Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dang it, Marvel! WHERE IS BLACK WIDOW??

I love the Disney, Marvel, the Avengers (and the whole dang franchise) so much it's not even funny. Do you know how hard it is to be mad at something that you really, really love? Of course you do, you're parents.

I just got an email from Disney (maybe you got it, too?) promoting all the new Avengers: Age of Ultron merchandise in advance of the movie's release on May1st. This is a movie my whole family is really excited to see, so I clicked through to the Disney store to see all the new stuff. I have two kids with birthdays coming up, you guys, so I was ready to drop some coin. But I was really disappointed. Because guess who is missing from almost all of the merchandise? AGAIN? Black Widow.

It started last November, when my youngest daughter Mini turned 6. All she wanted was a Black Widow doll so she could play Avengers with her brother and his sweet collection of Marvel action figures. I was ready to buy her her own because playing Avengers is awesome and sometimes brothers don't like to share.  I tried Target first and they had a box set of amazing 12" action figures.

(Note: If you are the mother of a girl, then you know that dolls and action figures in the 12" range are money. Why? Because Barbie is 11.5" tall and Barbie has all the cool stuff - cars, horses, outfits, houses we've bought, houses we've made out of random boxes and duct tape, furniture, motorbikes, etc.  Plus the really good action figures that we have are the larger ones - usually about 12" tall. Those are the ones that have accessories and special functions and positionable joints and can talk and light up and all the other things that make toys fun. You've seen Toy Story, so you understand because Buzz Lightyear.)

This is what I saw:

That was $47 I would have happily spent on your products but didn't, Marvel.
So then I looked at the display specific to the Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which was maybe the best sequel ever made, and I'm including Empire in that statement). And this is what I saw:

So then I tried Guardians of the Galaxy, because last fall there was still a ton of that stuff for sale. There was even a set of really great action figures but guess who was excluded?

Like an idiot, I didn't get a picture of that set with one critical team member missing, who just happens to be the only female. Sure, there was a little doll for me to buy, but no 12" action figure (notwithstanding the fact that every other character was represented). The little Gamora doll was kind of lame. You couldn't move her arms or legs, which my kids say is less fun. But hey - at least the one female hero was available for purchase.

I was struck that in terms of merchandizing these two awesome movies for kids, that the female characters were essentially being written out of the stories. I'm not sure I like the message that sends. Why is this? Is it the assumption that these toys are for boys and boys don't want to play with female characters? If that's the case, then I think the people who make these toys vastly underestimate boys - and forget that they have sisters.

After leaving Target, I tried Walmart, Toys R Us and Amazon. Nothing. So I started googling and hitting fan sites. If I wanted to pay several hundred dollars, I could get a fan-made figurine in the right size. No, thank you. The affordable Black Widow action figures I could find on-line were small, not that fun, and showing a little too much cleavage. Then I went to our awesome local comic store to see if they had anything. They didn't, but I had a very interesting conversation with the young woman behind the counter who said she'd been pissed off since she was 8 years old that none of the comic-based female action figures that she wanted were ever available.

I ended up buying Mini a Black Widow Halloween costume on clearance. When she got it for Christmas, she put it on and didn't take it off for three days (except for sleeping). Not surprising. This is the same kid who wanted to be Korra for Halloween. When she plays, she gravitates towards characters that are strong, smart, courageous, complicated, and struggle with their choices but try to do what's right.

I think about the stack of Legos and Marvel action figures that dominate my son's room. He gets characters like Tony Stark, who is deeply damaged yet STILL A HERO because he's valued for his creativity and intelligence. My son plays with Captain America and thinks about what make Steve Rogers so extraordinary - is it his strength or his character? He and millions of other boys get to grow up weaving these narratives into their sense of who they are and who they want to be.

Meanwhile, my daughters get vapid looking mannequins with a glitter-pooping rabbits. They get Barbie and her "Glam Laundry" play set.

 There are other Barbie sets that are super fun; but maybe not so much for the glitter poo toys,
even if you like playing with poo.
That's not what they want. They want gun-toting former assassins who took control of their own destiny and now help save the world on a fairly regular basis. Can you blame them? I want all my kids to grow up to be heroes. I want them to accept their own imperfection, be brave in the face of adversity, help other people (especially those in need), and stand up for what's right. Those are themes that run through these stories and that's why they have such universal appeal.

So why aren't you making and marketing these toys for girls, Marvel? You have the chance to do it right this time. This article does a better job than I ever could articulating why Marvel should change course on this. Why not make Age of Ultron the test case for developing merchandise for girls and boys in equal measure? Is it because female action figures don't fit squarely in either the pink aisle or the boy aisle of the toy department? Do you think girls don't want to play with these toys or that their parents won't want to buy them? Because I would love to give you my money, friends. You start making kick ass action figures and merchandise of your female heroes, and I will buy all that I can afford, and I'm not alone.

