Star Wars And Female Representation – Part 2

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In my last post I addressed the complaints made against Star Wars regarding the lack of female representation. I also talked about some of the Leia-centered merchandise that was released over the years and the fact that Lucasfilm and toy companies were actually very mindful about female representation in their products. But my focus was most on the Empire era with Leia, Aunt Beru, Toryn Farr and Oola. Now we jump to 1999 where Lucas has tantalized us with three new Star Wars movies. How did female representation fare then? Hate to burst your bubble, haters, but if there’s one thing the prequels did better than the originals, it’s that they added more women in their stories. They also brought in a larger female audience. They created new fans – many of them women. The prequels were also an inspiration for many cosplayers because of Queen Amidala’s many wardrobe choices. But there was also her handmaidens, Aurra Sing (more on her later) and Zam Wessell, and lady jedi like Aayla Secura and Bariss Offee. Then in 2008 came the Clone Wars TV show and we got Asajj Ventress (who first appeared in many comics and an earlier Clone Wars TV show), Mother Talzin and of course, Ahsoka Tano. If you doubt her popularity, you’ve definitely been spending your entire adult life hanging upside down in a wampa cave.

But how did Star Wars fare when it came to female representation in merchandise? From what I remember, there was enough Amidala merchandise to rival Disney’s Princess line. T-shirts, stationary, posters, costumes, even a makeup collection! But most of all: fashion dolls to showcase Padme Amidala’s fabulous wardrobe. There was the Queen Amidala Portrait Edition Collection where you could get dolls of the teen queen in her various gowns as seen in The Phantom Menace. There was also another collection called simply, the Queen Amidala Collection and they were more kid-friendly dolls that involved different ways to arrange Amidala’s dress, disguising her as a handmaiden and of course, styling her hair. Twice. I forgot to mention a two doll pack collection where she’s in her battle outfit with Qui Gon Jinn. Sadly there wasn’t as many Padme dolls for Attack of the Clones (except one) but other ladies got their time in the spotlight: Shaak Ti, Aurra Sing and Bariss Offee

But since Star Wars dolls are not a new thing, there was also something that was never released before: paper dolls. Yes! You could play the part of Amidala’s handmaiden and dress her in different royal attire. There was also a Padme paper doll book for Attack of the Clones (because she made more costume changes in that film than in episode 1!)

And of course we can’t forget the action figures. To date, I personally have 13 Padme Amidala action figures, 6 from TPM, 4 from AOTC, 1 from Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars and 2 from ROTS. I also have two Sabe action figures and two bounty hunters: Zam Wessel and Aurra Sing respectively. I could go on and on about my collection but we’d be here all day. Here’s a list instead. (Confession: I’m secretly drooling for that “realistic” Ahsoka Tano Vintage Collection action figure but it’s only available on Amazon and the price offers range from $105 to $139. Yeesh!)

And what of the Expanded Universe? Though it was kicked off in 1978 with Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, toys based on the books, comics and video games of TGFFA shot skyward with the prequels and they covered different eras, from the early days of the Old Republic to the adventures of Cade Skywalker. Characters like Lumiya, Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Juno Eclipse and Shae Vizla were given their own action figures.

It’s hard to say how Disney/Hasbro will fare in the future when it comes to female character driven merchandise since they’ve only owned Lucasfilm for 4 years now. I’ve been bored with a lot of SW merchandise lately because it’s all been OT and TFA era and I want more representation of the entire saga. I feel that the #WeWantLeia campaign was too limited in its demands. I don’t want just Leia, I want Padme and Ahsoka too. So girls, keep speaking up. Keep demanding. Ask for more female characters in merchandise – not just Leia.

But also, look for that silver lining: DIY merchandise. Sewing and crafts have always been considered a feminine art form and instead of sitting around on their computers, wishing, hoping and tweeting for female-centered merchandise, some fangirls have made their own merchandise. Heck, it worked for Ashley Eckstein.

I will also leave you with this idea, girls: use Star Wars as inspiration to make your own movies. We can’t keep on demanding men to represent us when we have the brains, the hands and the imaginations to represent ourselves. We can’t have more women in front of the camera until we get more women behind the camera. And instead of demanding inclusion in a 40-plus franchise that needs to be retired, let’s create new SF and F stories with female characters or adapt SF novels written by women for the big and small screen.

