Is Disney’s Retirement of “Slave Leia” Merchandise a Good Thing?

Marvel artist J. Scott Campbell claimed this week that Disney is retiring the “Slave Leia” line of Star Wars merchandise, and inevitably the Internet has got pretty heated about the topic.

Campbell’s comments were made in response to Interview magazine‘s feature on Daisy Ridley, in which the publication held a discussion between Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher and The Force Awakens‘ new protagonist. Discussing her reluctant role as a sex symbol after donning the iconic Slave Leia costume in Return of the Jedi, Fisher gave Ridley some advice regarding her role in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars trilogy, saying: “You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was.”

Campbell claimed in a Facebook post (via Making Star Wars) that Fisher nor Ridley need worry that the Slave Leia outfit would be coming out of hibernation, with the artist writing in a Facebook post: “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.”

He added:  “I’ve heard it from two sources. We can’t even draw Leia in a sexy pose at Marvel, let alone in that outfit! We also had a 3-D [Slave Leia] statue killed at a major manufacturer because there will no longer be any [Slave Leia] merchandise.”

So if Campbell is to be believed, which seems likely given that he’s the cover artist for Marvel’s Star Wars series and would therefore have access to inside knowledge, Disney could be shelving all Star Wars Slave Leia merchandise for good. Is this a good idea?

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There are valid points to be made for both sides of the argument. On one hand, Leia has historically been far less well represented in toys and other such Star Wars-related paraphernalia than her male counterparts, with her Slave Leia incarnation being the subject of more merchandise than the likes of her Empire Strikes Back gear, or even her more immediately recognizable A New Hope garb.

Earlier this year, Hasbro released a range of Star Wars toys to commemorate the digital re-release of the films, with the 12 figures including all the major male characters but not one Princess Leia. There were two Luke Skywalkers, minor bounty hunters Bossk and IG-88, and even a fucking Ewok, but the film’s sole female protagonist was nowhere to be found. That is definitely not OK, and if Disney and toy manufacturers were to continue with a Slave Leia range of toys in the future, then it would only be right that the character should also be represented in her various other costumes, too.

However, if Disney is indeed planning to rid Slave Leia from all merchandise, then this seems like something of a delayed reaction to retroactive outrage surrounding a character’s depiction 38 years ago. Carrie Fisher herself commented upon this back in June when parents expressed anger at the Slave Leia toys, posting the following on Twitter:

If Slave Leia is going to be removed from future Star Wars marketing, does that mean that the film’s original poster will also be tweaked? Because regardless of personal opinion surrounding the outfit, it’s undoubtedly a big part of Star Wars history and pop culture in general, and was donned by the character in multiple pivotal scenes in Return of the Jedi, including her killing of Jabba the Hutt. Carrie Fisher may have discussed her own negative thoughts on the costume, but to gloss over its existence in the Star Wars franchise outside of its questionable appearance as a children’s toy is a little OTT.

But in Disney’s defense, Slave Leia could well serve as an unfortunate bullet-point in the character’s history after J.J. Abrams’ trilogy concludes. All signs point to Leia, now a General, having a greater role in the events of these films than she did in the original trilogy, which could potentially be undermined by merchandise still being sold depicting her wearing a golden bikini and a chain around her neck. This would also explain why Campbell “can’t even draw Leia in a sexy pose at Marvel,” with the new series of comics intended to promote the upcoming movies, and with them therefore standing to appear quite incongruous with the character if its artists depict her going full sexy superheroine rather than the strong female character that she is.

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On a personal note, I do not care whether or not Slave Leia toys and merchandise will appear on store shelves in the future. I’m not a collector myself (and collectors should probably thank their lucky stars if this rumor turns out to be true, given that all Slave Leia-related merch will likely rocket in value), and so I’m therefore not particularly invested in what Disney chooses to do with their toys of the series’ characters. However, this is somewhat important in regards to Star Wars‘ representation of female characters, with Daisy Ridley’s character set to be The Force Awakens‘ protagonist, Leia having a pivotal role in its story and now Disney reportedly looking to rid its merchandise of Slave Leia.

This is ostensibly a good thing, bringing Star Wars into a generation that is (on the whole) more inclusive, but that shouldn’t necessarily mean that Leia’s depiction in Return of the Jedi should be wiped from Star Wars merch altogether. Disney can still promote Leia as the strong character that she is whilst not fruitlessly attempting to eradicate that incarnation of the character from memory. Slave Leia can continue to exist, but should only be allowed to do so if that isn’t Disney’s sole merch representation of her.