It was the text message I never expected to receive but the one I always wanted to read.
Shortly after Christmas and a little over a week since Star Wars: The Force Awakens charged into cinemas and began its campaign of dominance over the box office, my cell phone emitted a tiny chirp, alerting me that someone had sent me a message. I am not the type of person that gets hundreds of texts a day, but they happen with enough frequency that I have learned that nothing mind-blowing ever comes from one: Honey, can you take the chicken out of the fridge and let it thaw?; Hey son, do you remember the time we went to grandma’s house and the chickens chased you around the yard?; I’ve got some leftover pizza here if you want it. That sort of thing. I expected this one to be no different, but then I looked at my phone and read the words that would propel me into an adventure:
Taylor has gone to see THE FORCE AWAKENS twice and now she’s obsessed with all things Star Wars.
The text was from my sister, and she was referring to her twelve-year-old daughter (my niece) Taylor. I read the words over and over, and each time my grin grew wider. Since she was very young, I had been exposing her to science fiction and fantasy in order to fire up the creative aspects of her mind. Quite often in our society, girls are trained from birth that a passion for anything intellectual, artistic or just plain “nerdy” is beyond their capacity to comprehend or appreciate. Not only is this idea outdated and just plain wrong, it is dangerous. This country–scratch that, this world— needs the perspective and ingenuity of its female citizens to drive forward social, economical and technological progressions.
Star Wars and other forms of genre storytelling–be it films, comic books, or dare I even say video games–are gateway drugs that lead to creative thinking and reasoning, and exposes the youthful observer to complex issues in an entertaining manner. It is equally important to expose both boys and girls to them.
With that in mind, I decided to put together a gift for my niece, a Star Wars fan starter kit, if you will. In it I wanted a variety of things, from books and comics to posters and trading cards, to give her a taste of every different avenue of fandom to see what she preferred (plus I want to encourage her to read more). The most important item that I wanted in this gift set was an action figure, and I knew it had to be a female character. Since she had fallen in love with The Force Awakens, that character had to be Rey. It had to be her, no exceptions.
In my naiveté, I honestly thought this would be no big deal. Rey’s the main character of the movie, right? The store shelves should be bursting with toys of her wielding axlerod staffs and eating magic muffins and whatnot, right?
Boy was I wrong.
To be fair, I did run across some figures of Rey, but they were always in a larger, more expensive set like the Black Series, or packaged in a box with her speeder. These were all out of my price range. I just wanted a single carded Rey action figure for crying out loud!
At the beginning I took into account that Christmas had just passed and the shelves were depleted of everything. But weeks passed and the shelves were restocked, and there were still no signs of Jakku’s favorite scavenger. I searched Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Best Buy, Toys ‘R Us, and every local mall. I even went to the freakin’ Disney Store, and they had nothing. The Disney Store! The very company that made the movie that Rey starred in doesn’t even have her figure for sale!
I found plenty of Poe Damerons, Finns, Kylo Rens, and various droids, stormtroopers and fighter pilots. And don’t even get me started on Constable Zuvio; that guy wasn’t in the film at all and yet he was everywhere. Rey, however, had taken a page out of old Luke Skywalker’s journal and vanished without a trace. I had started to wonder if maybe Hasbro had cached all of her figures on Skellig Michael.
It got to be extremely ridiculous. And it wasn’t just Rey; the action figure aisles were devoid of any female star. Black Widow, a prominent character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is constantly absent. There is a fallacy among the business executives that decide the product that gets manufactured that only boys want these type of toys, and boys aren’t going to play with a female figure. Neither of these notions are true.
This story has a happy ending. On the last week of February, after an exhaustive two month search, I came across a lone Rey action figure hidden amongst the other figures at the Target by my house. I scooped it up without hesitation and added it to her package. Success!
On a sadder note, I make a point to check the shelves every time I’m in a store and I haven’t seen one since. Where’s Rey, indeed.
I stuffed all of the things in a large manila envelope and before sealing it up I included one last item: a hand written letter. It read:
Very few things have made me more excited than to hear your mom tell me that you have fallen in love with Star Wars. To celebrate this, I’ve decided to give you some things to guide byou on your path to becoming a Jedi (or Sith, if you prefer. This is your journey, not mine.) Most of this stuff is new but a few pieces are from my personal collection.
I’ve included a CD of some of my favorite music from Star Wars composer John Williams. I hope you enjoy it. Classical music is often thought to be boring but it is truthfully quite emotional and enjoyable to listen to. I find it is inspiring to play some while writing stories. You should try it some time.
If I can offer a piece of advice: Never be ashamed to express the passions that move you. There are people out there that will tell you that the things you like are weird, or that girls shouldn’t like certain things. These people are wrong. Ignore them.
I hope you enjoy these gifts. May the Force be with you, always.
Talk to me! Jamesh@coffeewithkenobi.com
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