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I was born the year the first Star Wars movie came out- which, of course, is actually Episode IV. My husband is a few years older than me, so while I probably wasn’t really introduced to the Star Wars Saga at least until Empire Strikes Back (1980), but more likely Return of the Jedi (1983), my husband has been there for the whole ride. In fact he was 5 years old when A New Hope came out in 1977- the same age as our daughter is now and the same age she will be when she sees her first Star Wars movie in theaters.
When I was a kid, I remember loving the movies. I had a Star Wars book set, but I don’t think I had any Star Wars toys. My husband, on the other hand, had many. In fact, we still have most of his original Star Wars toys in our garage, as well as some sheets and curtains. Don’t get excited- they were well loved and well used, therefore are not worth much more than the joy they continue to bring my husband and now my daughter. I guess that means they are priceless.
There is so much to say about the cultural significance of Star Wars, but I’m just talking about toys here. Specifically toys that appeal to girls too. All in all, sometimes Star Wars does really well at appealing to everyone and sometimes Star Wars does very poorly in representing girls/women in their toy lines.
Let me start off my saying, my kid loves all things Star Wars. If you notice the toys in the picture above, they are almost exclusively male characters and that has not stopped her love of the toys. She has pictures in her room and clothes that have some of the female characters from Star Wars, but limited toys.
In the original Trilogy, Princess Leia was really the only female character. There were like 3 other females in the movie in total- maybe, in the background. But what a force of nature. Leia is just so bad ass. So there is usually the requisite Leia figure in any generation of the toy lines. It’s not really difficult to find Leia figures; however there was some issues when Disney acquired Star Wars and released a new wave of toys featuring all of the main characters from the original Trilogy EXCEPT Leia. She’s in there now, and here is a run down of some of the more specific Leia toys available.
Several years ago, when Newt was a toddler, we happened upon “Fashion Play Sets” for Queen Amidala and Princess Leia at one of the Disney Parks. These are similar to the line of small Disney Princess dolls that have multiple dresses they can change into. While I am pleased they did not include a pink dress in either set- Queen Amidala comes with a “framed picture” of her hubby, Anakin, while Leia has one of the dreamy, if scruffy looking, Han Solo. Star Wars has never been accused of passing the Bechdel Test, but that is a bit much. It looks like these are not available separately anymore, but a combined set is available through Amazon and possibly still at the Disney Parks. The dolls each have only 3, instead of the previous 6 outfit changes, but don’t worry, they still come with the pictures of their hunks. Though my sarcasm is apparent at a pretty annoying choice they made when marketing these dolls to girls, the rest of it really is the sort of thing right up my fancy and fashionable daughter’s alley.
The most prevalent option for Leia toys are of her in her iconic white dress and hair buns.
You might find some of her dressed as the bounty hunter, Boushh
And there are a few other outfits or versions you might find.
And then there is Slave Leia.
A few days ago, word broke that Disney will be phasing out the Slave Leia merchandising. Needless to say, this decision was met with mixed emotions from fans, myself included. It’s clear why this image of Leia is so popular- she looked amazing! Like the most beautiful woman in the galaxy, amazing. And merchandise of slave Leia also looks amazing- ok, either amazing or really weird. But as amazing as she looks in the gold bikini, let’s not forget that it was not an outfit she wore on a couple’s getaway with Han, she was wearing it in scenes in which she was essentially a sex slave. Here is a really good summary, from Dylan Todd, of why it does make sense to stop marketing this image of Leia, especially to children. For me, as a mother trying to teach her daughter about her body being her own and that no one should touch her without her permission, it does feel like the right step to no longer make toys for children depicting their heroine in a state of sexual subjugation and slavery.
On a completely different note, at Tampa Comiccon in August this year, we waited in line for several hours for Newt to have the chance to have a picture taken with Princess Leia herself, Carrier Fisher. She had the chance to meet Ms. Fisher and get a hug from her, take a cute picture and got a kiss from Ms. Fisher’s dog.
When the full trailer for the new Star Wars movie came out, Matt and I were excited to help Newt make the connection between her experience at Comiccon and the new movie. We paused the trailer here:
Newt looked at it for a few, long seconds and then proclaimed, “That’s not Princess Leia. Princess Leia wears glasses.” Touche’.
**Note- my kid does not really have a mustache and usually does not wear a mask, but as with all super heroes, she has to protect her secret identity.