This is not the post I was planning to write. October’s ComLINKS was to be a reflection on our experiences of Rogue Friday and the frenetic quest to gather new Rogue One merchandise on the day it dropped. Hannah (my dear friend, fellow Star Wars fanatic, co-worker and co-conspirator for many work shenanigans) and I headed out after school, excited at the prospects of what the sequel to our Force Friday adventure would yield. We were completely unprepared for what we would find…
For a little background, Hannah and I actually went to college together (and were even at the same midnight showing of Revenge Of The Sith!!!) but we never met before she began working at Mercyhurst Prep as our Campus Minister/Theology teacher in the 2014/15 school year. It was a fun first year but, as Hannah’s said, it was our Force Friday outing at the start of her second year when we knew we “were destined for our epic friendship.” I had second mod off as my planning period that day and the Force was clearly with us because second mod runs from roughly 10:00-11:30am. The mall was just opening! Our route was preplanned. We hit five stores (JC Penney, Hot Topic, FYE, Books-A-Million, Toys ‘R’ Us, and, of course, Auntie Anne’s for a hot pretzel because how could we not?? The day’s about joy!) and we didn’t even have time to look at any place outside of the mall. We only scratched the surface of what was out in all of our local Erie stores in that hour and a half!! I mean, technically, there’s a chance that maybe we went a little over my hour and a half prep time and we might’ve had to send a panicked text to Matthew (another good friend, shenanigan co-conspirator, and theology teacher) who graciously covered the first few moments of my next class until we arrived (after having run – full out – across the parking lot and through the halls of the school) with our bags of The Force Awakens merch in hand.
It was so exciting!!! The anticipation for The Force Awakens was in the air and EVERYWHERE we went was filled with everything Star Wars. In the lead up to The Force Awakens even stores that never seemed to carry pop culture products (like Bon-Ton for example (as Jeff so aptly puts it, “Bon-Ton is our parking lot for when we go get pretzels. That lets us enjoy the mall on our walk to and from Auntie Anne’s.”)) were filled with Star Wars stuff. Was it a little much? Sure. Of course. But it didn’t matter. LUKE, HAN, LEIA, AND CHEWIE WERE COMING BACK TO THEATRES IN THEIR FIRST NEW BIG SCREEN ADVENTURE IN THIRTY YEARS!!!!! The gallery below will illustrate some of the fantastic Star Wars displays we found in our fandom-fuelled quest for new stuff and we returned with t-shirts, toys, and the memory of a really fun day.
With such a fantastic adventure last year, we were counting down the days for this year’s Rogue Friday. There was lamentations as Disney kept sliding the date back but, as Yoda counsels, we practiced patience. Then the 30th of September finally arrived. Now, it would be a packed afternoon. Hannah and her husband Dave had dinner plans. And as I mentioned in a previous post, Kalie’s sister was getting married (As I said before – yay! I love weddings :). We had so much fun and we got to dance a lot!) that weekend too. So I had a rehearsal dinner to be dressed and ready for. Our time was limited but our excitement was high and our focus intense. We could do this. We were ready to roll. Hannah picked her daughter up from school. We met at Auntie Anne’s for fuel for the journey. Then the time had FINALLY come. We were off!!!
And we found…nothing.
I mean it. There was nothing out there. In an hour we had explored JC Penney, FYE, Hot Topic, Books-A-Million, Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us, Target, Kohl’s…everywhere we could conceive of as having the potential to feature a lot of Star Wars stuff (save Wal-Mart which, for ethical reasons, neither of us will shop at) and we found nothing. There were a few posters hanging. We found a handful of toys (thankfully Jyn Erso was among the Black Series figures, Funko POPs, and such). We saw maybe four or five Rogue One-specific t-shirts. The overwhelming majority of what we found was repackaged The Force Awakens merchandise and a lot of stuff from Rebels. Unlike last year, the only photo op display we found was at the entrance to Target.
