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.