Everything’s Coming Up Rey


By Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

After Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in theaters less than a month ago, it proceeded to break record after record after record at the box office. It beat out James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing film in the history of the industry in North America, and it did it in only 20 days. It took only 12 days to make $1 billion. It is the highest grossing Disney film to date (Suck it, Frozen!), even surpassing Marvel’s massively successful The Avengers. There is an entire Wikipedia page devoted just to the records The Force Awakens has broken so far.

But that’s only part of the story.

Because Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ three main protagonists are played by a woman and two people of color. Three minorities headline the film, and still, it is the single highest grossing film in the history of the North American film industry. The message that sends to filmmakers and filmgoers alike is so incredibly important. Appealing to a wide demographic by using minorities not only to create the film, but also to star in the film, paid off in a massive way. Perhaps it will help the industry as a whole start progressing in the direction of showcasing a wider variety of actors and actresses in their films? One can only hope.

Before the film’s official release in December, article after article was written about actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who play Rey the Scavenger and Finn the disillusioned Stormtrooper, touting the casting of a woman and a black man, putting the actors under a lens—Guatemalan actor Oscar Isaac, who plays X-Wing pilot Poe, to a lesser degree, as he’s not as much of a newcomer as Ridley and Boyega are. It was in preparation for the explosion in popularity both young actors would enjoy from their starring roles. Rey, in particular, was getting a lot of attention from female-driven websites and feminist journals, the predictions being that Rey would serve as a role model for a new generation of female Star Wars fans. She would be a character young girls could look up to, emulate, and admire!

After seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens the Friday it opened, I flocked to multiple stores, went online, and did just about everything I could to find Rey merchandise. I didn’t care what it was; really, I just wanted ALL THE REY I COULD GET! But I found there was nothing in the stores, and the few things I found online were sold out. See, I wasn’t the only fan to fall in love with Rey. For me, she was the spirit of the film—the film’s core. Along with Finn and Poe, of course. But mostly Rey.

Unlike so many female protagonists we’ve encountered in adventure films before The Force Awakens, Rey’s story is her own. It isn’t influenced by a man in her life, like a father, brother, or a lover. She lives alone, and she stands alone. The decisions she makes throughout the film are her own. She sets off on this wild, amazing adventure because she decides it’s the right thing to do. This isn’t the typical heroine who’s seeking revenge, trying to find a family member, or trying to find herself. She fights because she’s brave, and because she’s good. She is also a brilliant mechanic and pilot, and impressive at hand-to-hand combat. (Don’t get me started on that staff she carries around!) Rey is a young woman who’s been forced to look after herself her whole life, and forced to grow up before her time. And yet she’s never left her little home in Jakku, so she has a naivety and innocence about her, a somewhat childlike and wide-eyed view of things. Oh my goodness, the feelings she gave me…I related to her so hard, and then I also wanted to be as courageous as she was, but then at the same time I felt so very protective of her…Ugh. Feelings.

Rey sitting next to her X-Wing pilot helmet

Rey sitting next to her X-Wing pilot helmet

And apparently, I was not alone. Because Rey merchandise has been flying off the shelves so fast that stores haven’t even had time to restock before they’re gone again. Granted, the fact that there wasn’t much to begin with had something to do with that.

And then Hasbro released a Star Wars version of Monopoly. Surely, the film’s main character would be featured in that! Alas, no. Rey was not included in the game. The outcry from the film’s fans, including the widely trending hashtag #WheresRey, was a loud and particularly disappointed one. So much so that Hasbro took notice in a big way and announced the addition of Rey into their Star Wars version of Monopoly. Darn straight.

It probably helped when The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams said in an interview that the lack of Rey merch was “preposterous and wrong.” This after large action figures featured at Target included Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, a Stormtrooper, a TIE Fighter Pilot, an Ewok, a tree from Endor, etc. I’m exaggerating about the Ewok and the tree from Endor. But honestly, they had all of the main characters on the shelves, but no Rey. No wonderful, adorable, badass, perfectly nuanced scavenger pilot. And on top of the Monopoly exclusion? Unforgiveable.

Even a Stormtrooper and a TIE Fighter Pilot are here, but no Rey

Even a Stormtrooper and a TIE Fighter Pilot are here, but no Rey

But the tides, they have turned. As tides typically do. (Thank you, moon.) Hasbro has announced a new wave of Rey merchandise. It’s gonna be all Rey all day. REY IN A BIG WAY. Rey’s gonna get her say. (Sorry, I’ll stop.)

I mean, we aren’t just talking about Rey action figures, here. We’re talking about her weapons, too. Both the blaster and the blue lightsaber she wields in the film are being sold, and they’re specifically identified as Rey’s weapons. Yaaas queeeen.
Rey's blaster and a Rey action figure are among new wave of merch

Rey’s blaster and a Rey action figure are among new wave of merch

Granted, some of these toys do have some spoiler-y elements. One of the action figures present Rey with her lightsaber, and we all know lightsaber means Jedi. That’s definitely a huge plot spoiler for anyone who sees the toy on the shelves but hasn’t watched the film yet. (Especially considering the sneaky way they had Finn fighting with the lightsaber in the trailer! Can we talk about that? Because that was CHEEKY!) But there’s no way they can use that excuse for the lack of Rey action figures and merchandise in general.

Do not mess with this little girl. YOU WILL NOT WIN.

Do not mess with this little girl. YOU WILL NOT WIN.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens still in theaters, there’s bound to be even more Rey fans out there, and the number will only continue to grow.

So who else is filling up their shopping carts with Rey things besides me? Better move quick, nerds!

And may the Force be with you.

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