I don’t know how it went down where you live, but Force Friday II was a rather subdued event in my town.
There didn’t seem to be any midnight previews or parties scheduled at local shops. Though a couple of stores put on a good show with displays and row upon row of merchandise, there was a general air of disinterest amongst the early Labor Day shoppers Friday morning.
From what I’ve read online and seen on Facebook, other cities made more effort, but I suppose it was inevitable that enthusiasm would have waned a bit after 2015’s inaugural Force Friday, which heralded the arrival of the first Star Wars film in a decade, “The Force Awakens.”
For the uninitiated, or those who have a life that doesn’t involve obsessing over Star Wars, Force Friday II kicked off early this morning. A stroke of marketing genius and hype, it’s the day Disney designates to release all the new merchandise relating to an upcoming Star Wars film — in this case, “The Last Jedi,” which won’t hit theaters until Dec. 15.
I’m not one of those die-hard collectors who shows up at 10 p.m. the night before to line up to buy Sphero’s R2-D2 App-Enabled Droids, exclusive Funko Pops, or six-inch Star Wars Black Series action figures, all sold-out before 8 a.m.
Ever the slacker, I meandered over to my local Target around 10:30 a.m. This is where the party — if you can call me wandering around by myself, clad head to toe in Star Wars attire and generally looking like a nerd, a party — was definitely at.
Target and Toys ‘R’ Us definitely made the best show of things in my town with plentiful stock, fun decor, interactive displays, and lots of images to scan with your phone if you happened to be playing the Find the Force augmented reality scavenger hunt.
As you can see above, many of the action figures had been picked over at this point, but in general there was still a plentiful array of merchandise to choose from. There was no sign at all of the much coveted interactive Sphero R2-D2. If you’ve seen video of this sassy little R2 unit, you’ll understand why he was one of the most popular Force Friday II scores, even at the price of $180. (He’s still in stock on Sphero’s website.)
In 2015, everyone fell in love with the orange-and-white, spherical droid BB-8, despite the fact that we as yet had no idea if he’d annoy us Jar Jar-style in “The Force Awakens.”
This year, it’s the cute and cuddly Porgs — a cross between a hamster and a penguin — that are stealing hearts even though we’ve yet to see them on-screen. I am not immune to the Porg’s buggy-eyed charms. I had to work mightily to restrain myself from buying a plush version of the little critter, I’ll admit.
Aside from Target and Toys ‘R’ Us, the remainder of my Force Friday adventuring was a bust. You know something weird is going on when JC Penney has a better display and selection of merch than Hot Topic. And it was business as usual at GameStop, aka nerd central.
It was in JC Penney that I noticed the generous assortment of T-shirts on display at the store’s entrance were largely, if not all, designed for men. This brings us to an important question.
How gender inclusive is “The Last Jedi” merchandise looking at this point?
Judging by what I saw at JC Penney and Hot Topic, maybe not so good. With businesses like Her Universe and even Disney itself selling Star Wars fashions to women at a frenzied pace, it makes no sense to me that the managers of these stores would assume only men would be hunting for Star Wars bargain tees on Force Friday.
Target, on the other hand, featured a decent range of Star Wars clothing for girls and women, including the vibrant Rebels tee below.
And when it comes to toys, there seems to be a lot less cause for a repeat of the “where’s Rey?” controversy that arose in 2015 with the scarcity of merch featuring Daisy Ridley’s character, even though she was the star of “The Force Awakens.”
So far, I’m pleased with the amount of Rey products I’m seeing and I spotted a good selection of Star Wars toys geared toward girls.
I think there’s still room for improvement when it comes to gender equality in the Star Wars universe, but it looks like Disney has taken some positive steps forward.
If you didn’t get to do all the Force Friday II shopping you wanted today, there’s still time. The following online retailers might be worth checking out for discounted Star Wars items and new merch:
Tell me about your Force Friday II experience. Did you score some epic merchandise? Did you take any awesome selfies? Share in the comments.