In the meantime look online and at your local comics, toys and collectible shows for merchandise.

Happy shopping, star warriors.

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6 Comments

Filed under feminism, Star Wars

6 responses to “Star Wars And Female Representation – Part 2

  1. Thanks for giving such a detailed history of the female character toys from Star Wars. I never realized there were so many, perhaps because the stores just do not have as many on shelf, as they do of the male characters? Maybe they get sold out faster due to more limited quantities? My daughter loves Star Wars, and as you suggest in your post, we make a lot of our costumes and toys ourselves. If you are interested you can see them on our DIY Star Wars blog: maythefourthbewithyoupartyblog.com.

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    • I’m love it when someone tells me that I enlightened them about a topic. I was 15 when “The Phantom Menace” came out so I have a very clear memory of all the Amidala merchandise that was released. I even remember seeing commercials for the Queen Amidala doll collection. I forgot to mention that there was also a substantial amount of Ahsoka Tano action figures when Clone Wars was on the air. I hope your daughter will find more SW toys featuring female characters. Thank you for commenting and yes, I will check out your blog. Welcome to Planet X.

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  2. The sad fact is, while Disney makes a push for feminism in Star Wars, they could’ve finished it in a flash if they made the Expanded Universe canon. Great female heroes, great female villains, they’re all so common it’s like water. Now they cleaned out the clock on the EU, and all they now have is Rey, Leia, and the gals from the Clone Wars. No Lumiya, no Mara Jade, no Jaina Solo. They could’ve made it work, but they didn’t. Now they have to start from scratch. Good work, guys! (Sarcasm)

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    • I feel ya HolyknightVader! Disney has actually thrown out a lot of worthy female characters with strong followings and replaced them with new female characters that haven’t even made a dent in fangirl culture. I know some are singing the praises of Rey, Hera and Sabine but most feel that they’re lackluster and badly fleshed out. I’ve seen stronger followings for Leia, Padme, Aurra Sing, Ahsoka and Asajj Ventress, which, by the way, Disney has also “cleaned the clock” out of, so to speak. There hasn’t been any merchandise featuring these awesome ladies of canon as of late. They finally released that Leia Organa Medal Ceremony Gown I’ve been drooling for…and it’s only available on Amazon. Good work guys (she said sarcastically)!

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      • Hell, Lumiya alone would be a wonderful addition. Her list of accomplishments is noteworthy. Right after the Emperor and Vader died, she claimed the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith, and while wearing that mantle, she did things like:

        A) Defeat Luke Skywalker, when her master couldn’t.
        B) Train a Sith Apprentice amongst the Royal Guard, and have that guy cause the death of the reborn Emperor Palpatine.
        C) Brought one of the Solo kids to the Dark Side
        D) Died sacrificng herself so that a pointless, brutal war would end before it hurts more people.

        I mean, seriously, a Dark-Sider who dies for the good of the people? One that manages to defeat both Luke AND THE EMPEROR!? And one that’s a woman who has a tragic backstory of being turned into a machine after Luke rejected her and shot her down? C’mon, that’s an instant money-printer right there! Why the hell did they not go with this!? They junked the Expanded Universe to make an EPIV clone with EU ideas tacked on half-cocked!? WHY!? Kylo Ren is Jacen Solo without the wisdom. The Starkiller Base is just a combo of the Sun Crusher and the Galaxy Gun. They traded gals like Lumiya and plots like the Thrawn trilogy for THAT!? They get the adventure aspect right, and Han is as fun as ever, but even I have to concede that the EU did things better. A lot of people keep seeing this movie as something utterly fresh and new. To someone like me, who’s been dreaming for EU materials to be made into movies for years, to see this film rip off the EU and EPIV just disheartens me. Now we’ll never get a Thrawn Trilogy movie or one about Dark Empire. All because of them wanting to make a copy of EPIV with EU ideas added on top! If I were in charge of Disney, I’d force them to add everything up to New Jedi Order stuff into the canon. Then have them make Ben Solo have Anakin Solo’s character arc, so he has a legit reason to hate the Jedi. (Getting nearly killed by the Vong would certainly count, especially if Snoke is the one who saves him from that fate.) I’d just change a few details, like have Vader’s ghost visit them once and a while for advice, and have Chewie survive the war with the Vong and run across HK-47.

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