By Katy S.
I was almost 42 years old when I learned that Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia, is 5’1″ tall. This was tremendously surprising to me, because in my mind, she’s larger than life.
My mother took me to see The Empire Strikes Back when it came to the theater. I was 6 years old, the same age as SB is today. Like SB, I didn’t really understand the whole story, but that didn’t matter — it was a movie, just me and my Momma, and I was happy.
Did you know Carrie Fisher had to stand on a box for many of her scenes with Harrison Ford? He’s so much taller than she is, they wouldn’t fit into frame together. I can’t quite get over this surprise.
At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia had already demonstrated her strength and courage, continuing to fight for the Rebel cause after Alderaan was destroyed by Darth Vader. She thought on her feet, knew how to operate complex technology, and used her persuasive skills to bring others into the fight against the Galactic Empire. Princess Leia’s clothes didn’t have anything to do with the story — but she was definitely a girl, like me, and I thought she was exceptional.
I had long brown hair, worn frequently in braids, like my existing obsession, Laura Ingalls. How fortuitous that my mother had to make but one small change in the days/weeks/months/years after this movie – winding those braids into buns on either side of my head.
Three years later, the battle continues. In Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia is disguised as a bounty hunter. After capturing her while she attempts to rescue Han Solo, Jabba the Hutt keeps her as a slave, dressed in a metal bikini, and in chains.
Let’s rewind for a moment. Before he was captured, Han was planning to leave the Rebels in order to repay his debt to Jabba. This is a powerful and murderous revolting slug — he’s universally feared. With all those guards and fighters and also Rancor in his house, nobody has yet worked up the courage to kill him. Princess Leia was in that bikini because AFTER she tricked Jabba, displaying nerve no one else had shown him, she was caught in her attempt to rescue Han. It wasn’t what she happened to be wearing under that bounty hunter disguise.
While accompanying Jabba (remember those chains?) to watch Han and Luke and Chewbacca get thrown into the sarlacc, Princess Leia doesn’t know a fight is getting ready to begin. When it does, she knows it’s Go Time. She uses her chain to strangle Jabba (no easy feat), and she kills him. With the chain. Somewhere along the way, the bikini is discarded and never seen again.
Ask the woman nearest you if she’d care to go put on a bikini and spend the remainder of the day wearing it, while those around her carry on in their normal garb. Jabba putting Princess Leia in the gold metal bikini was intended to humiliate her, expose her, take away her power. But did it? Recall how when you first saw Princess Leia in that bikini, you wondered for just a moment if she’d joined Jabba. Why? Because she was proud. Instead of cowering down or trying to cover herself, she held her head high and ultimately used the tools of her bondage to kill the guy who put her in that position.
If the rumor is true, I’m disappointed in the plan to retire any Princess Leia in Bikini merchandise. More than Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, or the Greedo Incident, it insults our intelligence. This is supposed to be a smart epic — the allegories of internal conflicts, struggles with unhappy truths, crises of faith — and how humans, basically good, NOT “more machine than man,” overcome them. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia’s father is ALSO Darth Vader (remember Alderaan?) and she must come to terms with that, and her relationship with Luke, and where things go from here with Han because romance in the midst of volatility can be painful, and mourn those who died after following her into the Rebel resistance. Those things are damaging. Scarring. Hard. In hiding the bikini, we give IT the power, instead of rightfully acknowledging Princess Leia’s story about that one time, at Desert Palace Camp, when some disgusting jerk forced her into wearing a kinky getup, and she killed him using said getup with her bare hands and brute strength, all while standing a foot shorter than the brave and dashing Han Solo.
So, think on this — the symbols of triumph, were they not often used in an attempt to humiliate, degrade, destroy? We hold these things up because they did happen, and because of strength, courage, and faith, we overcame and were victorious. Mine never leaves my neck.
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