‘Star Wars’ Female Action Figures Are ‘Flying Off Shelves’ Despite #WheresRey Outrage, Retailers Say

Target, Toys R Us address fan fury over the perceived absence of female characters from “The Force Awakens” product lines

Star Wars action figure box missing Rey
Jamie Ford/Twitter

While many “Star Wars” fans were outraged that the character Rey was missing from an action figure set sold at Target, retailers contend that female “Star Wars” characters are being sold — and fast.

“All ‘Star Wars’ merchandise, including action figures, are selling very well,” a spokesperson for Toys R Us told TheWrap, adding that “We are seeing toys based on female characters from the movie fly off shelves.”

The toy retailer, for example, is selling the Black Series Rey action figure and the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” 12-Inch Captain Phasma Action Figure, as well as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Dress Up Sets for each character.

Additionally, in the coming weeks, Toys R Us “will offer an exclusive set of 3.75-inch action figures based on the original saga, which include a Leia figure.”

Throughout November, fans used the hashtag #WheresRey on social media to protest the absence of the character’s likeness in a box set of action figures from the film, as well as a lack of Rey-themed toys in aisles overall. Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, Finn, Poe Dameron, a Stormtrooper and a TIE Fighter pilot were included in the set, igniting criticism of the store and Hasbro for including two generic troopers in the set while excluding Rey, one of the film’s main characters. Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie, is also missing.

This came after Hasbro, the main manufacturer of Disney toys, excluded Black Widow from boxed sets for “The Avengers” and Gamora from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Richard Gottlieb, from Global Toy Experts, attributed this to a belief in the toy industry that boys won’t play with girl action figures, and that “Star Wars” has always been considered a “boy’s brand.” “I, of course, have no idea about the decision-making about this product,” Gottlieb said, “but I can say that there is, in the toy and movie industry, a long-standing belief that a boy will not go to a ‘girl’ movie and that if you put a girl in a boy’s toy, boys will not buy it.” Target, which says it’s the nation’s top seller of Star Wars merchandise, is aware of the disappointment fans felt when they learned a Rey action figure was not included in the Target-exclusive pack. But the retailer asserts she is featured in other collections. “This feedback was shared with our merchandising team and vendor partners,” said Target spokesperson Lee Henderson. “Although not part of this specific 6-pack, Rey is featured across a broad assortment of products and categories, including the 6″ Black Series figures, 3 3/4″ figures and vehicles, MicroMachines, LEGO sets and apparel.”

Paul Southern, the head of Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ licensing arm, told Bloomberg on Dec. 1 that the various companies involved with producing and licensing these toys could not foresee how popular Rey would be.

“We’re working really hard to get into a healthy stock position,” Southern said. “All of a sudden a very broad group of consumers began to buy product a lot quicker than we expected.”

While Target found itself in the bullseye of the outrage, Henderson said, “Rey is highly collectible and has solid traction heading into the film’s release. She is well represented in our current assortment and selling exceptionally well.”

Toys R Us echoed that sentiment, stating that it “offers a variety of merchandise based on female characters from the highly-anticipated movie, all of which are flying off shelves.”

But the toy giant’s most popular action figures include interactive versions of Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, R2D2 and C3PO. And while they do sell female merchandise, it’s mostly dress-up sets — something aimed largely at girls.

Meanwhile, the #WheresRey hashtag is still going strong on Twitter, with some consumers even boycotting the toy aisles of Target until offerings improve.