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.
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, this 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 about a new show. 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
When I was a kid, the “Boushh disguise” figure was the rare one, and we all wanted that one. Besides, it was f*ing cool. In the 1990s, “Slave Leia” became a thing with artwork and – for the first time! – a figure with that outfit. Live and let live, they found a new opportunity to for money; they produced a Tarkin figure for the first time, too.
To the point, though, I want to be 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” were a 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 wrote:
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
There are things in today’s world that offend me literally every day. We live in a pluralistic society. I look away, I file things for later analysis, and I might even say a prayer for the person doing something egregiously offensive. If it’s a friend, I let them know it bothered me.
I survive and I manage because I’m an adult, because that’s what adults are supposed to do. 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.
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.”
I refuse to use any qualifiers to try to give my opinion added merit through an appeal to emotion you can’t assail. That’s the most tired tactic used for any social debate. “I’m X, and therefore you can’t refute my point of Y” is a churlish and childish type of arguing.
You can look at arguments on their intellectual merit. Stop hiding behind an “emotional stake.”
That said, I’m fully cognizant of the cultural pressures my children will face. I learn every day about the dangers of the world they are entering. They are different from the world I knew at their age.
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, if it registers at all.
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, I’ll suggest, it’s a comment on how Jabba is an evil person, with 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.
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, went 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 and attention, but also because people read headlines and that’s it.
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 wanting fit in that outfit again. She even “defended” the outfit earlier this year when some idiot in Philadelphia nearly fainted from seeing the figure.
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. I’m a poor barometer, though, because I don’t buy hardly any merchandise 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. Go tell someone with a blue check mark on social media how awful I am.