Every day it seems like another geek site is linking to another sexified Star Wars thing. Star Wars burlesque. Star Wars bathing suits. And today, apparently, Star Wars characters reimagined as classic pin-ups.
Now, I like sexytimes as much as the next person, and Star Wars has long been a bastion of nerdy sexytimes on account of a certain gold bikini. But let’s talk about context: that gold bikini appears when our diplomat princess has been captured trying to rescue someone else, and her punishment is to sit there in her undies choke-chained to Jabba the Hutt (who nobody can convince me is not secretly a giant penis).
And she’s pissed about all this. So the first opportunity she gets, she takes that chain and strangles her captor. Without remorse. She refuses to be passive and pretty, and the gold bikini is ditched because it just plain gets in the way. Leia is a princess, and she has one hell of a smoldering romance going with Han Solo, but there is more to her than her sexuality. Jabba’s fatal mistake is that he forgets this.
But now we have sexy Stormtroopers, and Boba Fetts, and droids, and Vaders, and even a sexy Chewbacca costume, dammit, and the rules have changed. Obviously a female Stormtrooper would wear a bustier and panties instead of full-body armor. Obviously a female wookie would have long tan legs with acres of skin showing and a lace-up hip panel in her fur micromini so you know she’s not only not wearing panties but has probably been visiting a waxing salon to remove any body hair that doesn’t come with the costume.
Because a female Stormtrooper is never going to get in a blaster fight with rebels in a hallway. A female Boba Fett is never going to have to chase down her quarry in high-heeled boots. These reimagined characters are for looking at, not for doing things. It’s easy enough these days to find a slave Leia costume as well as Leia’s white dress — but that long white skirt now often has slits up to mid-thigh. Leia’s sexiness is more important to modern geek culture than what she actually wore in the original movie.
There are two problems here. One is that any character reimagined as female is automatically reimagined as the male-gaze-y ideal of sexy — as though femininity and sexual appeal were synonymous or interdependent. The other is that the trappings of sexiness are heterocentrist and infantilizing: skirts get impractically short as heels get impractically high, while legs and boobs are revealed by alterations to canon costumes. There’s no sexy lesbian Stormtroopers, as far as I can tell — and no sexy male Stormtrooper costumes either. The imposition of sexiness thus makes female versions of characters less real than their male counterparts. They are lesser people.
What shows that this is not just fandom having fun with canon is the list of characters exempt from sexification. There’s no sexy female version of Luke Skywalker, or Han Solo, or Obi-Wan Kenobi. (At least, not that I’ve seen or could speedily Google — so possibly there is one lone female Han out there somewhere among the millions of Imperial shock troops.) That’s why the Star Wars pin-ups got me so wound up today: because they sex up so many secondary characters that the omission of those primary ones becomes even more glaring. There’s a sexy Admiral Akbar, a sexy Greedo — Darth Maul — a Tusken raider — and two different Vaders.
But no Luke, no Han, and no Obi-Wan. These characters are too specific, too much themselves, too important to put in hotpants and high heels. They are the heroes — and heroes are never, ever sexy women, as we all know.
(Note: there’s no sexy Yoda or Emperor Palpatine, either, though I imagine that’s mostly because those characters’ unsexiness is intrinsic. The same cannot be said for, say, characters played by Harrison Ford or Mark Hamil or Alec Motherfucking Guinness.)
So when someone reimagines Star Wars as a steampunk extravaganza, all the characters get made over, including our important male heroes. That’s fine. That’s fun. To make a trailer where Lando is the hero of his own blaxsploitation flick? That’s hilarious.
But putting a short skirt on the important dudes and making them into women?
That’s heresy against geekdom.
It’s entirely possible there’s a whole underground cosplay network of unsexy lady-Hans and lady-Lukes that I don’t know about because I’ve never attended a con. It’s possible that my perspective is warped by the fact that my Star Wars enthusiasm comes mostly from watching the movies a bunch of times and having a regular existence on the internet, rather than participating heavily in fan culture or forum sites.
But I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of people like me out there. And we’re getting sick of this crap.