Hasbro‘s Star Wars Design Director, Steve Evans, discusses the company’s perspective on female fans, and fair gender representation in the Star Wars toy line.
Here’s a simple fact about me– I am a die hard Star Wars toy collector. Yes, the prequels struck a blow to my confidence in calling myself a true Star Wars geek like many of you I’m sure), but weirdly, I was still committed to the toy line by Hasbro long after I had checked out of the questionable movies, superfluous animated series, and seemingly-insurmountable Expanded Universe the Star Wars licensing juggernaut had been cranking out in years past.
But through good times and bad, one thing I always struggled with was the fact that Star Wars was, in effect, a boy’s club. For all it did so very, very right, the Original Trilogy featured a very limited number of strong, prominent female roles, and this element was not really course corrected in George Lucas‘ prequels. Sure, the Expanded Universe introduced a number of great women to the continuity– many of whom Hasbro eventually rolled into their expansive toy collection– but the number of women in this galaxy (and toy line) still paled in comparison to the volume of variants being offered of dudes like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker.
The Force Awakens has been more cognizant of this gender disparity than many previous Star Wars media, incorporating several major new female characters into the cast, many of whom Hasbro has already included in their action figure line ups. From Captain Phasma to Rey, there are some intriguing new women in the Star Wars universe as of The Force Awakens, and Hasbro has shown a pretty respectable commitment to releasing them in toy form.
Based on a new interview at Fast Company Design with Hasbro‘s Star Wars Design Director Steve Evans, steps forward in gender representation were part of Hasbro’s plan, as well as JJ Abrams‘ upcoming film. Evans, the father of twin daughters already obsessed with one of the new faces of The Force Awakens, named Rey as his favorite figure in Hasbro‘s new toy line. He elaborated, saying Rey embodied both he and the toymaker’s current perspective on their diverse customer base… and I couldn’t have said it better myself:
“We are designing [The Force Awakens toys] for ‘fans’. That’s all we like to say. A fan can be 4, can be 44, or can be 94. Can be male or female… Everybody is getting engaged with Star Wars because it’s transgenerational. I think the movie that’s coming out epitomizes that because it’s the classic characters and the new characters. We know that we provide toys, playsets, and tools for engagement for families, young kids, middle aged men and women. Everybody. That’s what I think makes it so great. It’s for everybody. Star Wars is for everyone.”
That quote resonates with me as one of the aforementioned middle aged men (or women) still buying these toys as an adult… and also fills me with hope that, with this sort of outlook, we’ll see even more gender equity and consideration in the Star Wars toy world moving forward. That’s really exciting news, especially in light of upcoming movies like Rogue One, which will feature Felicity Jones as one of its leads. Evans’ words fill me with hope that we will see many, if not all, of the great new female characters introduced in the new Star Wars films included in the toy line as we move forward. And the fact that he recognizes that men and women alike are buying these toys adds a certain legitimacy to the long-time rallying cries for better representation in this toy line.
Hasbro has done a commendable job of making sure their toy lines are as egalitarian as possible over the past few years, but while every series of Marvel figures in 2015 has featured at least one female character, and the Transformers Comic Con exclusive featured three female Autobots to join the Combiner Wars story line… Star Wars has kind of been the hold out for a while now. But– as it has done in many other ways already– The Force Awakens is offering a new hope* for the galaxy far, far away– to include more strong female characters in terms of both film and merchandising. The lightning-fast sell-through of characters like Rey and Captain Phasma in many of the current Star Wars toy lines is another nail in the coffin of the myth that “girl figures don’t sell” and is a great step toward breaking down the fictitious walls between genders in terms of consumer bases. Let’s face it– everybody wants more Captain Phasma in their lives. It looks like Hasbro is aware of this fact, and that’s a good thing.
Evans had more insight that’s totally worth reading about The Force Awakens and more from the Star Wars universe. Click this link to read the full interview at Fast Company Design.