I’m going to start up front by saying, “y’all, if you aren’t watching Marvel Rising already, then you must do so post haste.” Like, drop everything you’re doing to do that. Next, I’m going to be 100% honest and explain, I loved this show so very much that I reached out to ask Hasbro for a review sample of the toy tie-ins which they very kindly supplied. If you want to encourage body positivity, racial equity, and play this holiday season, I can’t stress Hasbro’s Marvel Rising series enough.
Why Pre-Existing Characters Matter in Play
Balancing the need for open-ended play with the need to teach empathy through fiction means that we parents need to find out own balance. It’s often hard for parents to remember that kids don’t come automatically programmed to have and understand emotions and empathy. After all, it seems reasonable to us so why do kids smack each other for a crayon in preschool?
Parents and educators recognize the importance of guided play in preschooler brain development. The joy of play makes it easy for kids to want to learn and be engaged in it.
As parents look to embrace a better world for our kids, there’s a lot to be said for the idea that branded characters promote white mainstream culture as well as a certain sense of consumerism and commercialism. Research indicates that young girls of color internalize white privilege by being surrounded by the proliferation of white princess culture.
On the other hand, part of the problem historically lies in there being too few heroines and princesses of color available for these kids. Trends in scientific research note the fiction’s importance in helping teach children empathy.
And this, my geek family friends is why Hasbro’s Marvel Rising toyline matters.
How Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Brings Diversity to Life
Disney’s Marvel Rising television show brings tears of joy to my eyes. The diversity is natural, not forced. Kamala is as we love her. Quake rocks. America is equal parts tough and sensitive. Doreen is just her exuberant self. Dante and Patriot model non-toxic masculinity. It’s a total package. When you talk to the creators, all of this is 100% purposeful.
So, I worried that the toys were going to fall back and disappoint me. After all, in a mass-produced world, we’ve come to expect that toylines sound cool but really use previously designed molds with slight differences.
However, Hasbro outdid themselves.
No, really. I mean it.
Yes, I swear, I’m serious.
And, by all accounts, this was purposeful. Just like the show, y’all. When I asked the representative about the bodies, I received the response,
Hasbro strives to create products that accurately capture the strong heroes of the Marvel Rising universe. This includes consistently refining our production process to ensure we provide our fans with the most screen-accurate figures. Each character has unique molds tailored to the specific character to match animation, but there are some shared parts.
If you think about the fact that a mold can cost on average $12,000 to make, that means that Hasbro sunk a good chunk into creating these figures. In a podcast, a toy designer explained that designers have to keep in mind when creating molds that the companies have to strike a delicate balance between design cost and customer price point.
When you think about the considerable risk that Hasbro took in committing to a line of toys that offers unique designs for each character, it shows their commitment.
How are the Marvel Rising figures body positive?
When I unpackaged the Marvel Rising figures, I was more than impressed by the way in which the female character bodies aligned with real life.
For me, it was America Chavez whose body spoke most loudly. Let me explain. I’m a girl with a lot of junk in my trunk, and I don’t just mean all the soccer equipment in my car.
America’s body has some of the best booty I’ve ever seen in a kid’s toy. Her proportions, based on my measurements, are
Meanwhile, Quake’s body measurements are:
Then we can take a look at Kamala, and hers are:
As a woman and mom, this is pretty huge.
I love that America is curvy, well-proportioned, and not oversexualized. While America has the largest bust and hip size, she also sports a more appropriate waist size to keep her from having an unreasonable body proportion.
Meanwhile, Quake’s body shows a difference in proportions. She’s less curvy but also maintains a pretty decent athletic body and proportions that show this. Her lower bust and hips align to a smaller waist.
Finally, and most important when we’re looking at a teenaged female character, Kamala has the smallest bust size of all. Her proportions align well with a young woman’s body.
Readers, this is what we’ve been asking for in toys geared towards kids, and specifically young girls, for years.
But not just for girls, let’s think about how important it is to see a toy that will be in all the toy departments that little boys also walk through normalizing a female body that has appropriate proportions.
This totally makes me 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 because I can’t even.
Just as important, but less mathematically discernible, is the way Hasbro created Patriot. The boy is ripped, no doubt. He’s definitely sporting some solid six pack all up in those abs. However, just like a real human, there’s a softness to them. It’s not angular. It’s not so defined as to be unrealistic. It shows a nice, rounded, healthy muscular structure that someone who works out to stay healthy would have.
Kids now have reality-based body representation in toys — diverse body representation.
How Hasbro’s Marvel Rising toy line has clothing that aligns to body image
Body shape alone doesn’t a heroine toy make. One of the things that geek moms know is that media often oversexualizes our heroines.
Not this toy line.
Every character has an outfit that is functional and loose fitting without lacking fashion.
America sports a red hoodie that’s just loose enough to keep her from being sexualized and just tight enough to keep her from looking like she’s wearing a sack.
Quake is wearing hip-hugger jeans and a slightly cropped top, but she doesn’t sport any major inappropriate cleavage or belly button that could be considered appealing to the male gaze.
Kamala’s burkini is perfect. Form-fitting, but not so much so that it seems sexualized.
Patriot, too, sports an outfit that is functional. There’s a little bit of loose fabric so that there’s give in his one-piece stretchy suit.
In other words, once again, Hasbro got this right.
How did Hasbro handle racial diversity?
Pretty beautifully, says the really white lady. Each skin tone is unique. Kamala and America have different skin shades, but neither promotes something considered stereotypical.
Quake isn’t the typical super-white skin that we often see. She’s a paler color by far, but she also lacks that super-pinky white coding that often comes with white, female characters.
Patriot is not only clearly coded as a Black male, but his plastic hair has enough texture to align to Black hair.
Again, well-played Hasbro.
What about the details?
Different figures have different points of articulation. America’s knees don’t move but the other three all have knee articulation.
Kamala and Patriot also have elbow articulation.
Kamala comes with two different hands so that one can EMBIGGEN!
I love the way Quake’s hair has awesome purple highlights and isn’t all one color.
I also have an internal love of the fact that the shoes have to fit the correct foot. The left and right feet are different. I learned this accidentally when I was frustrated by putting shoes back on.
They all have toes. Toes, people. Actual, delineated, toes.
Best of all? Even though Quake is wearing boots that don’t have flat heels, every character stands up easily without falling over.
So yeah, the details do matter. And Hasbro did a fantastic job.
Does Hasbro’s Marvel Rising line pass the test?
Almost definitely. My 9 yr old was a bit bummed that Patriot smiles too much because that’s not entirely within the character. I’m clearly going to have to buy the Dante figure because kiddo was bummed their favorite character wasn’t part of our review selection. But, I’m totally down to support that.
So yes, if you’re looking to give a super geeky gift this season that empowers kids with racial and gender diversity? This is the toy.