We Can All Breathe a Sigh of Relief: Star Wars Toymakers are Not Agents of the Patriarchy

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In an apparent effort to prove that you can do data journalism on literally any topic, Leah Libresco examines the merchandising bonanza of the latest Star Wars movie:

The most-recent “Star Wars” Monopoly set did what the villain of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” couldn’t, sidelining Rey, the film’s female protagonist…. Fans signed petitions, wrote letters, and tweeted their outrage using the “#WheresRey” hashtag…. The controversy reached its climax when Hasbro, the maker of the game, said Rey will be represented in new editions.

To see whether Rey’s absence was local to Monopoly or more widespread across all “Force Awakens” toys, I did what any sensible data journalist would do: I went to a toy store. Well, a digital one. Toys R Us lists 256 toys in their online “Force Awakens” store, but only 70 of them include any of the major characters introduced in the new movie. Rey holds her own among this group.

“Rey holds her own”? I guess so. She and Finn are the main heroes of the movie, and they’re pretty close in the toy competition. The real news here is a clear anti-human bias: the biggest toy winners are Kylo and Captain Phasma, who spend most or all of the movie in masks, and BB-8, a droid so calculatingly adorable as to bring back involuntary memories of Ewoks.

Anyway, as long as we’re on the subject, you’ve probably all been waiting on the edges of your seats wondering what I thought of the movie. Well, the first week it was too crowded, so I didn’t go. I’m too old for standing in line. The next week, the kids were still out of school, and a friend was visiting who had no interest in the movie. The next week, my mother’s car broke, so I loaned her mine and had no way to get to the theater. By the time I got my car back, I had come down with a cold and didn’t feel like going. So it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally I saw it.

And I was stunned. I was prepared for anything from bad to pretty good, but it turned out to be stultifyingly boring. There’s nothing “wrong” with SWTFA. The acting is OK. The dialog is OK. The effects are OK. The pacing is OK. The direction is OK. The editing is OK. The characters are OK. As a piece of craft, it’s fine. But when you put it all together it’s two hours of nothing. And yet, the residents of Earth have spent a billion dollars on tickets! What the hell is wrong with you people?

The movie’s big mystery, of course, is “Who is Rey?” The answer is, “Who cares?” Here’s my guess: she’s a clone constructed from a preserved pubic hair of Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ll find out in the exciting sequel!

Anyway, JJ Abrams has now ruined Lost. He’s ruined Star Trek. And he’s ruined Star Wars. He’s a one-man wrecking crew. But there’s a silver lining: at least I can now say with confidence that I’ll never waste money seeing a JJ Abrams production again.

And now for the worst part. I never thought it was possible I’d say this, but I have marginally more respect for George Lucas’s prequels now. They may have sucked, but at least he tried.

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And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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