8/02/2010

While I was researching Slave Leia group appearances for last week's Jedi Junkies week, I found a great article that discusses the controversial aspect of the Slave Leia costume. Called "Princess Leia and the Ubiquitous Bikini," lady geek Audrey M. Brown presents her viewpoint that the Slave Leia cosplay scene is really about sexism and exploitation, not Star Wars fandom. It really captures all the reasons why the Slave Leia phenomenon makes the geek in me uneasy, even as the red-blooded male in me enjoys it. Here are some of her points:
  • Slave Leia's costume is overexposed - Princess Leia wore many outfits throughout the Star Wars trilogy, not just the metal bikini. She had a wide assortment of costumes that female fans could dress up in, including her Endor outfit, her white outfit from the original Star Wars, but the metal bikini is disproportionately popular.
  • Portraying Slave Leia demeans her character - Princess Leia's lowest point in the original trilogy, even more than when she was tortured by Darth Vader, was as a slave for Jabba the Hutt. The outfit clearly humiliated her. So why would so many women want to portray her moment of weakness? While one could argue that Leia made the outfit a symbol of strength when she strangled Jabba to death with her chain, I think her outfit when she led the Rebellion on Hoth is a better symbol of her strength.
  • Most Slave Leia models aren't portraying Slave Leia - Even if you buy the idea that most Slave Leia costumers are trying to bring her character to life, you have to admit that most of them aren't doing a good job beyond the costume. If you cruise the gallery at Leia's Metal Bikini, you'll find most of the women smiling like beauty queens. The majority of the Slave Leia cosplayers have a look on their faces more suited to a Playboy centerfold than matching Leia's original demeanor.
  • Slave Leia is about attention, not cosplay - I think her strongest argument is that the Slave Leia phenom isn't about fandom at all. It's about attracting attention - specifically male attention. Let's face it; waving any scantily-clad woman in the face of the average male is enough to get his attention. When you put a beautiful woman in a skimpy outfit that also matches a male geek's most common fantasy, it's like pouring blood into shark-infested waters. Any woman who puts on the Slave Leia outfit and walks into a sci-fi convention is going to draw huge crowds. And maybe that's really the point.
So what do you think? Is Slave Leia about empowerment or exploitation?
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12 comments:

Audrey M. Brown said...

I just found this today because I don't have an alert on my comments section. Thanks SO MUCH for featuring my blog. It feels good to get some positive feedback vs. the usual tomatoes and rotten bananas. A girl could get used to this lack of rotten fruit...though I do miss having all the ingredients for potpourri...

monkeymigraine said...

I'm surprised about that - I think you have an excellent blog. I also posted some comments in other entries. Keep up the good work!

Nicole Donovan said...

Slave Leia, undeniably, is pretty much about any word containing "sex." Indubitably!

May I suggest that any of you stop squabbling and just respectfully use the simpler, more powerful term "sex symbol" in describing either slave Leia, Carrie Fisher, or any other Princess Leia slant, vision, or stunt double for that matter (if you like, of course... as you like it... isn't that what it's really all about? Liking it so much as to adopt it as part of yourself, if you don that golden bikini? Liking it enough to go in circles with other rabid fans to portray your personal identifications with the character across unwaveringly, waiting for their other senses to be overwhelmed and short-circuit to your central truth?) This selfish bickering about the character's (undeniably) strong character at its (most arguable) pinnacles of defeat and triumph... is both senseless and insensitive in the whole scheme of the thirty-plus-aging Star Wars universe, because both answers contain rings of truth! Quite honestly, I see how poor Carrie struggled with being stabbed, pinned, labeled "manic depressive" for simply being a bit of both worlds, in simple terms... of WORDS, people... stop over-labeling the (arguably) most powerful visualization of Leia herself! Star Wars is forever. If you INSIST on labeling some of the strongest characters to stand the test of time as giant tidal waves of forces ebb and flow... then know you that the only proper labels worth sticking to in Dagobah, are Sith and Jedi. Mmm, yes. I waited FIVE YEARS for the chance to wear a metal bikini, before I would step out pretending and hoping I was Princess Leia. A cookie, I can haz.

You don't like it, you say? 'Nuff said, move to the next line fanboy... unless you're at Celebration. Then tread very, very go-lightly...

Nicole Donovan said...

Slave Leia, undeniably, is pretty much about any word containing "sex." Indubitably!

May I suggest that any of you stop squabbling and just respectfully use the simpler, more powerful term "sex symbol" in describing either slave Leia, Carrie Fisher, or any other Princess Leia slant, vision, or stunt double for that matter (if you like, of course... as you like it... isn't that what it's really all about? Liking it so much as to adopt it as part of yourself, if you don that golden bikini? Liking it enough to go in circles with other rabid fans to portray your personal identifications with the character across unwaveringly, waiting for their other senses to be overwhelmed and short-circuit to your central truth?) This selfish bickering about the character's (undeniably) strong character at its (most arguable) pinnacles of defeat and triumph... is both senseless and insensitive in the whole scheme of the thirty-plus-aging Star Wars universe, because both answers contain rings of truth! Quite honestly, I see how poor Carrie struggled with being stabbed, pinned, labeled "manic depressive" for simply being a bit of both worlds, in simple terms... of WORDS, people... stop over-labeling the (arguably) most powerful visualization of Leia herself! Star Wars is forever. If you INSIST on labeling some of the strongest characters to stand the test of time as giant tidal waves of forces ebb and flow... then know you that the only proper labels worth sticking to in Dagobah, are Sith and Jedi. Mmm, yes. I waited FIVE YEARS for the chance to wear a metal bikini, before I would step out pretending and hoping I was Princess Leia. A cookie, I can haz.

