A Call to Action (Figures): Representation Matters
Representation matters. It’s why people are fighting for Marvel to make a Black Widow movie, aside from Scarlett Johannson crushing the role (and a few larynxes along the way). Female superheroes matter because they teach girls that they’re able to, and should, defend themselves. And maybe more importantly, they teach boys that girls are as important as they are. The same goes for characters of colors and LGBTQ characters. Representation doesn’t validate existence, but acknowledging that existence welcomes people into a culture that has, at times, been less than welcoming.
I originally wanted to write a scathing article, putting down the toy industry as a whole for not representing women well enough in their toy lines. Full disclosure: I’m a liberal and am editor-in-chief of a social-justice themed magazine called Words Apart and everything looks like a nail to a hammer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the problem didn’t lie with the toy manufacturers, but with the source material. A lot of toy lines have a disproportionate number of male to female figures, but in the major toy lines, nearly all of the female characters from the source material have a figure.
If we look at my go-to, Marvel Universe, we’ve got She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Sue Storm, Jean Grey (both as Jean Grey and Pheonix), Dagger, Psylocke, The Enchantress, Black Widow, Kitty Pride, Elektra, Mary Jane Watson, Mockingbird, Mystique, Spider-Woman, X-23, Storm (both leather and Mohawk and traditional costumes), Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Aurora, Red She-Hulk, Valkyrie, Medusa, Rogue, and Firestar. And while that’s not every female character in the Marvel Universe, it’s a pretty comprehensive list. Maybe they haven’t made a Rachel Grey, but they also haven’t made a Cosair or any of the Starjammers. (And while we’re on space heroes, I mentioned in my column last week that Gamora hadn’t been made, but unbeknownst to me she has been scheduled. Thanks to Shelfdiver on Reddit).
Star Wars Black (Hasbro’s new Star Wars line) has been great about making female figures as well. Considering in the original Star Wars movies, Princess Leia was the only woman of any consequence to the story, the action figure lines have been great about including women. Out of the forty-one figures made and/or announced for the series, six are women. (Here’s the list I used).
What’s amazing about these lines is that they’re digging out obscure female characters. Aurora and Enchantress (who was made long before the Thor movie or her appearance on Agents of Shield) aren’t huge characters in the Marvel Universe, and it’s great to see they’ve got their own figures. The same can be said for Star Wars Black. Mara Jade has never appeared in film or television, only books, comics, and computer games (much of which has been declared not cannon to give the new movies room to operate) yet they’ve made her a figure.
Without a doubt, there are more men than women in nearly every action figure line (I’m discluding Barbie, Bratz, and other such lines because I’d describe those as dolls rather than action figure based on points of articulation and marketing), but the problem is with the source material and not the manufacturers. In fact, it seems the manufacturers are fighting against the source material to create more female figures, and that’s a very good thing.
Nick said no racy pictures. I’m a rebel.
A Call to Action (Figures) is a weekly column published every Wednesday, chronicling my rants and raves about all things action figure. Join me next week, when I’ll be talking about action figure distribution.