Hasbro’s U-turn after Star Wars Monopoly #WheresRey backlash is good news

Ask Kylo Ren: you don’t mess with ‘the girl’. Toymaker’s excuse for missing new central heroine of Star Wars franchise out of board game doesn’t cut it with fans, so it will add figurine of scavenger Rey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 January, 2016, 4:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 12:45pm

The chastened toymaker Hasbro has just discovered what it took Kylo Ren three lessons to learn: You don't mess with “the girl”.

In what is a rather staggering miscalculation given the usual deft precision of Star Wars merchandise roll-outs, Hasbro unveiled its new Star Wars-themed Monopoly board game in September ... and decided not to include, oh, the central new hero in the Star Wars franchise going forward.

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Facing criticism that only grew once the seventh Star Wars feature film opened last month, Hasbro offered a quasi-rationale for the oversight: including the Force Awakens scavenger-heroine Rey (as portrayed by Daisy Ridley) in the game, the toymaker said, risked spoiling a key plot line, according to Entertainment Weekly.

That’s an excuse that holds less water than Rey’s Jakku canteen; any would-be spoiler could readily have been written around. Then there's the baffling fact that this makes little business sense: when one of the world's biggest franchises tactically positions a new character as its front-and-centre new face - as well as a welcome alternative from Disney-owned Star Wars to so many Disney princesses - why leave her on the sidelines, especially as Star Wars merchandise stands to make at least US$3 billion in sales around the new film, according to some reports.

Exacerbating matters is the fact that Rey was so underrepresented on so many Star Wars products this past shopping season - in marked contrast to the omnipresent Kylo Ren - that this continued the longstanding pattern of almost all-male representation on Star Wars toys and tie-ins.

The utter illogic of the decision is this: you don't woo millions of new Star Wars viewers especially with a new hope of a strong and central female heroine – one who symbolically keeps shaking off Finn’s would-be helping hand during chase scenes – and then have that character go AWOL on your games and other tie-ins.

Having said all that, the reaction to Rey’s exclusion is encouraging on two fronts.

First, Hasbro listened to the fan backlash – which on social media has included #WheresRey and #WhereIsRey hashtag campaigns – and announced this week that it will produce an updated version of the Monopoly game that will include Rey. (“We love the passion fans have for Rey,” Hasbro said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.)

Even more encouraging is the degree to which this is the latest signifier of broader geek-culture change. In terms of pop culture, after all, 1977 – the year of the first Star Wars release – is a geek-galaxy far, far away. Exactly 40 years after George Lucas first unveiled Star Wars footage at San Diego Comic-Con, in fact, nearly half the attendees at this year’s Comic-Con International will be female.

In other words: the boys’-club geek stereotype has officially been declared dead.

Long live the next hero from Jakku.

The Washington Post