Friday, January 8, 2016

You Made Me Write This, Disney

A couple of weeks ago, I made a conscious decision not to write about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We didn't go the day it was released, so by the time I saw the movie, it seemed everything that could be said had been said already.

I've changed my mind. Actually, Disney and Hasbro and Target and whoever else is responsible for making Star Wars toys changed my mind. Internet outcries about Rey's presence--or lack thereof--in action-figure sets popped up before the movie came out. But now, when all excuses about not giving away the plot, blah, blah, blah, have been exhausted, the frustration has turned to outrage. Tell me, Hasbro, how, exactly, does one make a Force Awakens Monopoly game without the main character?

To help you understand why these omissions hurt so much--and, yes, hurt is the correct word here--you first have to understand how joyful I was after watching the movie. We went to see The Force Awakens a week after we found out we're having a girl. So I sat in that movie theater in Nowhere, Tennessee, with a tiny girl kicking me while I watched a strong, capable, powerful, three-dimensional female character rule the newest installment of a franchise that is essential to my very being. When we left the theater, I was visibly giddy.

It was like a glimpse into a world I could have only imagined. A world where women are just as likely to be the heroes as men. A world where a girl doesn't have to be a princess to get a little respect. A world where the lady does the saving, not the nagging. My husband said to me, "What if little Adrienne had had Rey when she was growing up?" What if...?

And then he said, "But now our daughter will have Rey." Yes, she will. She will be born into a world where Rey exists. I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

What he didn't say, what I was thinking, was, "Now our daughter and Jack will have Rey." Jack hasn't seen the movie yet. (Because it is rated PG-13, we rightly determined that it would be too violent for him. He's only three, after all.) But soon, when we can buy a digital copy, he will see Rey's awesomeness--after I fast-forward through the scary parts. And he will see a girl doing all the things only boys are supposed to do--flying space ships, fixing things, standing up for herself, rescuing people, using the Force, winning a light saber battle. As hard as I try to find them, books and TV shows and movies with girls as strong main characters are still pretty scarce. And now, with the influence of school and so many other little boys, Jack wants to watch what they watch and read what they read, which is mostly stuff about boys. And then there is, as I've discussed, my own predisposition toward all things boy. The Force Awakens turns one of the boy things I love the most into a girl thing--an everyone thing, really--and that makes my life a lot easier.

But then my life gets harder again when I look at the toy choices. There are not a lot of Reys to be had, especially ones that a three-year-old would have fun playing with. HuffPost did a search of Star Wars toys on the Disney, Target, and Toys "R" Us websites and found that Kylo Ren toys outnumbered Rey toys by two or three times, depending on the website. Jack loves playing Star Wars more than anything. It has actually started to drive both Keith and me crazy because we play it so much. After he watches the movie, Rey will become a huge part of our lives. At least she will be if her toys are available.
I can't explain everything that Rey means to me. It sounds silly to place so much importance on a fictional character in a sci fi movie. But the movie and its mythos occupy such a huge part of our lives. When I watch Jack tell his little friends everything about the Star Wars characters on his lunch box, my heart is full. I can't wait for him to tell them all about Rey, all the skills she has, how smart and brave and kind she is. I can't wait for him to tell his little sister about her, to see Rey in her, to believe that his little sister can do and be everything and anything because Rey helped me instill this in him.

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