Hollywood has been ridiculously slow to get the message that audiences want action heroines, but toy companies have received the message loud and clear.
In a fascinating look at recent changes in the girls’ toy market, The New York Times reports that the success of films like The Hunger Games, Brave, and Divergent have led to the increasing popularity of toy guns and archery kits in every shade of pink and purple. Some of these consumers are girls who have outgrown their princess wands, but want to remain feminine while embracing faux weapons.
Katniss wouldn’t be caught dead with a bubblegum-colored bow and arrow, and the pink-ification of playtime violence bothers some. Psychologist Sharon Lamb defends the existence of toy weapons for girls but expresses wariness about the double standard of glamour at play:
“I don’t see this as making girls more aggressive, but instead as letting girls know that their aggressive impulses are acceptable and they should be able to play them out,” she said.
But, she added, “What I don’t like is the stereotyped girlifying of this. Do they have to be in pink? Why can’t they be rebels and have to be re-BELLES? [One of the pink archery sets mentioned in the article is Hasbro’s Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Exclusive Golden Edge Bow.] Why do they need to look sexy when aggressing, defending the weak or fighting off bad guys?”
In their article, authors Hilary Stout and Elizabeth A. Harris provide an admirably wide range of interpretations and opinions on pink toy weaponry for children. Wherever you stand on the issue, though, one thing’s clear: there’s no excuse for axing a show with great female characters just because the a few incompetent suits can’t figure out how to sell narrowly conceived merchandising to girls.