You don't like it, you say? 'Nuff said, move to the next line fanboy... unless you're at Celebration. Then tread very, very go-lightly...

Auriette said...

I suppose you could say that, as a costume in a movie, the slave bikini is manipulative. George knew that the boys who fell in love with Star Wars in 1977 were now teenagers, and putting Leia in a bikini would keep them coming back to the movie and buying posters. In the contest of the film, perhaps it is sexist of Jabba to put the girl in a skimpy outfit so he and his friends can ogle at her. Honestly, though, why would a slug find a skinny human female attractive? It's probably more of a power thing. "I have you and now you're my slave and I can drool on you while your boyfriend watches. At least once his vision returns. And before I feed him to the Sarlaac."

Audrey M. Brown said...

@Nicole It's not as simple as I like it or I don't like it. If I had to choose one, I'd say, "I like it" for sure. I tried to be as careful as possible about not throwing any Leias under the bus, so to speak. I just think that if something so massive is happening as a movement in our sub-culture, Star Wars fans, it's important to analyze it and look at it from all directions, what does it mean? But I'm also in graduate school and busy over-analyzing absolutely everything. So I can understand how it annoys people. But still, I am pro-Leia in every sense of the word and pro my fellow fangirls all the way. But it doesn't stop my wheels from turning when I see what I perceive to be some sexism (minor or otherwise) going on at cons. I wish I didn't feel that way, because it's unpopular. But I do. I'm not saying that every Leia is doing something bad, I just see some fetishization of the wrong aspects of the slave-Leia happening here and there.

Audrey M. Brown said...

By the way, I don't think it's ever selfish for people to talk about how they feel about the films that changed their lives.

Guest said...

Slave Leia's costume is overexposed: It's a fact of convention life that some costumes will be more overexposed than others. As the biggest example, there will always been a disproportionate amount of Imperial, Jedi, and Mandalorian outfits compared to Rebel characters. You will never see the Rebel Legion escort George Lucas anytime he makes a public appearence. However, is it really that much of a bad thing that popular outfits like the stormtrooper uniform and the slave girl outfit get more exposure than other costumes? I don't think so; all that costume popularity suggests is that certain costumes simply resonate more with cosplayers and the general public for whatever reasons.

Portraying Slave Leia demeans her character: I fail to see what's so wrong with dressing up in a costume that portrays a moment of weakness. Is wearing the slave outfit any worse than the Filipino tradition of reenacting Jesus Christ's moment of physically-painfull humiliation by nailing themselves to crosses? I think both examples involve people acknowledging the suffering that their heroes (real or otherwise) have gone through. Who's a true hero if he or she hasn't shown the ability to surpass moments of weakness?

Most Slave Leia models aren't portraying Slave Leia: So... people shouldn't look like they're having fun when dressing up in costume? Cosplayers are not required to match the original demeanor of their characters when they're randomly posing for photos. If they ere, the only versions of Leia that would be allowed to smile are those wearing the outfits worn during the endings of ANH and ROTJ.

Slave Leia is about attention, not cosplay: News-flash: ALL cosplay in public is about getting attention on some level. Those with the courage to wear extremely-popular outfits like the stormtrooper uniform and the slave outfit should be commended, considering that attracting huge crowds means little to no time for a cosplayer to do anything else at a con.

In addition, you grossly overestimate the size of crowds that a single Slave Leia can produce. My experience from attending three Comic Cons and a Star Wars Celebration is that any single cosplayer or cosplay group can generate huge crowds, usually because of their willingness to pose for the camera or an ability to actually act out their characters. Meanwhile, a Slave Leia who is clearly shopping for stuff at a con will mainly be left to her own devices.

Anonymous said...

Come on guys. Old movie making technique. Take away the clothes take away the security. In the opening of stargate SG1 there is the Daniel's wife is completely nude, and she is amazingly attractive. But I don't see it in a sexy way. I see it as exposure. Now if leia were naked I don't think it would warrant a sexy response. Of course sex sells and slip it in if you can, but this is about insecurity. No about sexism, not about horny fanboys. The movie works.
As far as cosplay is concerned women are dressing up to be leia but also to look sexy. Men do the same thing with other characters, get the shirt off, expose themselves. People dressing up in costume is never made to represent the characters, unless it is a stage show. Dressing up is dressing up. Who cares for whatever reason. Leia sexist? my ass

Anonymous said...

This article is dumb. It talks about something that is so timid considering everything else out there.

Also do you see what she wears on the forrest moon of endor. God try to look a little attractive

Anonymous said...

This article is dumb. It talks about something that is so timid considering everything else out there.

Also do you see what she wears on the forrest moon of endor. God try to look a little attractive

Anonymous said...

This article is dumb. It talks about something that is so timid considering everything else out there.

Also do you see what she wears on the forrest moon of endor. God try to look a little attractive

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