Monday, November 16, 2015

Slave Leia/Princess Leia is a great role model for feminism in action films

In my opinion, it's never a bad time for action-movie fans to to talk about feminism. Especially men.

Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen is a great role model for being strong, independent and a leader (albeit a reluctant one). Next Friday's release of "The Hunger Games" Mockingjay - Part 2" will bring home just what a difference an empowered woman can make.

The most recent James Bond film "Spectre" delivers Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann, a woman who knows how to take care of herself.

Swann isn't the stereotypical fall-into-007's-arms "Bond girl" or a seductive femme fatale. (Granted, at 30 years old, Seydoux's character is much too young for Daniel Craig's 47-year-old Bond, but that's beside the point …!) She's an accomplished psychiatrist who has gone years without needing a man in her life — much less one who has promised (mild spoiler alert!) her dead father he would protect her. (End spoiler)
It's not just cosplayers who enjoy dressing up
in the gold bikini worn by Princess Leia in
"Return of the Jedi." Here, actress
Adrianne Curry rocks a replica of the "Slave Leia" look.

Bond soon realizes Swann can handle herself and getting to know her makes him realize there might be more to life than being an elite spy who hunts down terrorists and big baddies. If that isn't a feminist interpretation of the 007 franchise, I don't know what is!

Lately, there's been a mild uproar from "Star Wars" fans who are distressed over Disney eliminating the so-called "Slave Leia" from future merchandise.

Let's be honest — and this is something I've posted on Facebook and Twitter. The Slave Leia look won't go away as long as there are cosplayers willing to rock the gold bikini.

For the young women who wear the costume: Good on ya! If you feel confident and empowered enough to wear such something so skimpy, go for it.

Slave Leia isn't about sex. Although it is very sexy.

The problem in Disney's decision is the higher-ups aren't seeing things from the proper point of view. Maybe if the "Slave Leia" phrase were rebranded as "Leia in the Gold Bikini," future merchandise featuring the popular and sexy look no longer would include the word "slave. I contend that word is much more degrading and problematic than Carrie Fisher's memorable costume.

Meme courtesy of Dave Reidy, who posted this on the "Slave Leia Golden Bikini
Fan Club" group page on Facebook.
Disney merchandisers need to keep this in mind, too.

In "Return of the Jedi," Leia overcomes the oppression of being enslaved by Jabba the Hutt; the one-time member of Alderaan's royal family took it upon herself to kill the slimy gang boss — using her own hands and the chain that kept her at Jabba's side. That's quite the effort, especially for a woman raised on "a peaceful planet."

Meme and image courtesy of Geek Girls, Inc.
From Leia's first onscreen appearance in "Star Wars," she clearly doesn't take any crap from any male authority figure — no matter how evil or intimidating they are.

Just after being taken into custody by Imperial Stormtroopers aboard her own ship, she's quick to tell Darth Vader "only you could be so bold."

Then on the Death Star, when Leia is brought to Grand Moff Tarkin to be interrogated about the location of the Rebel base, she remains full of piss and vinegar: "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought onboard."

Leia is no passive damsel in distress, even after Luke Skywalker (who unknown to her at the time is her twin brother), Han Solo and Chewbacca break her out of the detention block.

This recently rescued princess is a woman of action. Leia shoots a hole in the wall to create an escape route in the midst of Solo and Skywalker shooting it out with Stormtroopers while trapped in a hallway outside her prison cell. Then comes one of the greatest lines in the entire film: "into the garbage shute, flyboy!"
GIF courtesy of
(For several GIFs from this same sequence, go here.)

After Leia, Solo, Chewie and Skywalker are nearly crushed to death in a trash compactor, Leia is quick to assert herself. (This scene is one of two in "Star Wars" that is full of unintentional sexual innuendos.)

"I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you'll do as I tell you, okay?," she tells Solo.

It's clear Fisher's Leia believes in taking the situation into her own hands and isn't a damsel in distress. (Do you remember how much of a good shot she is with a blaster?)

Shortly after Maggie Gyllenhall was cast as assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes in "The Dark Knight," she told various members of the press she looked to Leia for inspiration.

Actress Maggie Gyllenall
based Rachel Dawes on
the "spicy" Princess Leia.
(I used the following quotes in an August 2007 op-ed about feminism in action movies and how"when it comes to casting women in many action-adventure films, … Gyllenhaal may have nailed how clueless directors and producers can be." Go here for the post on the original Cary's Comics Craze, when it was a twice-monthly newspaper column in the NORWALK REFLECTOR.)

"You know, some people just want a girl who'll stand where they tell you to and wear what they want," Gyllenhaal told This Is Derbyshire.

Gyllenhall, whom I said has "a reputation for preferring roles in independent films and for being an insightful, hard working actress," went on to say director Christopher Nolan wanted her specifically — not just "some generic lady in a dress."

"I'm kinda thinking I'll be a bit spicy, like Carrie Fisher in 'Star Wars,'" Gyllenhaal said about her ideas for Dawes. "I'm thinking of it as an opportunity to play somebody who’s alive and smart," she told the Malaysia newspaper THE SUN.

Hey Disney, guess what? Leia is one empowered woman — a great role model for feminism.

And as Solo tells Skywalker: "She has spirit."

What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. The film industry needs to create more women like Leia who stand up for themselves — and can fight as well as their male counterparts.

Slave Leia is sexy and a badass!

Meme courtesy of Dave Reidy, who posted this on the "Slave Leia Golden Bikini Fan Club"
page on Facebook. 

1 comment:

  1. Okay, this is a really good point, sidelined only by the fact that Carrie Fisher regretted the whole thing later. For the record, I loved the scene where she uses her chain to choke Jabba to death. There are just so many things right about that scene.