Guardians of the Galaxy - #WheresBlackWidow Gamora toys

The first Guardians of the Galaxy inspired some grumbling when fans realized that while merchandise featuring Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket, and Groot was plentiful, toys of Gamora seemed to be few and far in between. #WheresGamora started trending, as audiences called out the studio for giving its female hero the short shrift. Then Marvel seemingly repeated the exact same blunder a year later with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which gave rise to the #WheresBlackWidow hashtag. Even the Hulk got involved with that one.

So, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looms on the horizon, has Marvel learned its lesson? During an on-set interview, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige addressed the #WheresBlackWidow and #WheresGamora campaigns, and discussed the efforts the company is making fto ensure its female characters are better represented in the merchandise going forward. 

Feige spoke with Peter and other assorted journalists during their visit to the set of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last year. At one point, the Marvel exec offered his thoughts on the #WheresBlackWidow campaign:

That was very frustrating for us, because we see, we see it from the other side. When I say we, I mean the filmmakers, because we’re presented with the stuff that’s being made, and I don’t know if there’s an absolutely equal sampling, but Black Widow was all over that. Gamora was all over that stuff. What we don’t see is how much of it is in any given store. How easy is one piece of merchandise to find versus another piece of merchandise. So, we see the stuff and we go, oh great, these are all our characters, they’re all great represented, they’re all going to be sold, and then we find out, oh, you can’t find this, you can’t find that, or there’s lunch boxes or a backpack where a certain character is not on it, and I think the outrage was great, because that’s not going to happen anymore.

black widow movie

The lack of Marvel female superhero merchandise wasn’t just a matter of retailers running out of her toys. As pointed out by Amy Ratcliffe, Gamora was regularly excluded even from products that featured the Guardians as a group. In the case of Black Widow, she was even erased from a toy set based on one of her biggest scenes in the movie, in which she blasts out of the Quinjet on a motorbike. In the toy version of that sequence, she was replaced by Iron Man and Captain America.

Thankfully, it sounds like Feige is committing to making sure that female characters are better represented going forward. For starters, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will have more female characters in general:

And that was one of our big things we set out to do and was very important to James [Gunn] as well, was putting, as we did in the first film, with a number of characters, even more so this time, putting women at the forefront of the story.

In addition to the return of Gamora, we can look forward to a more prominent role for Nebula. The Vol. 2 lineup also introduces a brand-new ally, Mantis, and the MCU’s first female villain, Ayesha. And Feige stressed that they’ll be making an active effort to ensure that the merchandise is reflective of the film.

We can’t have sway over what a retail store, how many items of what they want to stock on a shelf, but when toy sets come over, or t-shirt designs come over, if they’re not represented properly or representative of the film, we’re not even saying is the equality of each gender specific, we’re going does it represent the movie we’re making, and if it doesn’t, we send it back until it does.

Talk is one thing and action is another, and we’ll have to wait a few more months to see how Feige’s promises play out in practice. It’s true that Marvel can’t control how many toys retailers order (which, in turn, impacts what kind of toys get made), but this is a case where consumers have voiced their demand for more female loud and clear. Marvel’s clearly heard the call; now it’s up to them to respond.

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