Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Female characters used to be a rare occurrence in Star Wars. In the original trilogy there was Princess Leia of course, but the likes of Aunt Beru and her blue milk, Mon Mothma mourning her Bothan spies, and… um, oh Toryn Farr who fired the Ion Cannon on Hoth, made fleeting appearances. It wasn’t too much better in the prequels.

Happily, things are different now. While we wait to see just how The Force Awakens treats its female characters (the signs so far are good), it’s worth taking a look at Star Wars Rebels (the first season of which is now out to buy on Blu-ray and DVD)  – the first major Star Wars project since Disney’s Lucasfilm acquisition in 2012.

The series is set around four years prior to Star Wars (A New Hope), and charts the rise of the Rebellion against the Empire – the conflict that drove the narrative of the original trilogy. For fans of the original movies, it’s nice that this show features the Empire and all their familiar trappings, from Stormtroopers to Tie-Fighters.

I first caught this show when it aired on DisneyXD last year. As a parent looking for alternative female cartoon characters for my daughter to engage with – rather than the usual princesses and fairies – this was great one to watch. The fact I was a Star Wars fan looking for new ways to introduce his daughter to the galaxy far, far away… well, that didn’t hurt either.

I was worried that Star Wars was going to be defined by Disney as a boys brand, so I was delighted to see Rebels had such prominent female characters.

Of the featured women, first up we have Captain Hera, the pilot.

Her role in the group is significant as female pilots were scarce in the movies – good luck finding a one in the original trilogy (although there were some minor character ones in the prequels).

So for Star Wars Rebels to have a woman in charge of their ship the Ghost is a decent step forward.

Next up there’s Sabine Wren, an explosives expert and street artist.

Initially described by my daughter as that “pink Boba Fett Lady”, I must admit I was unsure about her at first. However, she has become a firm favourite with both of us – and my daughter couldn’t wait to get a toy version of her.

"Daddy, can I buy this please?!" #SabineWren #StarWarsRebels

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We were lucky to receive a LEGO minifigure too.

Sabines on toast. #sorrynotsorry

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There are also a few other notable female characters in the show. An interesting one for me was that of Maketh Tua, an Imperial Governor. One thing your never saw in the movies were any women in the Empire. I’m glad to see this has changed – both here and the forthcoming The Force Awakens.

The creative force behind the series is Dave Filoni, who was also responsible for the previous Star Wars cartoon, the highly regarded The Clone Wars. That was a show I had previously ignored, and boy was I wrong about that (If you haven’t already seen it I urge to to get the five series Blu-ray boxset now!). It has kickass female characters galore – including Star Wars fangirl icon Ahsoka Tano.

The Disney made Star Wars Rebels skews younger than that cartoon, but has a similar style of animation and thankfully displays the same commitment to portraying strong female characters at the centre of the action.

While Rebels is populated with mostly new characters, a few familiar faces do turn up – such as an episode with Lando Carlissian, voiced by Billy Dee Williams. This is my daughter’s favourite, as she has a bit of a soft spot for Lando.

Some other well known characters make an appearance too, but that would be spoiling things.

Things are not perfect with Star Wars Rebels. The show still centers on two male characters, and the initial wave of merchandise omitted the female characters entirely (which thankfully now appears to have been rectified with most licensees).

But the show is a good entry point for young girls and boys into the world of Star Wars, and a great way for fan parents to share their love of Star Wars with their kids. Series two has just started airing, and has added even more female characters to the cast.

How much of this ties into The Force Awakens remains to be seen. We also have the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to look forward to after that. It’s set in a similar (Pre-Star Wars) era to Rebels, and has a female lead (played by British actor Felicity Jones). Perhaps there might be some crossover there?

In the meantime, enjoy the gender neutral space battles, lightsaber duels, and the unfolding drama of the beginning of the rebellion against the galactic Empire in this pleasingly exciting and inclusive series.

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You can purchase Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Series One from Amazon on Blu-ray and DVD.

Star Wars © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

Family Fever

Review: LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier (75106)

The LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier set (75106) is based on one of the Empire’s spaceships from the Star Wars Rebels TV show. It featured prominently in the finale of season 1.

Initially the main attraction for us was the choice of minifigures – specifically, this set includes the female Rebel fighter Sabine Wren. She’s been in a previously released LEGO Star Wars set, but this time she comes with the addition of her distinctive Mandalorian armour helmet.

