Hasbro will make figures for Rebels’ Hera and Sabine, but then what?

Rebels: Sabine

We saw Sabine’s official reveal this morning, and although we’re still waiting for Hera’s, Hasbro confirmed with Newsarama’s Lucas Siegel that action figures of both Rebels ladies are coming, and will be unveiled at SDCC.

There’s been some blowback to the concerns over the lack of women showed in the first wave of Hasbro Rebels toys. But together with the ‘for boys’ nature of Disney XD and the apparent ‘ladies last’ spacing of the character reveals, it’s really felt like the female characters – and thus female fans – are there as an afterthought. (Is it really still not a given that women and girls like action?)

Yes, we know ‘this is how it is.’ Yes, we know that ‘it’s all here to sell toys.’ Yes, we know that’s ‘what advertisers want.’ And that’s exactly why we’re fighting so hard over this. This is our first major rollout since Disney took the wheel, and this is an uphill battle.

Let’s not forget, Disney is the company that renamed Rapunzel to Tangled and The Snow Queen to Frozen – with a deceptive advertising campaign to match – so as not to alienate boys. The company that bought Marvel and Lucasfilm to round out their “boy” offerings.

It’s much, much bigger than Rebels, and it isn’t really about the show or even Star Wars at all all – it’s about marketing and culture. Want an example? Look no further Greg Weisman’s Young Justice, a show which was canceled because “we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.” Because “girls buy different toys.” Toys like My Little Pony? Barbie? Pastel toys that are marketed to them as pointedly as action figures are to boys? So thus make less women action figures, or make awful-looking figures and then act surprised when they don’t sell…

Take a look at the Black Series, where the only 6″ female is a Slave Leia and there’s only a slightly better ratio in the smaller figures. How many Leia or Padme figures, in the whole of Kenner/Hasbro’s history, have there been in comparison to Hans or Lukes or Anakins or Obi-Wans? And how many of those Padmes and Leias have been the ‘slave’ or ‘arena’ variety? How many Ahsoka figures?

And while Hasbro at least has made Padme, Leia and Ahsoka figures, it’s not unknown to have a line with no women – even when a show has several such characters. In 2005 and 2006, the action figure line for Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender included not a single figure of any of the show’s major female characters – not even Katara, Toph and Azula, all of whom play major parts in the series. (In Star Wars, this would be the equivalent of leaving out characters like Han, Lando and Darth Vader.) That toy line fizzled, but fans didn’t see a Katara figure until 2010′s live-action adaption.

No, we weren’t sure that the Hera and Sabine figures “were coming.” It’s not a given.

Women – characters or fans – are not an afterthought. If you give us the products, we’ll buy them. We’re not your bonus dollars or your gravy; it’s time to think beyond the gender lines. Sell toys to kids, not to “girls” or boys.” Step it up, already.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, Teresa at Jedi News and Tricia at Fangirl have also weighed in.

One Reply to “Hasbro will make figures for Rebels’ Hera and Sabine, but then what?”

  1. Original comments:

    1 Chris // Feb 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I promise this isn’t intended as a troll or anything like that – so I hope it doesn’t come off that way. The reality is most of what you’ve said is pretty spot on.

    However, glossing over “‘it’s all here to sell toys,” is to miss the entire point. It’s to ignore the fact that at the end of the day, these are companies we’re dealing with. Companies whose endgame is to make as much money as possible. The fact of the matter is their marketing approaches work. While there are unquestionably thousands – millions – of girls and women who love sci-fi and Star Wars as much, if not more, than so many men, the majority of the genre’s fanbase is still male. The smart business decisions, then, remains to target them. Successful marketing and advertising targets a specific group, not a broad one like “kids.” Targeting “girls” or “boys” is far more likely to sell product. Boys make up most of the target market (fans of the genre or show) so targeting them is the natural business choice. So, yes, in an instance like this, women and girls are “bonus dollars” in the same way 85 year old men are -they aren’t the target demo from an advertising perspective.

    That’s not to say women or female characters don’t matter or that they should be an afterthought. If “good characters” are all that matter as many claim, from a storytelling point of view, there is no reason those characters can’t be women. From a business perspective though, it’s a different story.

    You’re right this is much bigger than Star Wars – it’s a cultural thing. But it’s a cultural thing based on hundreds, if not thousands of years, of society. Faulting companies for simply making good business decisions is to ignore the fact their job is not “to think beyond gender lines.” That’s a job for schools, and parents, and society at large. Companies exist to make money. I think it’s silly to fault them for that.

    Society definitely needs to continue to progress on shifting gender roles, no doubt. Though a lot of progress has been made in the past century, there’s no question that this is a cultural problem that is a long way from being solved.

    But if your end goal is to make money, you’re going to market your product based on how society currently looks. You’re not going to make poor business decisions for the sake of trying to change gender roles – not if you’re good at making money, at least.

