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Guns for girls: Hasbro unveils Nerf Rebelle line

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Nerf Heartbreaker (Credit: Hasbro)

The days when toy guns were a product only associated with young boys could be numbered.

Among Hasbro’s offerings at the 2013 New York Toy Fair, taking place this week, is a range of Nerf guns aimed squarely at the hearts of girls.

It’s quite a departure for the storied toy gun franchise. Until now, most of the Nerf line has been a boys-only affair, marketed with aggressive imagery, boldly masculine colors, and high-adrenaline ads with lots of shouting and grimacing. But that sort of gender bias will take a new course this fall.

The guns in the new Rebelle range look every inch the princess. Colored white, pink, and purple, they’re detailed not with speed holes and militaristic emblems but with bold feather- and wing-shaped decals, and they can still match the more masculine Nerf toys shot-for-shot.

That means they’ll shoot the included darts as far as 75 feet and boast extras like multiple fire modes, accessory rails, and integral ammo storage. Everything today’s tween girls need, in other words, to take on the boys in what has until now been a primarily male pursuit. If you’ve ever been on the wrong end of a Nerf barrage from your brothers, you’re probably drafting this year’s letters to Santa already.

Will playing with gender stereotypes pay off? It sure did for Hasbro rival Lego, which pioneered the tactic last year with its “Friends” range, girl-targeted versions of its construction toys with pink bricks, larger, more feminine minifigures, and a strong focus on character-driven play.

Though it attracted some criticism from feminist pressure groups at its debut, it proved a smash hit with consumers, becoming one of the company’s five top-selling brands in 2012 and netting an impressive collection of industry awards to boot. Unsurprisingly, the Friends line will be significantly expanded over the course of 2013.

Hasbro is taking a different tack with toy gender issues elsewhere in their catalog, however: the company’s new Easy-Bake line of toy ovens. Introduced after a New Jersey teen complained that she couldn’t find a cooking toy made in appropriate colors for her four-year-old, cooking-crazy brother, the updated Easy-Bake oven will be released later this year in celebration of its 50th anniversary, boasting a gender-neutral, modern paint job and -- so Hasbro hopes -- a broader appeal.

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