LEGO Sabine is such a badass #StarWarsRebels

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Sabine’s outnumbered by the Empire, as this comes with five other mini figures – all of them imperial: Agent Kallus, an Imperial Officer, 2 x Tie Fighter pilots, and an Imperial Astromech Droid (aka R2 unit).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 minifigures, Star Wars Rebels LEGO, lego imperial assault carrier, lego 75106

The LEGO Imperial Assault Carrier is a large set with over 1,200 pieces

It took us a few construction sessions to finally assemble it, following the 170 page instruction booklet.

It was really fun to construct, with a mixture of standard and technic elements, and a great activity for me to share with my 3-year-old daughter. While putting together a LEGO build of this nature on her own is clearly not feasible yet (the set advises age 9-14), the experience of assisting me helps her with many aspects of her development of such as motor skills, patience, and following instructions.

She was constantly asking me, over the days it took us to make this, to ‘do another packet’ (the numbered bags that large sets are divided into – this one has nine).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 Tie Fighters underneath CROP
Inspecting the undercarriage

The finished LEGO Imperial Assault Carrier has a number of neat little extra elements and moving parts, such as:

  • 4 releasable mini Tie Fighters
  • A missile launcher (with a locker for spares)
  • Rotating mini cannon turrets (also with storage for spare ammo)
  • Removable top
  • Hinged cockpit

Plus it has a hook as part of the structure, for flying it around going “Vroom, pew pew!”. At least, that’s what we used it for.

The set has a kind of dual scale element, as the Tie Fighters are much smaller relative to the Tie Fighter pilots. I kind of liked this approach.

Tie Fighter and Tie Fighter Pilot minifig from LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106, LEGO 75106
The LEGO 75106 mini Tie Fighter (with pilot for scale)

The little Tie Fighters are also the perfect size for my daughter to fly around.

She is delighting in the play opportunities this set affords, and is already engaging Sabine in joint adventures with a fellow female star wars minifig Princess Leia from the Imperial Shuttle set.

As the father of a mixed-race fangirl, I admit to being a little disappointed that Sabine’s skin colour seems to have changed from the light brown of the show to light pink here. But she still looks badass.

And while we’re talking about changes, did you know that the Imperial Officer minifig is in fact an Imperial Postman (according to a certain 3-year-old).

My daughter has decided that this sad, dejected, desperate looking LEGO Star Wars figure – is a postman.

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The LEGO Imperial Assault Carrier is a great addition to our LEGO Star Wars collection. While the ship seemed a little uninspiring from imagery prior to getting it, in reality it is a really cool vehicle when constructed. As with her other Star Wars LEGO sets, my daughter has made no attempt to pull this apart as she’s enjoying using is as a playset and prop far too much.

Star Wars Rebels, LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 , LEGO 75106, LEGO Imperial Assault Carrier
The LEGO Imperial Assault Carrier continues to engage my daughter’s attention.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO 75106 set free of charge. All opinions stated remain our own.

The LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier set (75106) has a RRP of £99.99.

You can buy the LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier here:

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A Dispatch From The Gender Frontline (I Went to Some Toy Shops)

Needing to kill an hour or so, I took a stroll around the Westfield London shopping centre this week. I naturally gravitated towards the toy shops, and I decided to amuse myself by indulging in a spot of gendered toys mystery shopping.

The first shop I went into was The Entertainer. They are a large independent toy retailer, and I have a particular soft spot for them as they began with one shop in my home town neighbour of Amersham, Bucks. But sentimentality aside, I had no idea what they were like as a toy shop these days.

I was pleasantly surprised and really impressed with the way they categorise their toys – eg. ‘Action & Adventure’, ‘Arts & Creative’, ‘Cars, trains, and planes’ etc – not by gender. This seemed like such progressive (and logical) way to sort toys, that doesn’t exclude on the basis of gender – at least in how product is grouped. Bravo Entertainer!

The Entertainer toy shop
The Entertainer toy shop

What I didn’t realise (until I tweeted about it) was that this came about because of a campaign by Let Toys Be Toys (we were living outside of UK when this happened). So bravo to them too. 🙂

I didn’t buy anything, but I will definitely be back to shop here, another branch, or online.

I was expecting the worst with the next shop I visited. I have written about the divisive way LEGO creates and markets its product before. The beloved Universal toy of my youth is no more. I have resigned myself to not buying any new LEGO, that in all likelihood my daughter will be playing with our ample hand-me-down supply throughout her childhood. So I went to the LEGO shop all prepared for their gendered marketing tricks.

