I’ve been lied to, bamboozled, and cheated for decades! I admit it, before December I had never seen Star Wars. I may have passed a clip while my sister watched it, or sat through a few minutes with an ex before wandering off, but I had never actually seen this (or these) films. I am more of a fantasy fan, so starships and laser guns didn’t interest me that much. However, with all of the buzz of the new movie coming out, my husband insisted that I watch with him. I watched with moderate interest as the plot unfolded, and heard Leia give her trademark “you’re my only hope” line, classic of damsel’s in distress everywhere. Imagine my surprise, my disdain, my shock and awe to discover that Leia was not the damsel in distress that she is made out to be. She isn’t a damsel in distress at all!

Star Wars fandom, I am disappointed in you! When you have a real, bonafide, badass like Leia on your roster, you tell the world. You scream her greatness from the mountaintops. What you don’t do is let her be misrepresented for GENERATIONS of girls who saw nothing of her but a slave and weak girl needing rescue. I mean seriously, those are the only clips of Leia ever represented. What’s worse, is after watching the film, I realize that “slave Leia” is akin to a sex slave. This is her most celebrated look? Really? Is sex slavery sexy to us now? This is what we, as women, emulate?

I mean, I am not mad that slave Leia exists, that was a part of the characters narrative, you cannot get rid of slave Leia’s story. It is a good story. She gets captured rescuing her man (not the other way around, because she is dope), and then single-handedly murders her captor, the most dangerous mobster in the solar system, and she does it with the chain he used to bind her! But come on people, she was in that costume for all of 4 minutes of screen time (I’m guessing here). She was a slave for minutes, she was a hero for the rest of the film.




Here is the thing, and this is where I will lose most people, my problem is not that slave Leia exists, my problem with it is that women (yes, us) perpetuate the concept that slave Leia is sexy or desirable.  Sex slavery. I am a regular con attendee. I have never before batted an eye at the million man march of slave Leia’s that I see. It is always uber popular. And before you start revving up your “slut-shamer” responses, I have no issue with sexy cosplay. My problem is when you start taking perfectly unrelated characters and slave-Leia-ing them (yes, I just made that word up. I hope it sticks)!

Stop taking Leia’s four minutes of weakness, of being someone’s property, and slathering all over every other character you can think of. I’ve seen everyone from Princess Ariel to Wonder Woman and now Slave Leia’ed. At first, I thought it was nothing more than cross playing characters. Which is cool, but I think differently. I mean, I’ve even seen Mulan, the only princess even close to as dope as Leia actually is, Slave Leia-ed. What? What! How dare you. Do not put Mulan in a slave outfit! She is freaking Mulan, the hero of China! The only character who should ever be Slave-Leia-ed is maybe Deadpool because…Deadpool. Irreverence is a part of the cosplay.

After having finally seen the films, seeing the scene, watching the character and falling in love with her, I am left wondering if the Slave Leia’s and Slave Leia crossplayers out there are actually fans of the character. It seems so disingenuous as to who Leia really is. Leia is a general, a sister, a wife, a warrior, a princess…so why do we always represent her as a slave?


Vanee is an author, reader, writer and teacher that lives at the corner of coffee shop intellect and text book geek! She loves cons, comics and camaraderie, as well as fantasy, fiction, and fandoms. Vanee is a Black Girl Nerd!

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  • Sid_of_Id

    Cosplayers are motivated by two things:
    1. Honor/Appreciation of the source material.
    2. Attention.
    Every costume you see at a convention, movie opening, charity event, costume party or on the street on Halloween is derived from some ratio of both of those motivations…but the ratio can vary anywhere between 1/99 and 99/1. That wide spectrum includes Slave Leia cosplayers (even crossplayers), though it would be hard to argue that girls who walk around grand hotel lobbies in metal bikini’s aren’t leaning more toward the attention than a girl walking around in bulky Hoth battle-fatigues.

    You are implying that the women making this costuming choice for the sake of attention (and maybe not even because they’re fans of the source material) are being culturally insensitive to the current and historical tragedy of real-world human trafficking and sex slavery. Would you say that cosplayers wearing Stormtrooper armor or Colonial Marines (Aliens) carrying prop weapons are insensitive to the real world atrocities of war and colonialism?

    Academically, you probably could, but most would find the argument rather ridiculous as Star Wars is highly stylized and not generally understood as critical social commentary. People generally let their 7-year olds watch it without worrying if the sex-slavery is going to scar their child’s psyche or numb them to misogyny. You’re right, you should “lose people” with your assertion that 23-year old Carrie Fisher in a bikini is verboten as “sexy” because of her character’s situation. And yes, if someone’s fantasy is that they are a sexual slave-master who could rape Princess Leia at their will….then yes, that person is a sick-f*ck. But, the truth is, in the story, Jabba dressed Leia up to be sexually objectified. Contrast this with a young, very attractive, scantily dressed Jodi Foster being brutally raped in 1988’s “The Accused”. The critical scene in a film crafted to force the viewer to consider the implications of objectified sexuality and the power dynamics of misogyny at its worst.

    In the end, this comes down to what you try to deny that you’re doing: slut shaming. Your problem is with these women, who may not even really be fans of the character, who are dressing up for attention, objectified sexual attention. The excuse is that Leia shouldn’t be objectified because there’s some underlying horror of sexual violence being ignored. Well, that’s BS. The obvious sign that you are slut-shaming is that your problem is with the women dressing how they want (even if they are attention mongering and can’t name Leia’s adoptive planet), rather than the men who may act inappropriately or dangerously because “she was asking for it”.

    And though a film should speak for itself, for the record, all of the secondary materials (novelization, comics, short stories, sourcebooks, etc.) say that Leia and the rest of Jabba’s harem are slave-dancers, not a sex-slaves.

