A few years back, fans of the Star Wars franchise noticed a weird omission in some of the toys and merchandise produced for The Force Awakens: There was precious little stuff with Daisy Ridley’s Rey on it, despite the fact that she is, pretty inarguably, the main character of this new trilogy of films. Thus was the #WheresRey hashtag born on Twitter, demanding that Disney give people a chance to put everyone’s favorite female Force-sensitive desert dweller on their various torsos and phones. Said campaign has mostly been a success, but it’s now spawned a sort of sister movement, one centered on a character whose performer—like Ridley—has been largely hounded off of social media due to the loudly shouted opinions of certain contingents of Star Wars “fans”: Kelly Marie Tran’s heroic mechanic Rose Tico.
And while tracking the interests and main thrusts of this sort of Twitter-based campaign is about as easy as keeping track of the individual points of view of every single person participating in it, the #WheresRose campaign does appear to have two major foci, one more difficult to parse and “from a certain point of view” our way through than the other. To wit, it’s been damnedly difficult to work out every aspect of the allegation—outlined in a set of tweets by user Jenny Nicholson—that Disney has deliberately removed Rose from certain ensemble shots on merchandise, a claim that cites what are purported to be early leaked versions of things like poster designs for The Rise Of Skywalker and various product line-up reveals, and which was presumably motivated on Disney’s part by a desire to get people to stop yelling at them for five seconds, for once. (Something they’ve obviously failed at, if that was, indeed the goal.)
This is all kind of murky, though, on the grounds that this is the internet—and y’know, Photoshop exists—but there do appear to be concrete examples of official art being adjusted to remove the character, who was a prominent (if loudly debated) part of The Last Jedi—and also the first major Asian character in the Star Wars franchise of films. For instance, that “REBEL” shirt in the photographs above is clearly the same one available here, sans Rose (although it’s worth noting that it’s still, per that link, available in its Tico-full version on the official Disney store). In other instances, images seem to show art being lifted from materials like the Resistance Heroes line of books for shirts (like this officially licensed one from the UK’s Absolute Cult) that cut Rose off of the picture.
And, just to make sure this is all extra baffling, while Disney has yet to comment on the controversy, artist Brian Rood—whose version of an official Rise Of Skywalker painting exists in both Rosed and non-Rosed forms—has engaged directly with the #WheresRose followers, claiming that she was absent from earlier versions because Disney was still working out the character’s look for the new film, but has now been added in. (What does that even mean, given that the film has been done shooting for months now? We don’t know, and also we have a headache from an hour of looking at mostly terrible Star Wars merch.)
The other argument, meanwhile, is easier, and less convoluted, to grasp: There’s just not a lot of officially licensed Rose merch for fans of the character to own—a shirt or two, a tote bag with the same image, and pretty much zero new toys. Now, you can argue that that’s just market forces—rather than bowing down to the Rose Tico Irrational Hate Team—but it’s still an obvious, and vocally expressed, bummer for those people happy to see a wider array of characters in the Star Wars universe, and hoping to celebrate their fandom by giving Disney their cash.