Where Have All the Women Gone?
People have been complaining a lot lately about the absence of strong female heroes/stand alone characters, and their absence from toy aisles across the nation. This discussion has been going on for awhile now, but the topic is now under a microscope due to Disney’s recent mishandling of the character Rey from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. Its outraged a lot of people, and rightly so. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, this is what’s happening: Rey is the main character of the new Star Wars movie, yet she was left out of the majority of the merchandise. Hasbro released a Disney approved set of characters from the movie and showed off their upcoming Star Wars Monopoly game, and Rey was nowhere to be found. When all is said and done, Disney is responsible for this. They put all their money down on Kilo Ren to be the Star Wars toy everyone wanted, but they were dead wrong, and now they have tons of Kilo Ren merchandise they can’t sell and everyone’s screaming for more Rey. If you want to read more about Disney’s latest blunder, and the steps they’re taking to fix it, click here at and here.
Strong female leads in entertainment are great. Personally, I find female characters more interesting. Here at Spectacle, we’re constantly churning out female driven content because they’re such awesome subjects. We’re constantly writing scripts and coming up with female-centric images, and it’s due to us being inspired by women leads. Buffy Summers(Buffy the Vampire Slayer), The Bride(Kill Bill 1&2), Jill Valentine(Resident Evil), Evelyn Salt(Salt), Lisbeth Salander(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Lara Croft(Tomb Raider), etc. are just some of my favorites, yet they are seriously downplayed for the masses. When Tomb Raider(2013) was released, it sold 5 million copies in its first month. As of April 2015, it had reached 9 million sales making a reported $550 MILLION dollars. That’s a slam dunk success, but could I find a single Lara Croft toy at Target? Nope. Besides the game itself, there wasn’t a single piece of her merchandise available in any big retail stores.
Another recent snub has been from The Walking Dead video game; Clementine is nowhere to be found on retail shelves. Yet, The Walking TV show, which is headed up by male protagonists, has toys everywhere(except for Michonne, good luck finding her action figure since they didn’t make enough). I know those two examples I just threw down are video games, and right now you’re thinking video games don’t really have that much merchandise for any franchise, but you’re wrong. Know what toys are all over shelves when their games are released? Halo. Gears of War. Call of Duty. Batman. Mario. Zelda. These are just a few examples of games featuring male leads that have a massive amount of items being sold in big chain retail stores like Target and Walmart. Sadly, I can’t think of a single female-led game franchise that even comes close to any one of those, and it’s annoying.
Even Disney’s ‘Once Upon a Time‘, a show that’s watched by millions of children around the world, has no merchandise on the shelves. No surprise there, since its lead is Emma Swan. Disney could definitely box up all the princesses from that show and make a killing, but they don’t, and I’m not sure why. Past female toy sales data, maybe? It’s very frustrating, because the powers that be won’t even give a real reason. If they say anything at all, they say things like “Oh, we forgot.” or “Oh ya, we were coming out with her toys later, nothing to see here!” and “But look at THESE toys from Frozen! See? Women!”. I get the feeling that since companies have tried to market terrible movies like ‘Aeon Flux’ and ‘Elektra’ with merchandise and failed, they chalk it up to “Well, female retail items don’t sell. We won’t be doing that again.”. If that’s the case, it’s ridiculous. It’s not that consumers don’t want female toys and marketing pushes, we just don’t buy into it when the movies/games suck. If they marketed a good franchise, like ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles‘, we’d love it. But they don’t, they refuse to hit the market hard and end up canceling awesome stuff like that…which has made me very, very bitter.
What I don’t agree with is people saying there’s no good female roles/leads in the entertainment industry. They also say that when women do hit a lead role they’re over-sexualized, like that doesn’t happen to both men and women. Did you hear anyone complaining about over-sexualization when ‘Magic Mike’ hit the theaters? Everyones over-sexualized in entertainment. So what. As far as there being no female role-model leads, that’s entirely false. I watch more movies and television than anyone you know, and I play a disgusting amount of video games, and I can tell you there’s a ton of great female leads and franchises. The problem is they’re not being pushed as much as male driven franchises. The franchises exist, and maybe if the companies producing them had the stones to market them, you’d know they’re out there. There’s this overwhelming hesitancy when it comes to promoting women across all entertainment industries, and it really needs to stop. I want my freaking Lara Croft action figures, and I want them now.