This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
NB: The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Sometimes, public pressure really does work. Over the past few days, you may have heard the stories that Rey, the character played by Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens, is notably absent from Hasbro’s Star Wars Monopoly set.
The board game comes with four playable characters from the Star Wars franchise, and they’re all male: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Finn, and Kylo Ren. Mysteriously, the lead character of the entire new franchise is nowhere to be seen. As reports of Rey’s absence circulated around the net, a letter written by an eight-year old Star Wars fan was also widely shared on Twitter.
“How could you leave out Rey?!,” Annie Rose wrote. “She belongs in Star Wars Monopoly and all the other Star Wars games! Without her, there is no Force Awakens!”
Realizing that such a plea couldn’t go ignored for too long, Hasbro responded via its Twitter feed. Here’s the reply in full:
So in a nutshell, Rey couldn’t make an appearance in Star Wars Monopoly because Hasbro were anxious to avoid spoiling the movie. To a certain degree, this makes sense. A token carved into the shape of Rey holding Luke Skywalker’s old Lightsaber would have spoiled one of the major events in The Force Awakens.
We saw in December last year how jealously Disney-Lucasfilm was trying to guard the Star Wars sequel’s secrets. When some fans posted images of Rey figurines they purchased from Wal-Mart, they were slapped with DMCA takedown notices for copyright infringement. Somehow, Hasbro had managed to release the figures (which came with a blue Lightsaber) too early. When Disney-Lucasfilm spotted the mistake, they tried to plug up the situation by getting the images swept from the web.
On the other hand, leaving Rey out of Star Wars Monopoly isn’t Hasbro’s only curious oversight. A boxed set of six Force Awakens figures released shortly before Christmas contained the characters Finn, Chewbacca, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, a Stormtrooper, and a First Order TIE fighter pilot. That Phasma (the stern Stormtrooper Captain Gwendolyn Christie) wasn’t included seems like a missed opportunity. Missing out Rey, unquestionably the star of The Force Awakens, seems utterly bizarre. Imagine if Kenner had left Luke Skywalker out of the first wave of four “Early Bird” Star Wars figures launched in 1978…That’s how curious the decision is.
Of the Force Awakens six-pack, which was sold exclusively through U.S. outlet Target, a spokesperson merely said, “We know fans may be disappointed that Rey is not included […] we have shared this feedback with our merchandising team and vendor partners.”
If Hasbro’s original aim was indeed to avoid spoilers, there are a couple of things worth considering here. First, they could have put Rey figures in both the Monopoly game and the set of six figures above, but simply had her holding her staff instead of Luke’s lightsaber. Hasbro seem to realize this themselves, since two versions of the Rey Elite Series action figurine have been released so far – both identical, except one comes with a blue Lightsaber, and the other (you guessed it) doesn’t.
A second point about spoilers: if September was deemed too early to include Rey among Star Wars Monopoly’s cast of heroes by Hasbro, Lego didn’t seem to agree. On the 4th September 2015, Lego released their Millennium Falcon set, which includes Rey among its six minifigures. By contrast, Hasbro’s Millennium Falcon action set, launched on the very same day, doesn’t include a Rey action figure – even though she spends a fair chunk of the movie flying the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
The clamor over Rey has become loud enough that it’s sparked its own #WheresRey hashtag on Twitter, and for some, it’s simply history repeating itself. Last year, an Avengers: Age of Ultron playset was released with Captain America riding a launch motorcycle – even though it was Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who rode it in the movie itself. As The Mary Sue also pointed out last year, Gamora was suspiciously absent from the merchandising lines based on Guardians of the Galaxy.
As we’ve already seen, Rey is by no means absent from The Force Awakens‘ merchandise line-up, but she is relatively under-represented when compared to, say, Kylo Ren, the film’s villainous poster boy. Lucasfilm certainly didn’t make any secret of Rey’s status as the film’s lead – look at The Force Awakens‘ first poster, and you can see her slap bang in the middle of it. To not accurately represent Rey’s leading status in The Force Awakens seems like a disservice to Star Wars fans everywhere – both male, female, young, and old alike.
Of all the comments on the situation so far, CBBC presenter and voice actor Christopher Johnson arguably put it better than I could.
“It still baffles me to this day that some toy manufacturers don’t think that girls want to play with ‘superhero’ toys and that boys aren’t interested in female characters,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “It’s a stereotype that is only kept alive by those making the darn things […] Celebrating female heroes in fiction is as important as doing so in real life – it teaches young girls that they too can kick ass as much as the lads and go on incredible adventures, and it teaches young boys that girls are awesome too.
“More Rey, more Black Widow, and more Gamora please.”