I will be the first to admit, I was a little overeager with my buying of Force Awakens merch. And, after I saw the movie, I really didn’t like it enough to warrant all the t-shirts and other miscellaneous stuff I now owned with The Force Awakens stamped on it. Sure, the movie was fun – but it wasn’t Lucas’ vision/work and his absence was painfully obvious. It wasn’t the same. Still, it was an event and I now look at (alllll) those Force Awakens purchases and see them as a fun reminder of the rampant excitement for the potential of the Disney Canon era of Star Wars (even if it didn’t live up to what I was hoping for). So, at the outset, I wasn’t planning on buying a ton of Rogue One merchandise. Hannah, sharing my feelings of disappointment with The Force Awakens, was of a similar mindset. BUT we are still STAR WARS FANS and we wanted to see some great Rogue One stuff! We were hoping to buy something exciting! I wanted at least one new Rogue One shirt and I was looking for maybe a little Rogue One ship to go with the new-radar-dish Falcon and Poe’s X-Wing that I bought last year to adorn my filing cabinet at work. But we didn’t find much. And what we found wasn’t worthy of our purchases.
At first we thought it was an issue of our shopping too late in the day. However, Target had emailed/texted that all of their Rogue One merchandise was restocked by the time we arrived. Toys ‘R’ Us (and all the other stores we visited) didn’t have gaping holes on their shelves where merchandise was. Rather, all the shelves looked relatively full. They just weren’t brimming with Rogue One items as they were last year with The Force Awakens stuff. There were no signs to indicate that we missed all the good stuff. Toys ‘R’ Us even had the free giveaways left from the night before at the table in the front of the store.
Then we thought maybe it was a market thing. Maybe little Erie, PA didn’t warrant the full slate of Rogue One merchandise other cities got. Sure, that may be possible. But nothing? Last year you couldn’t throw a rock in town without hitting some sort of Star Wars display. And I saw a lot of those items purchased! (I may have compulsively looked at every Star Wars display in every store I walked through every time I walked through it from September through January last year so I might have been able to keep track of these sorts of things…you know, maybe.) So there is a market for Star Wars stuff here even if it isn’t as big as it may be in other, larger cities.
Perhaps Disney learned a lesson last year about putting a ton of merchandise out before a movie’s release. Maybe they realized it’s only the crazy, hardcore fans who will go out in droves to buy this stuff before they see the movie and the general public will wait until they see the film, not wanting to decorate their chest with a Rogue One t-shirt before they even know if they like it. Okay, that’s fair. I’ll grant that. But if that’s the case, then don’t make it an event. Rogue Friday was supposed to be an exciting day! Sadly, in the end, we just ended up feeling very, very disappointed. We hit more stores in less time than last year because we’d go in, sadly realize how little (if anything) was there, and move on. The only interesting thing we found was Luke’s/Anakin’s lightsaber, now packaged and noted as Rey’s lightsaber. I’m sure this product was probably out earlier (you know, once Disney decided to actually manufacture Rey stuff) but neither of us had seen it before now. That was intriguing. But there wasn’t anything to really whet our appetites for Rogue One.
Our disappointment grew with each stop. And, honestly, a week later we’re still sort of trying to process the whole thing. But, you know what? So we didn’t get any great new Rogue One stuff. At the end of the day, Star Wars should never primarily be about the stuff we get with “Star Wars” stamped on it anyway. Star Wars is about entering into an elegant and important modern myth created by the brilliant mind of George Lucas and allowing that myth to move you…and hopefully challenge and teach you as well. Just because we couldn’t find any fun t-shirts doesn’t mean we aren’t excited to see Rogue One. I’m proud to say I bought the very first tickets sold in Erie last year for The Force Awakens and I want to keep that tradition alive! And, I’m still going to keep my eyes open for a fun Rogue One shirt to wear on opening night too :).
This post was written in conjunction with Star Wars ComLINKS – the brainchild of Jenmarie, the blogger who runs the fabulously diverse Star Wars blog Anakin and his Angel. (You should really check out her site.) Annnnnd, if you’re someone who loves a galaxy far, far away, you should think about writing a ComLINKS post yourself! You can find out all about that here. I hope you had better luck with your Rogue Friday odyssey than we had with ours and/or I hope you will eventually have luck finding the perfect product you seek. May the Force be with you.