When the dust settled from Star Wars Celebration Orlando, both attendees and those who watched from afar (thanks to the live stream) were buzzing about the future of “a galaxy far, far away.” While the largest focus was pointed toward the December release of Director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, some of the biggest news was the launch of the new, multi-platform Forces of Destiny initiative, along with the reveal of EA’s Battlefront II. Like The Force Awakens, Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels, and the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, these new pieces of the expanding Star Wars mythos place female characters at the front of the action—and the toy aisles, something that just a couple of years ago would’ve been hard to imagine.Lest we forget, in 2015 the #WheresRey? movement questioned a lack of gear for what was then the franchise’s biggest new hero. Now, if you want a Rey figure, doll, or costume, you can walk right into any big-box store and buy one.
Back in January, I wrote about Mattel’s #DadsWhoPlayBarbie effort, just one of this year’s big steps forward in play. In that article, I noted that it’s generally adults who have perpetuated play stereotypes, particularly when it comes to things that skew “boy” or “girl.” Star Wars fandom has always been celebrated by people of all kinds, and it all began 40 years ago this year: May 25, 1977, to be exact, when George Lucas’ first Star Wars film hit theaters. Men and women, girls and boys, people of all ages lined the block to get a glimpse of what would change the history of entertainment as it was then known. It changed the film industry, it changed the toy industry, and like The Force itself, Star Wars became something bigger: a phenomenon that would bind its audience together.
Despite the presence of a powerful princess in the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa, and a love of the source material for all, for decades it was an uneven field when it came to merchandising, with the female members of the audience being largely left out. In recent years, companies such as Ashley Eckstein’s (voice of Ahsoka Tano) Her Universe stepped in to fill that void, and now, after four decades of Star Wars, the major players have finally caught up, and the women of Star Wars are going mainstream.
Much like the way Mattel approached DC Super Hero Girls as “action dolls,” longtime Star Wars master toy licensee, Hasbro, has crafted its Forces of Destiny line to be “Adventure Figures.” They’re posable, articulated figures that bring kids together with a focus on the female heroes of the entire Star Wars universe—with characters from the films and TV series coming together. They’ll also have new stories told in animated form, along with books and more in the years ahead.
As a lifelong Star Wars fan who’s now a father raising two strong girls alongside a pretty awesome wife, it’s exciting to live in a time in which kids can have heroes of all kinds. Even though these stories technically took place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” there’s no better time than the present—right here, right now—to be a Star Wars fan.