The hashtag #WheresRey, over the last few weeks, has been floating around the Internet as the result of Rey not being in most (any?) Star Wars-related merchandise.
I would like to say that I do not understand why this is the case, but unfortunately I understand why she is not being included all too well.
Hasbro, which did not include Rey in its new Star Wars edition of Monopoly, choose instead to include Finn, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vader as its game pieces. The company claimed that it did so in order to avoid spoiling The Force Awakens.
Target has an exclusive action figure set of six for The Force Awakens with four male characters—Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca—and two unnamed characters, one a First Order Stormtrooper Officer and the other a First Order TIE Fighter Pilot.
Building on that, Rey is not even included in the Battle Action Millennium Falcon playset. Instead, it is Finn, Chewbacca, and BB-8. Hasbro does sell a version of Rey on her speeder bike, however it is not only difficult to find, but it also obscures all evidence that she is a woman.
As a result of her mysterious absence from Star Wars merchandise, many fans have engaged in #WheresRey and many others have written to Hasbro and other companies. J.J. Abrams has even stated that its “wrong that the main character of the movie is not well-represented.”
Since the fans’ outcry about her absence, Hasbro has stated that they will release more Rey merchandise and that she will be in the next edition of their Star Wars Monopoly. While this is good, I shudder at why she was not included in the first place. After all, she is essentially the heart of the movie and, in my opinion, the rest of the new trilogy.
So why are they excluding her? Companies are seemingly operating under the belief that young boys will not want to own a female action figure. Their excuses reek of sexism. Even if the idea about young boys not wanting a female action figure is true—which I know that it is not, based on substantial evidence I have seen around the web—what about the girls? In one of my previous links, it showed a letter from a young girl asking about Rey. There are countless female fans of Star Wars (and other movies, comics, books, etc. in this vein). What about us?
Think about how Hasbro said spoilers were behind Rey’s exclusion. Really? They could have shown Rey in her scavengers outfit with her staff, without her headpiece obscuring her face, and they would not have spoiled anything. We already saw that image of her in the trailer. Showing Finn in something other than his Stormtrooper outfit spoils his character arc, so why did they allow that? J.J. Abrams, though notorious about not wanting spoilers, has even spoken about this in the TIME article to which I linked.
This is not the first time companies excluded a prominent female character from their merchandise. Need I mention Black Widow?
As I said, I think this is blatant sexism. They did not even try to disguise it well—despite their attempts to claim spoilers. This builds on the fact I have seen claims that Rey is a Mary Sue character.
First, if you are not aware, a Mary Sue is the term for a female fan-fiction character that is perfect in every way without any explanation. This article explains more of the origin, but this type of character often springs from an author’s self-insertion into the story and acts as wish fulfillment.
I have no issue with the idea of a Mary Sue. I have seen them around, and it does annoy me to no end. What irks me, however, is the less-mentioned Gary Stu, who is the male equivalent of the Mary Sue. Male characters are able to get away with so much more before anyone even thinks about labelling them as a Gary Stu.
Do you know how I know? It stems, once again, from the idea that women are not equal to men. It is not too often that people come out and say that directly, but I will.
Both in reality and in fiction, women are too often expected to work harder than men do in order to reach the same level of, well, whatever.
Let’s keep talking about Rey in this example. I have stated many are calling her a Mary Sue. Thankfully, the article I linked to helps me disprove this characterization. However, I will still go through it here with my own observations.
The points about Rey:
- Very powerful, and yet no training in the Force
- Well liked
- Can speak more than one language
- Decent fighter
- Decent pilot
Many of these skills, I think, she gained by necessity as she was living as a scavenger on Jakku, including fighting for survival. Jakku is home to many different types of people and languages, so is it preposterous that Rye picked up some other languages? As for being well liked, what is wrong with that? It is not as if Kylo Ren immediately fell under her spell or anything (frankly, he did not at all)?
As for her piloting skills, firstly they are decent, not fantastic on the first time she flies the Millennium Falcon. As well, she uses the speeder bike, so clearly she knows how to operate a vehicle. Most of us learn how to operate a car at some point. Additionally, her first scene is scavenging for parts. It is entirely possible that, through scavenging for years, she learned what each part does, which would give her a working knowledge of ships and, oh guess what, how to pilot them.
Regarding those piloting skills, I would like to draw your attention to both Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Both men had “innate” piloting skills, with Anakin defeating people with a lot more experience and Luke destroying the Death Star in an X-Wing. Not only that, but I am sure both characters were well liked and had similar traits to Rey. Thus, if you want to classify Rey as a Mary Sue, you have to consider both Anakin and Luke as Gary Stus. The problem is, no one will. Men, even fictional characters, tend to have it much easier concerning talents. This does not even include getting angry or being “bossy,” which they are able to do without being called a bitch.
The criticism of her piloting and fighting skills does not take into account one of the many theories surrounding Rey’s identity: that she is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. If we assume this is true, then it gives her yet another reason for her skills. While children are different from their parents, they often inherit some innate abilities. The movies have already shown us that the Force is often an inherited, though not guaranteed, trait. Luke and Leia got it from Anakin, and Kylo Ren got it from Leia. So, if Rey is Luke’s daughter…why could she not inherit it from Luke?
Another theory going around is that she is Obi-Wan’s granddaughter. Again, this might account for some of her innate ability. Yet another theory suggests she actually trained at Luke’s Jedi Academy prior to the massacre and survived, though she had most of her memory erased. This would mean that she actually had training. You can also disregard how she knew about the Jedi mind-trick. We already know she has heard stories about the Jedi knights and that obviously would lead to stories of their powers.
There are many more reasons for Rey not to be a Mary Sue than there are for Anakin and Luke not to be Gary Stus, and yet people are calling her out. It boggles my mind.
When it comes down to it, Rey has the potential to be a hero for young girls across the world. Yes, we do have Leia, but Rey feels different. In essence, I see Rey as the female version of Luke Skywalker and other famous male protagonists. In the film, no one reminds us that she is a woman. We can see the difference, obviously, but it does not seem as if anyone really looks down on her for being a woman. Han Solo even offers her a job because he can see how talented she is.
The only ones who insist on reminding the world about Rey and colouring her image as somehow “less than” are the companies selling merchandise. Yes, she is a woman. Yes, she will be a hero to many young girls around the world. Just like Luke Skywalker is to boys (and, frankly, some girls as well). So why are people saying it would be a spoiler to have shown her in merchandise? Why are people calling her a Mary Sue?
Rey should be right in front of you. No question. So why does it seem like she, along with countless other female characters, has to yell ten times louder just to be heard in the same way as a male character?
I hope that you enjoyed reading this post, which is the first of two that I will be writing on Rey. I decided on two as this one was getting quite long and I still have lots to say about Rey.
I could not cover everything related to the events surrounding Rey not being in most Star Wars merchandise or everything disproving Rey as a Mary Sue. If you have anything to add, I would like to invite you to leave a comment below. All I ask is that you remain civil to anyone and everyone in the comments. Maybe I will see you down there!