If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

This morning, my three daughters had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. Today, I’m not going to blog about the male Honey Nut bee or how there are no female mascots at all on children’s cereal boxes– that’s right ZERO– because I’ve done that before. I won’t get into how my husband said, as the girls fought over who got to place the brave adventures of Honey Bee in front of her bowl, that cereal boxes are a kid’s first newspaper. Today, I’m blogging about the coveted prize inside the box. What did my kids get? A stormtrooper pen.

Stormtrooper

So here’s my question for you: If there were no “Star Wars” double trilogy (is there a better word for the length of this epic?) would a kid covet a stormtrooper? If toy makers filled the shelves of Target with these white, faceless figures, would kids want them without Hollywood blockbusters providing a context?

The answer is no. To sell a toy, having a story helps a lot. It’s all about the narrative. Next question: Where are the narratives where girls get to be heroes? Where are the narratives, the epic trilogies, the Hollywood blockbusters, where girls get to star? If you think of a female character who is shown, front and center, again and again, who is she? What image comes to mind? Is she, perhaps, a princess?

The gendered toys marketed to children are a symptom. The disease is that girls have gone missing from narratives, sidelined and marginalized, in literature, religion, art, and politics, for thousands of years. In 2013, the consistent narrative where girls get to exist is, still, as the princess.

Yesterday, when I wrote about Goldie Blox selling stereotypes, people told me, if I don’t want pink and princess I should just go to the “boy” aisle. But the problem with the “boy” aisle is that there no female protagonists to be found there. Whether it’s LEGO or a coloring book, whether the product is from the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the Justice League, female characters are in the minority if they exist at all.

My seven year old daughter wanted a LEGO set. We went to three stores, and found no LEGO where girl figures or girls’ stories were the basis of the game except for LEGO Friends, which we found in the “girl” aisle. What epic, magical adventure were these girl figures engaged in? They were at a cafe. My daughter also completed a set where they were at a bakery. I just bought her a third set where the girls are at a high school.

alice

My older daughter, after getting frustrated with the LEGO choices, opted for The Hobbit set which includes a male Hobbit, a male wizard, and 5 male dwarfs. No females at all.

Hobbit

Toymakers claim when they put “alternative” toys on the shelf, they just don’t sell. This is why I ask: If a stormtrooper had no “Star Wars,” would he exist? Where are the narratives where girls are seen having epic adventures? Until we fix that problem, we’re going to keep seeing gendered aisles at Target.

4 thoughts on “If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

  1. No toys — male or female — would sell if there weren’t stories behind them. I totally agree the creators of those stories need to have a bit more courage and show more equity. Even back in the Regan-dominated era of the ’80s, G.I. Joe (marketed to boys) had four pretty darn strong, and not scantily-clad female characters: Scarlett, Cover Girl, and Lady Jaye on the Joes, and the Baroness with Cobra.

    As a boy who grew up in that era, I seriously appreciated it. Likewise, when the creators of the Transformers started moving them past the basic trope of “giant robots from space” and they became more inorganic but gendered extraterrestrial life forms. Yes, the first few female Cybertronians introduced were little more than glorified girlfriends for the male characters, but they grew well beyond that fairly quickly.

    In Star Wars… Well, first of all, what’s pictured above is a Clone Trooper, not a Stormtrooper. Yes, that’s an important distinction. The clone army were all created from one man, so yes they’re all male. After the rise of the Empire, women were even more disenfranchised, due to the Emperor’s bias toward human males only. But.

    The highest-rankin leaders of the Rebellion were the former Imperial Senators Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan and Mon Mothma of Chandrila — both women. They served as Chief of State of the New Republic that was formed after the Empire collapsed at the end of the films. And, decades and more conflict later, the head-of-state of the Galactic Alliance that evolved out of that was Natasi Daala, a reformed former Imperial Admiral, and the only woman we know of to attain any significant rank in the Emperor’s ultra-patriarchal military.

    And, bringing it back around, the furthest extent of the Star Wars saga is set some 130 years after the events of the original film. The remnant of the Empire has survived, and evolved into a more egalitarian society (proving the problem wasn’t the Empire, it was the Emperor). We’ve learned that, because of the great number of matriarchal, total-equality, or otherwise not male-dominated planets in the Empire of the films, there was a sizable minority of human females in the Stormtrooper Corps. The armor did a good job of hiding any indicators of sex, and the nature of the training meant that anyone who made it through was regarded as a Stormtrooper first. Gender, religon, planet of origin — those were all very secondary. And as of that second Empire I mentioned just above, that egalitarianism saw the Stormtrooper ranks opened up blatantly to beings of any species or gender. Some pictures, fo your consideration:

    Movie era –
    http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120302035232/starwars/images/b/bf/Femtroopers-EGTW.jpg

    “Legacy” era, ~130 after Star Wars –
    http://www.rebelscum.com/2011SDCC/GGSW1/IMG_9644.JPG
    http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100810191144/starwars/images/7/72/Yinchorrilegacy31.JPG

  2. How do you know that Storm Trooper isn’t female? I imagine the Galactic Empire to have been a relatively progressive outfit in terms of gender roles.

  3. I understand your frustration, but there are no females in the first Hobbit movie. The one coming out this season, the Desolation of Smaug, will feature a character created by Peter Jackson because he felt the movie needed a strong female character. Tauriel kicks ass! She is the Captain of the Elven Guard and will be featured in the Lego Escape From Mirkwood Spiders. She’s also front & center in one of the promo posters, looking oh-so awesome! http://www.flickeringmyth.com/2013/10/new-promo-poster-for-hobbit-desolation.html

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