Following the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans pointed out that its central character, Rey, was conspicuously absent from the first wave of toys, including Hasbro’s new edition of Star Wars Monopoly. After the outcry, Lucasfilm announced that Rey would be a prominent part of the next wave of toys, and Hasbro said that it would add the character to the next release of the game. A year later, that hasn’t happened, reports the Associated Press.
The 2015 edition of the game featured four of the main characters from the franchise: Luke Skywalker, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vader, but not Rey. Irritated fans started a hashtag, #wheresrey, and even the film’s director, J.J. Abrams, said that Rey’s absence was “preposterous.” This prompted Lucasfilm to claim that her absence from the set was a way of preventing leaks about her character before the film was in theaters.
Hasbro eventually produced the game piece for the Monopoly set, which it sold in several countries — but not the United States, according to company spokeswoman Julie Duffy. The explanation? “Insufficient interest.” Fans who really want the piece can contact Hasbro’s customer service line to request a piece.
Hasbro’s explanation that there’s been insufficient interest might be technically correct: there could very well be few people asking specifically for a Star Wars Monopoly set with a Rey figure, but this ducks the bigger issue at hand: ensuring that female characters are fairly represented on toy shelves. When asked for comment, Duffy told The Verge in an e-mail that while the updated game sold in some markets, “the original version of the 2015 game was selling well [in the US] and retailers had adequate inventory so they opted not to list the new version.” She went on to explain that Hasbro determines “marketplace and specific availability” based on retailer interest. She also explained that Rey was later added to other games, including Operation, Trouble, and Trivial Pursuit in 2016.
Individually, it’s a minor irritation but collectively, it speaks to a bigger issue
The presence or absence of a game piece or toy sitting on a store’s shelves might be just a minor irritation for some, but it speaks to a larger issue. Given that children internalize gender discrepancies and attitudes from an early age, having a balance would help counter them imbuing a regressive mindset from an early age. This isn’t something that’s limited to Star Wars toys either: in 2015, Target announced that it was moving away from gender-based signs in its toy aisles, saying that such references are unnecessary.
So, while Hasbro might pat itself on the back for getting the figure into the hands of consumers, it’s clear that there’s quite a lot more that it should do.
Update, July 14th: J.J. Abrams waded into the argument with one of his infamous notes on Twitter, jabbing the company by saying that players with “sufficient interest” should contact the company.
Updated to include comments from Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy and a Tweet from J.J. Abrams.