StarWars.com is running an online poll right now, allowing fans to vote on an upcoming Black Series 6″ figure. There’s actually a lot of cool choices– old Ben Kenobi, Lando Calrissian, even Knights of the Old Republic’s Darth Revan (currently in the lead)… but the most important one to vote for is Sabine Wren, the Mandalorian graffiti artist from Star Wars Rebels. Not only is she awesome, but her inclusion could help improve representation of women in the action figure world.
If you haven’t caught up with Rebels yet, you totally should. It is hands-down the best Star Wars thing that’s come out in the last 30 years, and the events of that show will have a significant impact on other corners of Disney’s new, post-Expanded Universe Star Wars. The show shares the same adventure serial appeal as the Original Trilogy, with the same shade of darkness just below the surface. But the dynamic is different– this isn’t a preordained hero story, it’s about a crew of fun and well rounded characters… and Sabine is one of the coolest of them.
Her Mandalorian background means Sabine obviously looks awesome. She taps into the Boba Fett aesthetic, while her artistic personality has left her armor fully customized and painted in all sorts of fun, eye catching designs. She just look COOL, and her style would make for an incredibly fun action figure. But Sabine is also a legitimately interesting character. She’s brash, and sort of a ball buster, but also fearless; if you watch pretty much any of the major fight sequences involving the Ghost crew, Sabine is always the first into the fray.
Even if you don’t dig Sabine as much as I do, here’s the other thing– the Star Wars universe has been a boy’s club for a very, very long time. That’s partially based on the movies, which haven’t featured a large number of strong female characters (something JJ Abrams is hopefully correcting in The Force Awakens), and the toy line has always reflected this. Sure, we get the odd Princess Leia or Padme variant, or some of the female Jedi and women from the Expanded Universe… but the representation is still very imbalanced. It’s been that way since the Kenner days, and it helped set the precedent– still subscribed to by backward thinking corporate retail buyers– that action figures (and by extension, all things genre) are for boys. This is a myth, and it’s time to see it dispelled.
We’re living in an exciting time for genre stuff, where the public awareness is showing that geeks come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. The concept of the angry, suburban white male nerd is beginning to disintegrate, thanks to the increasingly diverse voices in the geek world, and savvy companies, big and small, that have realized there can be a considerable financial benefit by doing the right thing and bolstering diversity in their properties. Marvel and Disney have done aces in this regard, but one area that’s been held back is their toys and merchandising, which have maintained the outdated boy’s club mentality that, quite frankly, isn’t helping anyone.
People tend to blame Hasbro, and while they’re not entirely innocent, it goes beyond them to the commercial buyers for big retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us. Those guys are the problem, because of the hyper conservative traditional gender roles they assign the products they choose to carry in their stores. It’s tough to reach those assholes directly, sadly, but one thing we can do is speak with our wallets. Hasbro is giving us that chance, by including Sabine as an option in their Fan Poll. Right now she’s in second place, ahead of Ben Kenobi and Lando, and I think that’s really exciting. There’s a good chance we’ll see her make it to the Black Series sooner than later, and when/ if she does, her figure’s sales will have a more significant meaning than other characters. Sabine’s popularity will be a message to retailers, and to consumers, that girl figure DO sell, and that boys and girls of all ages care more about an awesome character than whatever body parts they’re supposed to have between their legs.
Did I convince you? Head to StarWars.com to vote now! It’s open until July 10th right before Hasbro’s Star Wars panel, which will reveal the winner. Fingers crossed….