Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Why No Eowyn Action Figure? - Tehanu @ 17:11 PST
Email from Snix:
I was reading my Entertainment Weekly this week and I ran across something that made me seethe with anger (and that I thought you folks at TORn might be interested in):

"We chose our characters based on traditional play patterns for boys," explains JoAnn McLaughlin, a senior VP at Toy Biz. "And they want the male role-model heroes."

That quote is from an article on upcoming action figures. It's Toy Biz's explanation for the lack of some notable female characters in The Hulk and X2 figure lines. It probably also helps explain why there's been no Galadriel or Éowyn action figures in their Lord of the Rings line. (There is an Arwen figure, but she bizarrely doesn't come with the sword that the character wields so prominently in the film.)

I'm a girl. And I buy action figures. And when I was a kid I bought action figures and I played with them. And if anyone had bothered marketing action figures to girls I would have bought a lot more of them. You'd think a company like Toy Biz might recognize the enormous opportunity presented by the overwhelming popularity of the Lord of the Rings films with both boys and girls and see it as an excellent opportunity to expand their market. But no. Instead, JoAnn McLaughlin (who I'll bet played with her share of action figures when she was a kid) chooses to spout stereotypes instead of challenging them.

I can almost understand the omission of Éowyn for The Two Towers line, if only because she's not in any action sequences in the film, much like Galadriel in Fellowship. I assume Toy Biz thinks there's no point in an "action" figure for a character who does nothing more in the movie than stand around and talk. But a lot of kids play (even with "action" figures) is not solely action oriented. I used my Barbies both to execute commando raids on my Donnie and Marie dolls, and to act out complex interpersonal relationships. And I watched all the boys I played with do the same thing with our Star Wars action figures.

I'm sure Toy Biz thinks the line of 12" dolls with the fancy hair and clothes are appropriate, Barbie-esque versions of the characters for girls (hence the Arwen, Legolas, Frodo and Éowyn dolls in that line), but I think I speak for girls other than just myself when I say they're just not as appealing as the smaller (and cheaper!) action figures with cool swords and horses and arrows. If you're a girl who likes Lord of the Rings, you don't just want to brush Éowyn's hair, you want to make her hack at Aragorn with her sword.

Anyway, I'm going to spend part of my day writing to a few folks, letting them know what I think of Ms. JoAnn McLaughlin and the role her company is playing in reinforcing gender stereotypes. If anyone else is interested in doing the same, here are the relevant addresses (and if anyone wants to pass this info on to others, please feel free to copy this and post it to any relevant forums):

Toy Biz, Inc.

Customer Service

P.O. Box 90113

Allentown, PA 18109

Tel: (800) 634-7539

E-mail: Toybiz@casupport.com

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