The Problem with Princess Leia

This is not a think piece. This is my personal opinion on yet another marketing decision/Moment for The Cause/online kerfluffle. Typically I stay pretty quiet during these sorts of things, but I’m choosing instead to give voice here. I’ll just toss in the typical disclaimer – if you’re wont to get offended, stop here.

When I was a kid, the Boushh disguise figure was the rare one, and so we all wanted THAT one. Besides, it was f*ing cool.
When I was a kid, the Boushh disguise figure was the rare one, and so we all wanted THAT one. Besides, it was f*ing cool.

There was a bit of a reaction online when it leaked that Disney plans to stop marketing/selling Princess Leia merchandise where she is in her infamous “slave girl” outfit.

Everyone, as is typical with these sorts of discussions, quickly chose a side in the debate and began barking. The fervor has died down somewhat, but I wanted to actually think about things before reacting.

After all, always follows this pattern. For goodness’ sake, look at the way the Star Trek fanbase imploded on getting the news they’d wanted for years. Once a new show was announced, people started arguing about what needed to be on the show, the composition of the crew, what era or timeline was necessary, and so forth.

Honestly, it’s tiring. It’s even more tiring with the Princess Leia argument because it’s foolish from just as many angles.

In case you’re wondering: yes, I’m argument-shaming everyone.

Not a Fan of Slave Leia

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to be perfectly clear that I’m not a fan of the Princess Leia slave costume for the simple reason that it’s become an overplayed bit.

In short, it’s tired and worn out. Like certain references that get run into the ground by any fan base, the slave costume took on monstrous proportions of reference. Bits get old. In fact, references to “Slave Leia” was part of my list years ago (April 2011!) of the Five Star Wars Memes That Need to Be Retired Permanently.

Too lazy to click the link? Here’s a key piece of what I said:

So let’s retire this inanity already. Yes, Carrie Fisher was attractive back then. Yes, she looked good in the outfit. But this whole meme dragged post-pubescent vileness into a sacrosanct area of childhood and forever tarnished its memory so that you can hardly watch that part of the film anymore.

Shame on us. Shame on us all. Let’s all make a pact that if the film is targeted at kids, we stop making obscene sexual references? Let’s try to stop being hipster cynics and just let things alone.

So once again: Not a fan of the bit.

In light of that, though, let’s unpack the rest of the discussion fairly.

Perceptions and Reality

I am a devoutly religious man. There are things in today’s world that offend me literally every day. But we live in a pluralistic society (for now).

I look away, I file things for later analysis, and I might even say a prayer for the person doing it if it’s egregious. If it’s a friend, I let them know it bothered me.

And I survive. I manage. Because I’m an adult, and that’s what adults are supposed to do. Contextualize things and understand that you’re not so special as to be protected from offense. Because if you’re special enough to be protected from offense, so am I, and let’s just split things up so we can live in our tribes and let America fall apart.

The impression is that Slave Leia is being retired because of the sensibilities of an easily-offended segment of the population.

If that’s the case, then yes, I think it’s idiotic.

What It’s Really About

I know I might blow someone’s mind here, but Princess Leia in Slave Outfit is not the worst thing they could market.

Hear me out before you get a case of the vapors.

Anakin Skywalker
Men, Women, CHILDREN, friends. He MURDERS them. Totes cool to buy his figure tho.

They might market the figure of a person who takes advantage of a corrupt political system, and calls for hope and change, to his own advantage and gain. Someone who, through working in the shadows with people of questionable character, instigates pogroms against enemies of the state.

No, not Josef Stalin, who enjoys his own baby onesie on the same Amazon.com. I’m talking about Palpatine. Remember him and his ruthless murder of everyone both against and with him? Good times.

I suppose that’s not crazy enough an angle for some.

Imagine if they marketed an action figure for a character who kills an entire tribe of people, murders his own wife and flat-out slaughters defenseless children.

Oh, I see.

It’s the just your puritanical hatred of sexuality that makes you hate “Slave Leia.”

The Qualifiers

I am the proud father of three daughters. I mention that specifically because everyone seems to need a qualifier to wade into any social debate now.

I mean, Heaven forbid you look at any situation from an intellectual angle only. It seems you have to have an “emotional stake.” So, there you go: Daughters. Also, I’m the son of an incredibly strong and resilient mother who’d agree with me.

I’m fully cognizant of the cultural pressures my daughters will face. I learn every day about the dangers of the world they are entering. They are both different from when I and my wife were kids.

But.

I can tell you unequivocally that the costume of a character in a decades-old movie is the last concern on my freaking list. The costume of a character in a current movie is still in the bottom third of that list.

Anakin and the 501st
That’s OK, buy this figure. All of these figures. They only slaughter defenseless children.

Parenting is hard. It requires constant vigilance, an informed opinion, and a conscious decision to raise your children to think critically and analytically. It’s tiring. It requires figuring out how to turn situations into learning lessons.

In this case, if they noticed Princess Leia’s outfit in Return of the Jedi, and they had some question about it, I’d invite them to examine what it tells them about Jabba the Hutt that he would treat Princess Leia so shabbily.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s a comment on how Jabba is an evil person. Perhaps it’s a comment on how, in the existing story arc of all six movies, he’s representative of an outmoded form of thinking about women. After all, Leia isn’t his only chained up dancer girl; he straight up murders one before she even arrives on scene.

These are all things that are there in the context of the story. I know it requires some form of effort to look beyond the surface of something to see the meaning.

Perhaps I could use this whole argument about Princess Leia’s clothing as a reflection on the point at which society is, in terms of its collective inability to do anything but react to first impressions.

Maybe arguments like this highlight how the Social Media Age is defined by Instant Outrage as opposed to Considered Reactions.

A Note About Carrie Fisher’s words

Carrie Fisher, God love her, has been through a lot. I would never try to diminish what she has overcome. As someone who struggled with some awful demons in the past, I like to think I understand the fire even if it didn’t burn me as badly.

However, I believe that her current comments about the slave costume are a bit of an overstatement as she warned a new actress about how ridiculous fans can get in their devotion…which is a fair warning, all things considered.

Most importantly, they wrote catchy headlines that are open to misinterpretation and overstatement by those who want to use her words to support a cause. Because it can get them clicks, but also because people read headlines and that’s it, pretty much. 140 characters or less, amirite?

I saw her at a convention where she joked and embraced the idea of being the catalyst for a generation’s sexual awakening. Was it defensive deflection? Maybe. But she went to that well a lot in other interviews, and wistfully joked about wishing to be fit enough to wear that outfit again. She even “defended” the outfit earlier this year when some idiot in Philadelphia nearly fainted from seeing the figure.

The horror.

In Conclusion

Again, I am not a particular fan of the “Slave Leia” bit. I don’t buy the figures and I’m not going to cry if I can’t; primarily because I don’t buy a lot of merchandise of any kind anymore.

But check the reasoning here, everyone. This seems a ridiculous step to take just because some thin-skinned children are acting like…thin-skinned children.

That’s my two cents. Spend it how you will.

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