated shopper. “How about moving them over a little and making room for Princess Leia?”
It’s a complaint that crops up regularly, in other words, because girls have always loved this franchise. (Thanks in no small part to Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia as somebody who has no time for your bullshit.) Star Wars was one of the ways I bonded with one of my oldest female friends. Even for a cynical asshole blogger, it’s been exciting to watch the trailers for the new installments and see Rey featured so prominently alongside a still-powerful Leia. This is anecdata, sure, but the point is that it’s annoying to see Star Wars treated like a boys’ club. They’re taking steps like including Rey and (according to reports) getting rid of the infamous “Slave Leia” toys. But it’ll take years of getting it right before fans even consider cutting Hasbro, Disney, and other corporations any slack, because they’re working through years of irritation.
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Photo screencap via The Courier, Google Newspaper Archive. Princess Leia via Toys R Us.