    • Vanee Matsalia

      As far as canon is concerned, I believe that it is quite clear in my article that I am new to the Universe, my reactions are to the film only. I am uncertain if you read my post all the way through. It seems that you missed my point. I did not suggest any of what you are saying. I encourage you to look it over again without looking for an argument to engage in. If you still feel the same about what i was saying, by all means feel that way. That is your right. This is, after all, an Opinion editorial. These are my opinions. You are free to your own.

  • redi

    Or…you could let people like what they like.

  • John Smith

    redi is right, you’re reading into this way too much and missing the point…several points, actually. Generations of girls have *not* seen her as only a slave and weak girl needing rescue; you yourself, having not even seen the movies, knew the iconic “You’re my only hope” line delivered by a Princess and powerful Galactic Senator being pursued for political reasons, and was a message to an equally influential person. She did this in a white gown and cinnamon-bun-style hair that any girl or guy would recognize.

    She was not a sex slave; that is something you came up with to fill your article. Jabba’s harem consists of dancers (for entertainment) and attendants (because he can’t do much on his own). We never saw her dance like Oola did, and we never saw her bring him anything or do anything for him. You might say it happened off-screen, but that would still be incorrect because there was a purpose to it all: bring this powerful Rebellion figure down as low as he could. From high-ranking officer to chained up in a metal bikini, the point was humiliation and shame. Jabba had plenty of slaves captured from small villages. But Leia was more of a combatant than a kidnapped victim–what better way to gloat than strip her of her weapons and show her front and center?

    So sex slavery is NOT what people find sexy about it, because people weren’t jumping to that conclusion so hastily like you did. What’s sexy about it is we suddenly saw an actress we admired in a bikini on-screen, an actress we already admired for her beauty and we never had an idea of what she might look like under the bulk and flowing fabric of those early Star Wars costumes. It was shocking, in a good way, and demonstrated the maturing of ALL the characters as the series went on. And who would fault a woman for wanting to emulate an actress who has a great figure and was confident enough to wear that outfit?

    Movie lore aside, the outfit is really about Carrie Fisher and a film from 1983. The outfit–stunning, sexy, novel–wasn’t forced into the movie to increase box office sales or to target an older audience (evidenced by the fact that, as you noticed, it gets very little screen time, and the PG rating was the same as the first two films). It was an exotic costume in a saga of HUNDREDS of exotic costumes and it became iconic. The *costume* became iconic in itself, and Leia is iconic in her own way (again, “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” and cinnamon bun hairstyle). So yeah, of course it’s going to get crossed with other iconic characters and costumes, all the while letting those girls (and even some guys) put their confidence on display.

    One last trivial point… to say she “single-handedly murders her captor” is like saying someone at mission control single-handedly launched a rocket because they got to push the launch button. She had four friends on the skiff and two on the barge working to escape with her.

    • Vanee Matsalia

      I am uncertain if you read my post all the way through. It seems that you missed my point. I did not suggest any of what you are saying. I encourage you to look it over again without looking for an argument to engage in. If you still feel the same about what i was saying, by all means feel that way. That is your right. This is, after all, an Opinion editorial. These are my opinions. You are free to your own.

  • ApostateltsopA

    Preach it!

  • Enchantress

    As a HUGE fan of Star Wars, I grew up with the films and have seen each and every one of them at least 40 times. I love to cosplay at every comic book and sci-fi convention, and yes Star Wars characters remain some of my favorite characters to emulate when I cosplay.

    As a Star Wars fan, and true Leia supporter, I have to say I am in complete agreement with your annoyance of the Slave Leia icon. I can’t tell you how many guys have urged me, begged even, to dress as Slave Leia. OH HELL NO!!! I prefer the strong, confident, bad-ass Leia, in her militant gear with her blasters. I will NEVER cosplay Slave Leia. Why? Because that part of the film represents everything I can’t stand about how women are treated in society, now and throughout history.

    That scene actually scarred me when I was a kid. As a 7 year old girl I didn’t know the difference between a sex-slave or a slave-dancer. All I knew was that a slave was a slave and that my favorite Star Wars character had just been stripped of her power and made to be humiliated and chained to someone who disgusted and repulsed her. I was horrified to see her being licked by Jabba. I was even more horrified to hear the boys in our group of friends start making sexual comments about her body and how they’d love to lick her all over too.

    I was only 7 years old when I first saw that movie and already I was being introduced to the sexual objectification of women everywhere and how boys were being taught that this is how memorable women should be portrayed. That women should reveal themselves and be sexy or else not be remembered at all. And for the women trying to be something other than sexy, who chose not to show themselves in this way, they will be forced to do it by someone else. It’s how they’d all come to remember Leia – the objectified slave; not the strong, bad-ass warrior.

    In just about every movie in Hollywood, there is some part of each blockbuster film in which the lead female has to become some subservient sexual fantasy,no matter how strong she is throughout the rest of the movie. Honestly, I’m tired of it. Not because I see anything wrong with women wanting to be sexy or proud of their bodies, because when us women choose to show our sexiness we do it out of choice, on our own terms. But I’m tired of the idiotic mentality that every woman has to be sexy or attractive or she’s not worthy of attention for her other talents and skills. And young boys grow up believing it is their right as men to objectify women because of these idiotic scenes in movies. We’re reminded of this every time we walk down the street getting stared at, cat-called, and whistled at. All I can say is these guys are lucky we don’t have blasters with us.

    • Vanee Matsalia

      Today, it is good that we do not have said blaster. Reading your response is breathing a little life into me on this sad, day when we morn the passing of a monarch. #RestInPeaceCarrieFisher