And these are the character packs for the Hasbro Heroes Jedi Force original Star Wars trilogy:
I know what you're thinking: where is Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing??? Why doesn't such a universally known character, featured in the poster, have his own pre-school toy? (Obi-Wan has a toy with the pre-quel packs; you'll see it below.)
Let's try this one. Here's the poster for Star Wars: A Phantom Menace:
And here are the Playskool Heroes Action Figures available to go with the prequel trilogy:
For months my son has been begging for the "Luke and Han spaceship" from the preschool toy aisle. Once we left Wal-Mart with him in tears because he was so upset that he didn't have it yet, which is the only toy I remember evoking that reaction in him. So we told a pair of birdies (who happen to be my parents) how much he wants the Star Wars toys, and the lucky duck got some for his birthday! But in researching the toys, I've discovered something alarming. For some reason (presumably perceived low sales?) Playskool decided to exclude the female leads from both their Star Wars original trilogy and prequel trilogy playsets/character packs. That's right: the correct answer to the two little riddles above is that Leia and Amidala, who both feature prominently in the movie posters and the movies, aren't available in Playskool Hero form. You can get supporting characters like a generic stormtrooper, a destroyer droid, or Yoda, but you can't buy Leia or Amidala because they don't exist.
I don't think shows or toy lines or whatever should be forced to have a girl just for the sake of having a girl. But to take a movie that actually does have some pretty fierce women in it and then make toys out of every major character other than the women? That really bothers me. What message does it send to my son that the main female character wasn't even worth making?
Besides the philosophical issue, it also bothers me on a practical level. I was the only girl, smushed in between two brothers. For the most part, I played with them, or by myself. While we all played with gender neutral toys like dinosaurs and toys with both girls and boys like Little People, I specifically remember building houses for my brother's lone female Lego pirate while he built elaborate ships for all the other pirates. When we were really little, my mom bought my brothers the boy ponies from the My Little Pony line to entice them to play with me (and it worked). Even when we played together, we liked to have characters that were our same gender. It made it easier to imagine ourselves doing the same things, whether that was plundering for buried treasure or frolicking in a meadow of rainbow-colored flowers (thanks brothers for being willing to play with me!!) and like we belonged in the game and weren't just unwelcome tagalongs.
If Playskool Heroes Jedi Force had existed when my brothers and I were preschoolers, my brothers would've probably had some of the toys. And I would've begged my mom to get Leia so I could play too.
As a mom, I know if I have a daughter next, she'll watch Star Wars with the rest of the family (we skip the scary parts when we watch with our preschooler, don't worry!), see her big brother's toys, and at some point she'll ask the same question about these toys I've been wondering: why did they leave out the girls?
I e-mailed Hasbro about my concerns and they sent back a polite e-mail thanking me for my comments and assuring me they would pass them along to the toy development department. They did not give any indication of why they did not include the female characters in the toy line.