Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Does a Character Need a Penis to Have an Action Figure? #WheresRey

Rey is the lead character but the toy industry
won't let her hang out the boys in their toy sets.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has awakened inside of me a love for Star Wars. I watched the original Star Wars trilogy when I was a teenager back in the '90s. I tried to get into the prequals, but Episode I literally put me to sleep in the theatre. This new Star Wars has me pumped! I love the heroine Rey. She's my kind of woman. She works hard, is a survivor, will stand up for what is right, is a hell of a pilot and isn't afraid to kick your butt with a staff if you don't act right. She's the chosen one and lead character in the film. And it makes absolutely no damn sense why her action figure isn't included in some of the Star Wars toy sets.

Where's Rey?

Rey's character kicked three of the six character's asses you see above. But she's not part of the action figure pack. Excluding her is like having an Avengers set without Iron Man, a Justice League set without Superman or a Transformers set minus Optimus Prime. You would NEVER see that happen.

Millennium Falcon Set #WheresRey

She's not even included the Millennium Falcon set and she's the one who flew the ship! Finn, who can't fly, is included along with Chewbacca. Even BB-8 is part of the package and all he did was ride in the Falcon. That's like if this toy came out when Star Wars debuted in the late 1970's and included  Chewbacca, R2-D2, but no Hans Solo.

One time I was in Target and saw an Avengers cup that I wanted to buy for my 8-year-old cousin and myself. My cousin is a boy. I looked on the cup and saw Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America--but no Black Widow. I put it back on the shelf. If a woman wasn't good enough to be on the cup, then my womanly money isn't good enough.

If Rey was a guy, she would be included in these sets. Let's be real. Including a woman in a group of action figures with males goes against the sexist narrative we've been taught. That narrative is action figures are for boys and dolls are for girls. A female action figure is viewed as a doll. Since these are considered "boy toys," they shouldn't be playing with dolls. And Heaven forbid a strong, aggressive female figure be included in an action pack.

Rey's action figure set that many people can't find in the stores.

More boys need to see women as heroines. At my last job, I hung Wonder Woman art on my office walls and drank out of a Wonder Woman cup. An adorable little boy, about 3 years old, came into my office and saw my Wonder Woman cup. He looked surprised, turned to his mom and pointed to Wonder Woman's chest. Then he said, "Boobies?" LOL And he kept saying, "Boobies?" This kid loves superheroes because he told me about Iron Man and Spider Man. But I think he was shocked to see not just a superhero with breasts, but a female superhero. He noticed that she stood like a hero and had on a costume like a hero. Her body was positioned like she was about to whip some tail. But he had a hard time connecting this image, that we usually see of men, with a woman. I'm not surprised because heroines are so underrepresented in the comic and sci-fi universe--especially when it comes to merchandise.

If I was still a little girl, I would want this whole set WITH REY. When I was a kid I had a She-Ra action figure, Transformers, My Little Pony and Barbies. And sometimes they all were in battle during my playtime.  Rey does have a 3.75 inch action figure but apparently she's in high demand. Rey is out of stock in most of the Targets in my area. And Target won't ship them to you. You have to buy in the store. This figure, which sells for $7.99 at Target, is going for $44 from independent sellers on Amazon. She also has a $19.99 6-nch figure. I wonder if Hasbro made less Rey action figures than the male characters. During the holiday season, parents complained she was hard to find in stores.

Bottom line is being a male character shouldn't be a requirement for an action figure. It's disrespectful to actress Daisy Ridley, who portrays Rey that there are few action figures of her and she's not represented in some of the merchandise. It's also disrespectful to the fans. The same go for other franchises that exclude toys for their female characters. Men aren't the only ones who buy this stuff. Women spend money on this stuff too. When I go to comic conventions many, and in some cases at least half, of the attendees are women.

The Star Wars franchise made a lot of money this holiday season. But I wonder how much they lost by not being inclusive of the their heroine in the film's merchandise.