Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a huge success by any metric. The movie made a ton of cash in theaters, and of course you can’t talk Star Wars business without bringing up the massive bank made via merchandising. But in the middle of the record amount of money being made off BB-8 toys, people noticed something strange: the lack of Rey products.
#WheresRey became a pretty big thing as people realized Disney hadn’t bothered to include her in their merch plans – something they’d been accused of doing with other female protagonists like Black Widow and Gamora. Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams himself ended up getting involved, and Rey products finally starting showing up (they sold just as well if not better than the original toys, too).
Silent throughout the entire storm was Rey actor Daisy Ridley, who didn’t seem too eager to get in the middle of any internet controversies. But now that the dust has settled, she’s finally giving her thoughts on the whole affair. The most important point for her is that things ended up getting fixed.
“Moving forward I think what they’re planning – I’ve been told what the plans is for next year and it’s really cool, really exciting,” she said in an interview with Collider. “I had a meeting yesterday about merchandise and what’s happening going forward, so I had a lot of questions that were answered and some, you know, issues.”
“I think when it really became a big thing is when J.J. [Abrams] talked about Monopoly,” she continued. “There had been conversations long before that that I was having with people because I didn’t really understand what was going on. And John Boyega in fact told me that he had written to someone and I was like, huh, because he is more of a toy person than I am.”
She puts most of the situation down to outdated sales ideas from clueless corporations rather than straight up sexism.
“I think it was well-intentioned … usually it’s boys that buy those kinds of toys,” she said. “And I think it’s a great moment of what’s happening in the world with girls and how different people are playing and how they’re interacting with the things they see in popular culture.”
“My whole thing is it’s not anything about the backlash, it’s if a character is important in the story, then that should be dealt with in every platform whether it’s merchandise, whether that’s posters, anything, it needs to be dealt with in the correct way regardless of gender, regardless of color. So to be honest, how the public reacted to it was amazing, because it was a testament to the character and to what J.J. did with the casting. And yeah, it’s going to be super cool going forward.”
Here’s hoping. Disney seems to have a really hard time with the concept that boys will buy toys and clothing involving a female character. For every department that may have gotten the literal memo telling them to stop with that outdated thinking, we imagine there’s probably a dozen more that are continuing to quietly exclude Gamora from shirts depicting the Guardians of the Galaxy, or designing another Star Wars playset without a Rey figurine.