"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Antifeminist Childhood: That Damn Metal Bikini from Return of the Jedi Edition


I loved Star Wars as a little kid. LOVED it. I can't remember a time when I didn't pretty much know all three of the original movies by heart. And I loved Princess Leia. She was so smart and cool and collected. I wanted to be her, even though I had a much bigger crush on Luke Skywalker than Han Solo, and I knew that being Princess Leia meant that our love could never be. I was even willing to settle for Harrison Ford if it meant I could be Carrie Fisher.

When I was really young, Return of the Jedi was my favorite. I know better now that I can appreciate the interesting darkness of The Empire Strikes Back, but I somehow found Ewoks irresistible as a pre-kindergartener. But watching Jedi inevitably made me feel pretty ambivalent as a little girl, because I had to watch my hero Princess Leia be sexually objectified as a slave on a chain in a weird metal bikini in Jabba the Hut's palace.

And I hated that damn metal bikini. I don't know how I felt about it when I was really little, but it was well before developing a feminist consciousness that I somehow developed an awareness that putting her in that outfit humiliated and reduced her in a way that only women can be humiliated and reduced. I hated that she had to suffer that humiliation and wait to be rescued by Luke and Han. It just reinforced the sexist idea that I'm sure I was getting elsewhere that women are always the victims and men are always their saviors. And the fact that she ended up strangling Jabba herself with her chains did little to mitigate the harm done. I totally resented that the movie did this to her, especially when I got older and began to realize how much of that scene was probably created solely for the titillation of a male audience. Because nothing gets horny Sci-Fi geeks off like bondage-themed sexual violence, right?


plumpdumpling said...

I don't know what any of this means!

Who's Luke Skywalker?

Harrison Ford was in Star Wars?

What's the big hairy thing?

Tracey said...

Stop acting like you didn't see the special edition of Episode IV with me in the theater when we were in high school!

But seriously. This was still funny enough to totally make me spit out my beverage.

Angus Johnston said...

I just posted this over at Hoyden, but I'll put it up again here...

This post reminds me that I caught Drumline a few nights ago. Fabulous movie, in a lot of ways. Campus melodrama about marching bands at black colleges. Wonderful performance set-pieces, interesting subtext about the construction of masculinity. Great, fluffy movie. My kid would love it.


90% of the screentime that women get in the flick, they’re bump-and-grind cheerleaders. If women were absent — if it was a movie about all-male worlds — I could work with that, but they’re present, and present in a way that’s not just creepy on its own, but which renders their absence from the main narrative creepy.

So I can’t show the flick to my kid. Which, you know, sucks.

Smirking Cat said...

When I was searching for a picture of Princess Leia online, the first million results are that damn metal bikini, as if she wore it in every movie and every scene. A strong female was reduced to a sex object to please the male audience. It was completely unnecessary; why wasn't Han forced to wear chainmetal hot pants when he was captured?

JaneDoe said...

I know exactly what you mean- it's just outright fan service, I mean why the hell would Java make her change into a fancy bikini?
Although, I would take the stupid metal bikini over what they did to Padme any day. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Smirking Cat, the obvious reason for Han not being in chain metal pants is because it was a movie about being in war in the stars, hence the name, "Star Wars," had they put him in chain pants and steel boots or something, which would make people think they were watching a Judas Priest music video, and you must know that wasnt George Lucas's idea behing the show

Tracey said...

Well, I'm not so sure what Leia's metal bikini had to do with the stars, either.

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Anonymous said...

The only reason I disagree with you is because the other Star Wars movies make up or it. Leia was tough as nails. She watched her home planet of Aderaan be completely obliterated right in front of her. She cocked off to Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin in the Death Star and after all that, managed to maintain her sanity.
Not to mention, she strangled Jabba to death. This is one of the most notorious gangsters in the galaxy. Even her own boyfriend, Han Solo, couldn't stand up to Jabba...and she KILLED him! And you're saying that did little to mitigate the sexual objectification? What movie were you watching? You talk like she was a damsel in distress. I'm looking through A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, and not once have I seen her portrayed as a damsel in distress. The metal bikini was Jabba's disgusting attempt to make her appear as one. But I saw a woman warrior, (temporarily in chains and a skimpy bikini), biding her time until she could kick more ass!
By the way, she wasn't waiting for the men to save her. Luke wasn't even up to the sail barge yet before she started strangling that slimy piece of worm ridden filth. Han was blind as a bat from his carbon freezing. (If anyone was in distress, he was). And Lando was dangling over the Sarlaac pit while Han and Chewey were trying to rescue him.
As far as being eye candy for men...ok...that I can see. But come on? Should George Lucas have hired an ugly woman to play Leia through every single film so it wouldn't be as offensive for omen during a mere 20 minutes at the beginning of Jedi? It was realistic after all! How many gangsters are going to throw womn in a dirty underground dungeon? I mean if a beautiful woman stepped into Al Capone's and John Gotti's lair, don't you think they would have her stripped to virtually nothing and have her serve as a slave to all of their guests and business partners? YES! So, you're saying you want George Lucas to keep away from realism to appease you and other angry feminists?
In conclusion, the metal bikini made her appear helpless, however it didn't even knock her down a peg.

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