But then I spotted this.

Lego Female Scientists set, Lego Female Scientists kit, Lego Female Scientists sold out, female scientist lego
Lego Female Scientists

Yes!

The female scientists minifigure set, that I had in my own little way campaigned so furiously for, that had finally been released only to be sold out everywhere… It was back! I stopped looking around the store, grabbed the set, and headed straight for the counter.

As I paid, I asked the staff about it. They told me they had only been delivered a small number of sets in the original release, and everyone in the company was surprised how popular it had been. The staff were keen to point out that they now have a much healthier stock of it. So if you’re thinking of buying some LEGO for your child (or you!), then I would strongly suggest that you get this one. I’m intending on saving it until Christmas day. Hopefully I can resist the urge to put it together it until then.

LEGO Research Institute 21110
My daughter’s LEGO Research Institute 21110

That’s all I can say about the LEGO shop. They could have had an entire wall of pink Friends sets, with a sparkling sign proclaiming ‘LEGO FOR GIRLS’, and I wouldn’t have noticed. That’s how chuffed I was to finally have this awesome set in my hands.

So it had been a really positive experience so far. My final stop was The Disney Store, which I entered with trepidation. I love Star Wars & Marvel (both acquired by Disney) as much as I do not love princess culture (pretty much created by Disney).

IMG_4015Given that Disney & gendered marketing to kids go together like the Empire & the Death Star, I tend to browse Disney’s virtual and actual aisles with frustration. This occasion was no exception.

Starting with Marvel, there was nothing in the store featuring a female character. No Black Widow in the Avengers line, no Gamora or Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy stuff, no additional female superheroes, nothing. *sigh

On to Star Wars.

There’s large section of the store devoted to movie merchandise, primarily the original trilogy. The lack of Leia merchandise was an early issue on this blog, so I was keen to see if things had improved at all. At first glance, it hadn’t. There was a prominent display featuring Han Solo, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and a Stormtrooper – but no Princess Leia.

IMG_4040I scanned the large selection of Star Wars stuff here, and eventually found a Leia. In fact I found a couple. They were each part of different play-sets figures. One set was Jabba’s palace, which of course means one thing – Slave Leia.

An eagle eyed fan on Twitter also spotted a Torryn Farr figure. Who is she? The blink and you’ll miss her Rebel Comms officer from The Empire Strikes Back. She may not be the most active character in the trilogy (she sits in a chair and relays orders), but I guess at least she’s a female Star Wars character figure.

That’s not all the Star Wars gear the shop has now though. There’s a big display of merchandise from the brand new TV show Star Wars Rebels. It’s early days for the show, but it has TWO major female characters that are prominently featured in the artwork of the toy display. So I was curious about what the the product would be like.

Product? What product?

IMG_4009IMG_4037

That’s right. There was nothing, nothing, featuring either of the female characters of Sabine or Hera. Not an action figure, not a t-shirt, nothing. I asked a member of staff about this. She looked surprised, had a glance at the section, and then kind of shrugged “No, there’s nothing with any of the women”.

What’s a girl gotta do to get into the Star Wars line at the Disney Store? It seems even a pink skinny waisted Boba Fett with a boob plate can’t break the gendered marketing glass ceiling far, far away…

So in this flagship Disney Store, in one of the premier shopping centres in Britain, there were just three items including any female characters in the whole of their Marvel & Star Wars sections – nothing in Marvel, and Star Wars had a classic Princess Leia (as part of a set), Slave girl Leia (as part of a set), and an individual figure of a rebel who says “Stand by ion control…Fire!” and nothing else.

Apparently, Sabine & Hera will be included in the second wave of Star Wars Rebels figures being released by licensee Hasbro. Staff also told me “We’re going to get Princess Leia stuff soon. But they keep saying that”. They had no idea about female Marvel characters.

I didn’t buy anything, and I’m not planning on going back. I left the shop more frustrated than ever about the fact that The House Of Mouse now own Marvel & Star Wars. I really hope things change for the better, and they embrace the female – and girl – market for these brands.

I reflected that my previous positive toyshop experiences were both due to the willingness of brands/retailers to engage with feedback, listen to those seeking change, and take a good look at their offering.

In conclusion, in terms of gendered marketing and division of toys: The Entertainer good, The Disney Store sadly not, and the LEGO shop? Well, they had me at female scientist minifigure set and was the only shop I spent money in.

So while this may have been an unscientific survey, in the end it was all about science.