And consider that of the Marvel fans in my family - 3/5 are female. And guess which member of this household makes most of the purchasing decisions about toys, clothes, family entertainment, and vacations? That would be me - the mom. Women control 2/3 of buying power in the US. And your merchandise choices are conditioning the next generation of women that these products are not really for them. And that stinks because what you do is awesome.

While you were busy wasting retail opportunities, we made our own Black Widow 12" action figure using a cheapo "fashion doll", some left-over Barbie clothes, and a black sharpie. She's not that awesome, but she's a lot better than nothing, which is what's currently available to buy from Marvel.

The real Black Widow wouldn't be smiling, wearing pink sneakers, or have such a big face.
But whatever, she's saved toy Captain America's backside at least twice this afternoon.

Disclosure: So, technically I work for Disney (sort of) since I got paid last year for stuff I wrote for Babble, which is owned by Disney. While I don't think I've actually written anything for them since late 2013, I need to say that working for Babble was a great experience and one I was very lucky to have. I also did two sponsored posts last year for Marvel Universe Live. I hope this proves that I'm not trying to slam either company. I love both Disney and Marvel, LOVE THEM, and that's why I'm bummed about the lack of merchandise options for my daughters. If Marvel and Disney, or any of you reading this, think I've gotten it wrong and I'm missing something - feel free to let me know. 

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2015

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. Better yet - subscribe! Mostly because Facebook is now so dumb that our updates don't even show up in our own feed anymore.


  1. AMEN! I could see them not making the demarcation figures if they were sub-characters, but these ladies were badass main characters. Black widow has just as much screen time as captain America. What gives Marvel?

  2. A few years ago for May the 4th, Star Wars day, we wanted a photo of all the characters standing around our fun dinner (Grill-enium falcon, Boba fettucini, etc). I only have a son, so we had plenty of characters for everyone but Princess Leia and I needed SOMETHING for the dessert - cinnamon buns. I purchased a Polly-Pocket type doll of Leia which came with many of her outfits. She was so lovely and cute looking - much better than the man-faced regular lineup doll. When we were done with the day, I never thought my son would play with her, but he did! He liked switching out her outfits. How about THAT, gender police?

  3. I'd like to offer a similar argument for boys--my son has loved Dora the Explorer since he could walk--he's now six--and everything they have for sale for Dora is pink princess crap. Her name is Dora the Explorer--not Dora the Princess. Dora is awesome for little KIDS...notice I didn't say little girls. She taught him some wonderful reasoning skills, reinforced counting, taught some Spanish, and lots of other great things. And the Marketing people sell her as a [vapid] princess. Shame on them. Like you, I would have purchased a ton of gender neutral or boy items with Dora the Explorer on them. But I refuse to dress my son up as a Princess...especially those vapid ones being marketed to little kids.

    My son still loves Dora--she's got a new show with her more grown-up self--and I still keep looking for Dora items. A fruitless effort...sadly.

    Here's to finding a Dora for boys, and a Black Widow for Mini!

    1. Exactly! My son, too. I did manage to find a red Dora hat once and bought it right away, but everything else has been mostly pink or light purple. I don't like that for my daughter, either.
      More options for everyone!

  4. I thought you were just complaining for complaining sakes, but I think you are right. There is no way Hawkeye should get billing over Black Widow. Maybe Scarlett Johannson asked for too much money for her likeness?

  5. Yes, Yes, and well YES!!!! All my daughter wanted was a girl super hero, instead she got a Barbie she revamped. At least we had Princess Leia when we were growing up. Now? She is harder to spot than that Weirdo Where's Waldo

  6. What cracks me up about this is the lack of understanding of this character. She is a former KGB agent/spy, her skills are her wielding guns and knives of all sorts. That's it, GUNS and KNIVES for this beauty. Yes, very cool, everyone loves her, we all agree. BUT.... think about what you are asking. Can you imagine all the mommies of the world running to the stores to buy their kids the Black Widow with pistols drawn, knives in her pants, AR15 assault rifle drawn... oh how the playground would look. Don't get me wrong, this would be awesome, but we don't live in that wold now, people are afraid of guns. They aren't afraid of lasers, shields, bows and arrows, big muscles, etc. that all the other Avengers use. It all comes down to marketing and offending the general public. Just think of the media storm this would create. Big miss on your evaluation, you clearly don't know the Black Widow character.

