I don’t talk about social issues much online, or at all, really. I’m not particularly good at it or confident in my beliefs, and everybody else on the internet is way angrier than me about every possible topic, so any effort I make is a whisper in an arena full of screaming fanatics.
However, being the tremendous manchild that I am, I feel as though there is one arena in which I can contribute something worthwhile: girl action figures.
There has been much controversy surrounding the lack of girl action figures in major franchises. When Avengers 2 came out, Black Widow wasn’t included in any of the merchandise, and her action figures were either nonexistent or nigh impossible to find. Likewise, the first wave of Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise excluded Rey. She has been making appearances in more recent releases, but fans were upset with her initial exclusion. If you want more information on these toy controversies, there are ten thousand articles already online about them, many of them including actual details with citations. I can’t bother with that, though; this is an opinion piece.
The running theory was that Rey was intentionally held back to reveal as little information about her as possible until the movie’s release. This was true of Rey’s exclusion from a Star Wars Monopoly set. More recently, it came out that Disney executives instructed Star Wars toymakers to not make too many girl action figures because boys don’t like getting toys with girls on the packages.
If that report is true (which it probably is, but you have to be careful about anything you read on the internet), those Disney executives have never met me, and have no idea how neurotic toy enthusiasts—even little boys afraid of cooties—can really be.
I’ve been dealing with this whole scarcity of female action figures thing forever. I don’t really buy action figures anymore, but when I did, it was a constant nuisance. It all started with figures from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I was four years old, and I had all four Ghostbusters, but no Janine. She came in a later wave of figures, but was always hard to find. I don’t recall if I ever saw one of her figures in the store or not, but if I did, we didn’t have the money to buy her. But I needed Janine! My Ghostbusters adventures without her were passable, but not 100 percent accurate. Who was going to keep the Ghostbusters on task and in line if not Janine? Who was supposed to rescue them if they all got captured or stuck in slime or something? The Gummi Bears? My brother’s Lady Jaye figure? It was inexcusable, and probably the result of some suit instructing the toymakers to not make too many Janines because boys wouldn’t like them. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care that she was a girl. She was a part of the story, right? An integral part, at that. Everybody knows the Ghostbusters weren’t getting anything done without Janine.
When I got interested in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had figures of almost every major character in the show, except April O’Neil. I couldn’t find her anywhere. Other people couldn’t find her, either, so asking for her for a birthday or Christmas didn’t help. One, just one, schoolyard chum had her, but he wasn’t letting her go. When I got interested in X-Men, the same thing happened with Rogue. I had all of the Fantastic Four except Invisible Woman. The women were always scarce or missing. Yeah, I could’ve used my imagination or whatever, but it would have been much easier to just have a tangible action figure. I simply couldn’t re-enact my favorite moments or create my own without the full cast.
Toymakers, make these things. There is a market. The story can’t be told properly with a missing character. The machine won’t run when one of the pieces is missing. There are crazy kids out there who appreciate nuance and accuracy in their action figure adventures. Believe me, I was one of them.
Also, I heard that girls like to play with action figures, as well.