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After than 30 years, when many people think of Princess Leia’s role in Return of the Jedi, they don’t recall a badass military commander, a self-sacrificing Rebel leader, or even Luke’s twin. The image that immediately springs to mind is Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini. Fisher recently spoke out about the topic and her concerns that newcomer Daisy Ridley’s sexuality will be exploited, and now it looks like Disney may be trying to eliminate that controversial piece of costuming once and for all.
Comic book artist J. Scott Campbell, who has worked on Star Wars titles, says that Disney is in the process of removing the "Slave Leia" outfit from any future merchandise. On a Facebook thread, he wrote:
Daisy Ridley won’t have to fight against anything. Disney is already well on it’s way to wiping out the ‘slave’ outfit from any future products period. You will NOT see and future merchandising featuring the slave outfit ever again. Trust me.
While this is far from official, from what Campbell says, these measures go even further. He adds that artists at Marvel, which is responsible for publishing the slew of new Star Wars comics, are not even allowed to draw Leia in a "sexy pose," not just in that outfit. It even appears that plans for a figuring of Leia in the slave outfit were even squashed.
The idea of the Slave Leia outfit being retired makes sense, especially with the direction the franchise is going. When we next see the character, she’ll be portrayed as a military leader, a soldier before everything. Moving forward into new territory, the saga has put an increased emphasis on diversity across both gender and racial lines, is marketing to both boys and girls, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has spoken about this many times, even indicating her desire to have a female director on one of the upcoming Star Wars films.
The outfit will always have a presence—just go to any convention and you’ll and you’re bound to see at least a couple of Leia’s walking around, which isn’t going to change anytime soon—and in context of the movie, it actually fits. It’s Jabba the Hutt’s attempt to subdue his prisoner and strip her of her dignity—it’s the only place in the franchise where she wears such a get up, and in many cases any sexuality is downplayed—and in strangling him, she takes back her body and her freedom, both symbolically and literally. She’s one of the strongest, most empowered women in science fiction, and with the fact that this one costume has been so largely removed from the original context over the years, and its meaning has been subverted, it’s easy to imagine why Disney would want to move away from that.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens everywhere on December 18, and this is just the start of an ever expanding new Star Wars universe that promises to be far more inclusive than any we’ve encountered before.