    1. Anonymous, in this post I clearly state that I'M AWARE she's a former assassin. The male action figures we already have in my house come with guns, lasers, blasters, etc so why on earth would I object to Black Widow having weapons? Can I imagine all the mommies running out to buy Black Widow with gauntlets and guns? YES - because it's consistent with her character, both in the movies and the comics. Why is it so hard for you to imagine that women and girls are actually fans of this franchise? The characters' origins stories are what make them compelling (as I discussed in the post). And I agree with you - it does all come down to marketing - specifically to the companies who license these characters from Marvel and Disney believing as you clearly do, that little girls and "all the mommies" have no interest in characters like Black Widow and Gamora. I don't believe that to be true and I'd like for it to change.

  7. My little guy LOVES Wonder Woman. It's super frustrating that I can't find anything Wonder Woman for him!

  8. No.Question! Winter Soldier rocks! I'm not even sure that the original was better. I'll have to go watch them again to see (yay).

  9. Frustrated by the exact same issues, for a long, long time--what are we going to do about it? I'm serious, and hoping someone has some ideas. Expressing our frustration on websites and social media is useful for making us realize we're not alone, but doesn't make changes in the marketplace. What do we do? Owning even a single share of stock in Disney gives you access to the executive q and a session with Disney CEO at the annual shareholders meeting. Maybe going as a group to the next meeting? Anyone out there want to get together to try some kind of action on this issue?

  10. This essay is spot on. What also flummoxes me is that Marvel & Disney would also tap into the fangirl market - Women in their 20's 30's and 40's (and older) who also love these characters. While I'm a grown up Mom with a job who pays taxes, I would buy some of these figures for me! And I bet my son would like them too. A set isn't complete unless it includes ALL of the characters.

  11. We bought paw patrol material to make a blanket out of. Sky (the only female) was missing!

    1. Yes! I skipped on buying my son a number of Paw Patrol items this Christmas for that exact reason. It just pissed me off sooooo much. She's already freakin' pink (because the girl character always has to be freakin' pink), but to just leave her off the merch? WTF?

  12. I just accidentally deleted a comment & I'm so sorry!! I have stupid fat fingers & I can't moderate comments on my stupid phone!

  13. This post hits the mark! I have a 13 year old daughter who is a huge Marvel fan, specifically, The Avengers. She walks around every store, pointing out the lack of Black Widow (and Hawkeye) merchandise and how those two characters are often left out of group artwork. She went as Nick Fury for Halloween last year, so she doesn't have a problem relating to the male characters, but would love to see more Black Widow merchandise. She also hates how much of the Marvel merchandise that is marketed toward teen girls gets "pinked out". She doesn't want a Capt America shirt that is pink, she wants the same one that's in the teen boys section that is too big for her. Marvel and Disney are really missing the boat on this.

  14. Unfortunately, I think Disney knows exactly what it is doing on this, as ugly as it is. Disney was being seen as a "girls'" company because of their obsession with princesses, so they bought Marvel to tap into the "boys'" market. Female superheroes would compete with princesses (in their mind) and so therefore, no female superhero action figures.

    Now as for what they should do, they should have action figures of both the badass princesses and the superheroes. Can you imagine Elsa, Mulan, Merida, and Black Widow on a team together?

    As for Wonder Woman merchandise, there's a huge amount of it, but most of it seems oriented towards adult women, not kids. There's a lot of cute stuff, but not necessarily things that fit with the 12-inch play group.

  15. I preach this. A lot of people don't seem to know girls play with what's considered "guy toys" and guys can play with what's considered "girl toys". This sort of stuff I hate same With the whole T-shirts that Disney sells too.

  16. Grandmaz in MobileJanuary 11, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    Jan 11, 2016, still no 12in Black Widow! My granddaughter will be disappointed again!

  17. THis has always been the case. I loved He-Man when I was little and before SHe-ra came out, all I wanted was Evil-Lynn and Teela. They made them, but they are hard to find. Now my Son loves the avengers and he wants all of them b/c he likes complete collections. He also likes me to play with him and makes me pretend his extra Hawkeye is Black Widow. I liked action heroes, and I know my nieces did. I just don't understand why things have to be so extreme one way or the other. THe avengers need to add a few more girls to the movies, which I believe they are doing. Then it would be pretty equal. Why does Princess Sophia have to have all princesses or Jake and the NEverland pirate have one girl.Like someone else mentioned even the Paw Patrol is mostly boys.Skye was the only girl until Evverist who is only a guest star. Why 5 to 1 1/2 boy-girl ratio. My son wanted his Skyye and Everist to complete his set.
    My son likes Doc Mcstuffins. I got him the the pink/purple Doctors case. Girls like action heroes, sports, and spies. Why can't there be more oriented to unisex or equal representation.

  18. My son wants Black Widow because that is the last 12 action figure he don't have. We need Black Widow. You can buy one for over $200 on Ebay but they must be on rocks.

  19. I'd like to know your opinion now that we got a 12 inch Titan hero Series Black Widow. In my humble opinion she is amazing and fierce looking




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts