Guardians Of The Galaxy Director Slams Tradition Of Shitty, Sexist Merchandise
"It's frustrating and it bums me out."
Despite the success of female-led blockbusters this year like Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Hunger Games and Divergent franchises, it seems like the film industry still doesn’t know how to treat female characters in big budget movies.
In a live Facebook Q&A with James Gunn, director of the wildly successful Guardians of the Galaxy, he responded to criticism that Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora was woefully underrepresented when it came to the film’s merchandise. While the four main male leads – which included a tree and a raccoon – were put on hundreds of different toys, games, bedding and apparel, Gamora only appeared on six different toys. This may seem trivial to some, but it reveals how systemic the sexism of the blockbuster world still is; Hollywood studios just assumed that Gamora toys wouldn’t be as popular as a Chris Pratt figurine.
For the record, James Gunn also thought this was pretty sucky, and says that Gamora will be better represented when the sequel comes out in 2017. “It’s frustrating and it bums me out,” he said. “I had a big conversation about this yesterday with one of my producers at Marvel about trying to make sure, especially, that Gamora is represented more in [merchandise] and all the Guardians toys but especially all the clothing and bedsheets and all that stuff.”
The decisions that studios make in regards to merchandise are pretty interesting. When Frozen came out, Disney experienced a worldwide shortage of merchandise partly because they wrongly predicted which character the kids would like best (they liked the sister who was kind of a jerk over the obvious heroine, by the by). Merchandise is political, because it can unintentionally affirm and reveal outdated world views about gender and morality.
For instance, even now people get upset about figurines of ‘Slave Princess Leia’ from 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi which has her wearing a bikini and a chain around her neck. Toys aside, the fact that the image of Carrie Fisher in that gold bikini is still considered shorthand for ‘nerd sex fantasy’ despite the fact that Leia is enslaved at that point in the story, sure is creepy.
However when it comes to the toy, Carrie Fisher doesn’t seem bothered by it. Recently she was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and said that she thought it was “stupid” to discontinue the controversial figurine, and that parents should just explain to their kids “that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage”.
You going to argue with Princess Leia? Didn’t think so.
If James Gunn and Marvel are making a concerted efforts to increase Gamora merch, hopefully other studios will follow suit and start giving our female blockbuster heroes the attention they deserve. I’m looking at you, Force Awakens.