    Anyways – that’s my two cents. Hope that came off right way.

    2 Mary // Feb 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    First, great post, Dunc!

    Chris, I understand what you’re saying but on what basis can you assert that “the majority of the genre’s fan base is still male?” Where are the statistics to back that up? Oh, right – there aren’t any. This is the type of automatic thinking that perpetuates the basic problem: advertisers as well as the corporations and manufacturers they represent will never break out if the “it’s for boys” mindset as long as consumers support that established but flawed view.

    Since compiling reliable gender-fan numbers is such a prohibitive undertaking, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to quote actual research anytime soon. That leaves us with observational and anecdotal indicators. Unscientific as these are, I suggest that the proliferation of vocal female fan-based content on the web is one compelling signal that genre fan girls are out here in massive numbers. Whether they are recent additions to the fan base or are only now learning to speak out and be proud of their geekdom is probably irrelevant for this discussion. Girls and women are fans NOW, and deserve to be treated as “target markets” by the various purveyors of genre goods as much as anyone else.

    At Celebration V in Orlando, I spent more than an hour in conversation with one of the primary authors of the Star Wars Extended Universe books. One of the first issues he raised was the remarkable increase in the ratio of female-to-male fans he was meeting at cons and book signings. In fact, he thought that female attendees were starting to out-number males. That first-hand observation by someone with many years of experience to back it up stands out to me as an important reminder that things are changing. So if people continue to hold tight to what was assumed to be true in the past – namely, that genre markets are male-oriented (or worse, dominated) – then Sabine and Hera figures will always be in the minority, and presented (as Dunc put it) as after-thoughts.

    That’s not good enough, especially as a life-lesson to little girls and young women, and it’s an utter disservice to women of all generations who enjoy genre fiction.

    3 Lane // Feb 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    If you’re marketing based on how society currently looks, I really don’t think hyper-marketing at boys and boys only is particularly bright. There’s enough evidence through multiple fandoms now to suggest that ignoring an entire gender is leaving loads of money on the table.

    4 PattyBones // Feb 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Not only was the female character last, but the character intro was much shorter in actual running time to the other ones. Come on Disney, this is not just a BOY franchise!

    5 Doublesith // Feb 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    As a male Star Wars fan since the OT days (and whose favorite vintage action figure was Leia in her Boushh disguise), I think Hasbro and Disney/Lucasfilm marketing’s handling of the Rebels female characters has been pretty awkward. I completely understand the frustration, because this situation is actually a step backwards for the franchise!

    Even in 1977, Kenner managed to have a Leia figure as part of their Early Bird package. That Hasbro didn’t even have prototypes of Hera or Sabine to show is baffling, especially considering that Sabine’s design would likely make it the coolest figure of the bunch.

    And I don’t know if it was intentional or not (and knowing how carefully marketing reveals are planned, I’m guessing not), but leaving the two female characters reveals for last is inexplicable for a franchise who put the main female character of their last animated series front and center.

    6 Sir Terrence Tuppins // Feb 19, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I want Disney to form an arrangement with Krylon Paints to sell Mandalorian, Empire and Rebel insignia stencils so I tag my neighborhood with Star Wars graffiti.

    I’m not even joking here! I can overspray the awful gang graffiti tagging that happens here in Echo Park and Highland Park.

    7 Oleo // Feb 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    “How many Leia or Padme figures, in the whole of Kenner/Hasbro’s history, have there been in comparison to Hans or Lukes or Anakins or Obi-Wans? And how many of those Padmes and Leias have been the ‘slave’ or ‘arena’ variety? How many Ahsoka figures?”

    As of publication of Steve Sansweet’s Ultimate Action Figure Collection there were 90 Luke, 63 Anakin, 45 Leia (3 slave) and 26 Padme (1 arena) and only 7 Ahsoka.

    I’m sure behind closed doors they have numbers that show low profitability in female action figures but they need to be wise enough to respect that sector of the audience anyway.

    8 Shadadukal // Feb 20, 2014 at 1:26 am

    I work in a shop and we’re constantly asked for ideas about what we can do to attract MORE customers and especially NEW ones. That such huge companies as Hasbro and Disney don’t understand the concept is utterly baffling to me.

    9 Jesse // Feb 20, 2014 at 4:45 am

    “Women – characters or fans – are not an afterthought. If you give us the products, we’ll buy them. We’re not your bonus dollars or your gravy; it’s time to think beyond the gender lines. Sell toys to kids, not to ‘girls’ or ‘boys.’ Step it up, already.”

    Nailed it.

    10 Stooge // Feb 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

    There may not be too many Ahsoka figures, but that’s the one my son and daughter fight over. Give ‘em a good character, and they don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl.

    11 Nancy K // Feb 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I didn’t know that about Avatar. Wow, that’s appalling!

Comments are closed.