We've talked about the main issue surrounding Rogue One: A Star Wars Story already and that is its name. Not enough people realize the next Star Wars film isn't the chronological follow-up to The Force Awakens and where it takes place in the overall mythology.
When is the next #StarWars movie? What is it about? Why isn't Rey and Finn in ad?
– Tricia Barr (@fangirlcantina) September 19, 2016
Now I'm looking at a related issue – toy sales.
After several fan campaigns asking for more merchandise for, and featuring, women it seems companies are trying to get ahead of the game. Warner Bros. has their new DC Super Hero Girls line and made sure there was plenty of Wonder Woman merch from Batman v Superman, and Paul Feig made sure the women leading Ghostbusters had their own action figures.
But Advertising Age recently posted a piece on how Disney/Lucasfilm is looking at toy sales for Rogue One. The #WheresRey controversy was a bit overblown in my opinion but considering Rogue One also has a female lead in Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso, it should be a top priority for them to have lots of merch for her. AdAge writes:
So stores are treading very carefully this year and preaching a message of inclusion with their marketing ahead of the Dec. 16 release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” Though some Star Wars merchandise has already made top toys lists, consumers won't be able to purchase anything until Sept. 30, when product hits stores. Target and manufacturer Hasbro have both said that Jyn, who is played by Felicity Jones, will be featured in toys.
We've recently seen an inclusive Star Wars toy commercial from Target and they note Hasbro will be putting Jyn in lots of items like their “Go Rogue” series, a playset, Nerf blaster and action figures but what concerns me is how some in the industry are still talking about who is buying these toys and who they are, or aren't, marketing to.
“Young boys will embrace the female hero in a way they wouldn't have 30 or 40 years ago,” Chris Byrne, a toy industry consultant and content director for Toys, Tots, Pets & More, told AdAge. “Today's boys will actually look at a female hero and say, 'Yeah, she can be powerful.' Their masculinity is not threatened.”
I…honestly don't know what to say about that. There's no other information to back up what Byrne said (and good god if your child's masculinity is threatened by a lady toy you've got some parenting to do) and he doesn't even bring girls into the conversation (even though the article title is “The Force Is With Females in 'Star Wars' Marketing This Year”). All I can say is it should be obvious by now boys aren't the only ones in the market for movie merchandise and perhaps simply having toys of female characters isn't enough.
The other issue I see here is the time they're going on sale, i.e. way before the movie is released. When the first wave of The Force Awakens merch went on sale under the banner of “Force Friday” I didn't even try to buy anything. I knew the crowds would be out of control (particularly in New York) and that items would quickly sell out online. So far the marketing for Rogue One has been pretty vague and while Jyn has been the center of the action, we get the sense she's a much more serious, adult character. Will parents be rushing out to buy this particular merch without knowing the full story first?
There's also no talk in the article of collectors who play a big role in parents finding empty shelves when they finally do see the movie and decide to buy their children toys. This is one of the reasons so many parents were left asking Where's Rey, she'd already been bought up. If Disney and its licensees are smart they'll go hard on marketing to everyone, not just boys, and try and think outside the play box.