SPOILERS AHEAD. BE WARNED.
When I love a movie, a show or a comic, I’m very likely to go hunt for the action figures that go with them.
When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was one character I wanted more than any other — Rey, the film’s central character and heir apparent to Luke Skywalker.
So I went on Amazon and eBay and checked retailers, and I saw that there were many different kinds at different prices. A lot were being sold at mark-up because they were obviously grabbed up by scalpers.
I don’t like paying a fake premium, so I asked my best researcher — my son — to dig deeper. My local Target had a bunch of the 6-inch Hasbro Black Series listed in stock on their website but they were snapped up before I could get to my store.
But finally, I scored a great deal at the online Disney Store: A die-cast 6-inch Rey with BB-8, similar but superior to the Hasbro version — and a 10-piece figurine set that included the vast majority of the main cast including Rey and fellow newbies Finn, Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren — as well as Han and Leia.
Oh, and my kid got himself a Kylo Ren light saber and Rey light saber. Because he wanted both.
As all this went on, I saw these stories about #WheresRey, a Twitter-rage-fueled campaign decrying the supposed lack of Rey merchandise. Evidently, it was driven by anger that there was a five-pack of male figures at Target that excluded Rey, and a Millennium Falcon playset that excluded her, but included male co-stars.
OK, fair enough. But I’m experienced enough to know that toy lines frequently mix and match characters to get you to buy more stuff. Often, an important character is missing from one set to get you to splurge for the set in which they are included. It’s shady but it’s how toy companies make extra sales. Or maybe they pair a character to drive sales in a different way.
Take Rey herself, for example. Both Hasbro and Disney’s Rey 6-inch figures come with BB-8. This is both companies hedging their bets. See, the two characters are paired up for much of the movie, so it makes sense to package them together. Except, it’s a very real fact of life that there are a lot of little boys (and misguided parents) who don’t want a girl action figure. By including BB-8, those who want the little droid will buy the set for him. Those who want Rey for herself get BB-8 as a pretty great bonus.
In either event, you’ve effectively doubled the demand for these items — driving sales higher and making them scarce on shelves. Plus scuzzy scalpers — or bounty hunters in Star Wars parlance — make things worse by hoarding them and charging a 50 percent mark-up on eBay.
Another point: Disney actually released their 6-inch Rey twice — once without a light saber, months before the movie came out, presumably to tamp down spoilers, and once with a light saber. They actually made an effort to strengthen Rey’s packaging — and highlight her position as an emerging Jedi.
A quick search on Disney and Amazon right now shows at least a dozen Rey items for sale, at varying prices. That’s just two resources. Included throughout this piece are 13 pix of various items from various manufacturers — including a high-end Hot Toys figure that you can’t get your hands on just yet but can pre-order. This is all scratching the surface. There’s a lot out there.
I’d say Rey is pretty well represented.
Here’s the thing: There was a lot of upset earlier this year because Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was excluded from sets or unavailable when most of her male Avengers were plentiful. That’s a fair knock.
But conflating that problem with Star Wars doesn’t seem to accurately reflect this landscape.
I wholly agree that female characters are underrepresented in traditionally male-oriented toy lines. There are layers of reasons for that, but it’s true. But it’s frustrating when those whom I consider to be on the side of angels — on the Light Side of the Force, if you will — distort the truth to suit their point of view.
All that does is undermine what’s a laudable message and goal.
Rey deserves better.
UPDATED: I visited the Disney Store in Times Square and as soon as you walk in there’s a big Star Wars display. Most prominently featured? Captain Phasma.
And there’s one mannequin standing on guard above it all: Rey.