Wonder Woman, and the merchandise problem

It’s only a week or so until Wonder Woman reaches UK cinemas. So where’s all the merchandise?

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Regular visitors to this site might’ve noticed that we do rather a lot of articles about movie tie-in LEGO sets. Recently, we’ve chronicled the products available on Amazon (because we have a partnership with said retailer) for such iconic cinema-faring superheroes as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the Guardians Of The Galaxy. There always seems to be loads of cool kits, designed to connect up with the respective hero’s latest movie outing.

Last week, I looked at putting together an article about the Wonder Woman LEGO sets, only to find that, well… there aren’t any. With the movie set to arrive in cinemas very soon (June 1st in the UK), I was a bit surprised at the lack of brick-based tie-in materials on Amazon. An old ‘Wonder Woman Dorm Set’, from the kid-friendly collection DC Super Hero Girls, was all I could find.

Broadening my search, I found that there is one official LEGO kit to go with Wonder Woman’s cinematic release, but Amazon isn’t selling it (at least not at the moment). It’s entitled ‘Wonder Woman Warrior Battle’, and it depicts a big fight: Gal Gadot’s Princess Diana Of Themyscira and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor versus Ares, a giant-sized god of war. It looks pretty cool, doesn’t it?

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But still, one LEGO set for such a massive film feels like a bit of a let down. Don’t forget that even The Lone Ranger – yeah – got an assortment of LEGO sets. If this were a household name male superhero launching a new film franchise, you’d have to think there would be multiple LEGO kits available on shop shelves. Heck, even the first Guardians Of The Galaxy – which contained no previously-famous characters, or even any that had been established in previous films – had three tie-in LEGO kits. And that was, for a long time, expected to be Marvel’s first flop.

It’s worth pointing out that Suicide Squad didn’t have any official tie-in LEGO sets, and that Doctor Strange only had one. But since most of the characters in those films were unknown to family audiences before their movies arrived, it’s easier to overlook that.

But given the fact that Wonder Woman is one of DC’s ‘big three’, and one of the most famous characters in the history of comics, you’d expect her to get more preferential treatment. After all, Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice both came with multiple LEGO offerings. And the latter of those films introduced Gal Gadot in the role of Diana/Wonder Woman. It’s not like this is a character kids don’t know.

Plus, LEGO is a toy that everyone can enjoy, and Wonder Woman is a film that will want to appeal to everyone. It just seems odd that the movie wouldn’t get a flavour of the merchandise treatment of Batman and Superman’s filmic output.

However, this isn’t just a LEGO problem. Beyond the generic things you’d expect – a range of Mattel figures (that I’m yet to see in an actual shop), a couple of Funko Pops, a novelisation, a calendar, and an ‘art of the movie’ picture book – most of the merchandise we found targets women in a bit of an un-Wonder Woman way. 

The American pharmacy Walgreens has got a new range of Wonder Woman beauty products and bags to put them in (pictured above). There’s also an advert on UK TV which ends with “get a Wonder Woman eyeliner”, or something along those lines, but I can’t for the life of me remember which makeup brand it was for. 

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Another women-targeted Wonder Woman tie-in product caused some backlash online, when it was revealed that a deal had been done with Think Thin diet bars. Naturally, the online community rose up and questioned whether ‘thinking thin’ and dieting are the best ways to get the empowering, heroic message of Wonder Woman across.

It’s a shame that a fair chunk of the merch for this movie – the only bits outside the generic offerings we’ve come to expect – seems to have a sour underlying message. A female superhero, and you get make-up and diet bars. A male superhero, you get cars and big playsets and action-driven toys. 

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that a major geek-friendly movie has dropped the ball with its representation of female characters in its tie-in products. You’ll no doubt remember the ‘Where’s Rey?’ controversy, around the time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where Daisy Ridley’s Rey – blatantly the protagonist of the film – was missing from numerous promotional products.

John Boyega’s Finn was everywhere, but Rey toys were harder to come by. The new Star Wars Monopoly set incurred some backlash by featuring Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren and Finn, neglecting to include a figurine of the franchise’s new female central character or her spiritual predecessor, Princess Leia.

Marvel Studios are guilty of this sort of thing, as well. 2014 was a bumper year for the MCU at the box office, but in terms of representing its female characters in its tie-in products, there wasn’t much success. Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn was moved to comment on the lack of representation for Zoe Saldana’s Gamora across toys: “clothing and bed sheets and stuff.”

“I think it’s really important,” Gunn was quoted as saying. He added that “often times, it’s something Marvel is concerned with, as I am. It’s frustrating and stuff and so it bums me out.” Gunn arranged meetings with the Marvel team to make sure there was more Gamora representation next time around, and rightly so.

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The other Marvel error from 2014 came from the tie-in toys for Avengers: Age Of Ultron. It was the recreations of the memorable chase scene from the film that irked fans. In the movie, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow chases after Ultron’s van on a motorbike, while Captain America gets his arse handed to him by the metal menace.

In the LEGO set, though, Black Widow was relegated to Quinjet pilot while Cap got to do the cool motorbike stuff. And in the non-LEGO toy version, ScarJo is removed altogether and the motorbike is given to Cap…

The fact that Wonder Woman only gets one LEGO set may seem like a small thing at first, but when you look at the whole picture, you can’t help but wonder why Rey can’t be a Monopoly piece, Black Widow can’t have a motorbike toy, Gamora is absent from almost everything (to the point that her director is moved to comment), and now Wonder Woman is being given a fraction of the toy line that her male counterparts get to enjoy. 

Given that Princess Leia won our hearts with her no-nonsense, gun-toting ways forty odds years ago, in a film that set the precedent for massive tie-in toys ranges that were enjoyed by girls and boys, it seems odd that we’re still having chats like these. And yet here we are.

It is a shame, isn’t it? Young new fans that see and love this movie won’t be able to take much of it home with them. And, in most cases, playing at home with toys takes up way more of a child’s time than the rare treat of going to the cinema.

Wonder Woman is a movie that children of all backgrounds, genders and planet will be able to enjoy (especially if those early reviews were right). Right now, the tie-in products seem to be letting the side down…

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