[SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.]
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already one of the biggest films of all time, less than a month after its release. If projections are accurate, it could end up being the highest grossing movie ever, for a time, at least. The popularity of Star Wars is not just limited to the movie theaters though. Merchandise is a huge factor in promoting and maintaining a film's popularity, and The Force Awakens merchandise is everywhere right now.
From LEGO, to lunchboxes, to kids dress up to home wares, Disney has all bases covered. The only problem is that a certain character seems to be missing in a lot of the store line-ups. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, has fast become an idol not just for young female wannabe Jedi's, but for all fans of the franchise. Her determination to succeed, coupled with her strength, humility and all round likability have all conspired to make her character one of the most appealing new additions to the Star Wars universe, not to mention the small fact that the majority of the film focuses on her journey. It seems almost crazy to write that she is missing from much of the merchandise that is flying off store shelves, but it's an undeniable fact.
Case in point; Hasbro's new Star Wars Monopoly set. The new game features four character tokens: Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and...erm...Darth Vader, who does not appear in The Force Awakens. To be fair, Hasbro could argue that the Luke figure included is the Jedi as a young man and not as he appears in The Force Awakens, so maybe that could account for Darth Vader's inclusion...but what is Hasbro's reasoning behind Rey's exclusion?
In a statement to EW, Hasbro said the following:
"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.”
If you're thinking that sounds like a bit of a lame excuse, you'd be right. It's hard to see how Rey's inclusion in the game could have given the plot away, but Hasbro is standing by its statement, adding that Rey is included in a number of its other Star Wars spin-off games, including Guess Who and Chess, and promising more Rey orientated merchandise in the future:
“Fans will see more Rey product hitting store shelves this month, including 6-inch and 12-inch Rey action figures. We are thrilled with the popularity of this compelling character and will continue to look for ways to showcase Rey across all of our product lines.”
It seems no coincidence that after the hastag #WheresRey became popular in reference to the lack of products with her face on, Hasbro are now hurriedly pushing to get the Rey action figures onto shelves. Maybe the merchandise companies underestimated the appetite of the general public for a strong female character in one of the most beloved franchises - but really, with the recent rise in feminist related media and the push for equality, in particular the #HeforShe campaign, it should come as no surprise.
It is very hard to explain to a child who loves both Kylo Ren and Rey, why it's easy to buy a lunchbox with Kylo Ren on, but nowhere has one with Rey featured. It's harder still to see row upon row of Finn, Poe Dameron, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren action figures, and no Rey to complete the set. It is also interesting to note that when companies do produce Rey related merchandise, it flies off the shelf in next to no time, with young kids of all genders wanting to emulate the down to earth character.
While this Monopoly set is billed as Star Wars Monopoly and not The Force Awakens, specifically, Rey could end up becoming one of the most important and well-loved characters in the Star Wars franchise. Fans will still buy the game nonetheless, but Hasbro (and other merchandise companies) really need to take note of her rising popularity.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.