A Word About Sexploitation
Star Wars: Return of The Jedi was released in 1983. This was just at the tail end of the “sexploitation” movement in American films.
These films were light on plot and heavy on…certain aspects of the female form. These movies were crude, reductive, and objectifying to women. They were also, however, quite successful.
It is probably no coincidence, therefore, that the third entry in George Lucas’s original franchise opened to reveal Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia clad in a skimpy metal bikini and chained to a giant slug.
In the decades since Fisher’s “slave Leia” has become a cultural icon. A simple trip to any major entertainment convention will reveal a huge number of women (and quite a few men) wearing the iconic gold outfit.
It was quite a surprise then for the news to break Wednesday afternoon that Disney – the new owner of the Star Wars IP – will be discontinuing the “slave Leia” imagery in their future merchandise releases.
The Big Change
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
“Comic book artist J. Scott Campbell, who has worked on a number of Star Wars variant covers for Marvel Entertainment, commented on a Facebook post that Disney was ‘already well on its way to wiping out the 'slave' outfit from any future products period," referring to the ‘slave’ costume worn by Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia in 1983's Return of the Jedi. You will NOT see [any] future merchandising featuring the slave outfit ever again.’”
One reason for such a major announcement is that Disney does not want its family friendly image associated with such a high level of sensuality.
This also indicates, however, that the culture that once accepted movies titled, Beneath The Valley of Ultra Vixens or Hellhole Women may have finally evaporated.
Brave New World
By taking a stand against this outfit and the allusions it makes towards female objectification and implied servitude Disney is reflecting the difference between 1987 and 2015 when it comes to women in movies.
Perhaps this is a world where a woman can be featured in a film, or series of films, and keep her clothes on for the entire run.
Such a thing was, apparently, quite out of the question just a few decades ago.
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