Princess Leia’s iconic gold bikini, worn during the Star Wars heroine’s brief stint as crime lord Jabba the Hutt’s chain-bound captive in Return of the Jedi, may soon be phased out of the sci-fi franchise’s merchandise and marketing—much to the disappointment of horny nerds across the world.
Citing several sources at Disney, Jason Ward, the editor-in-chief of the popoular website Making Star Wars, writes that the costume is being “retired” from official Lucasfilm materials. The suspicion echoed by Marvel Comics artist J. Scott Campbell, who cited two Disney sources of his own in a Facebook post claiming the House of Mouse “is already well on its way to wiping out the ‘slave’ outfit from any future products.”
The news—still unconfirmed by either Disney or Lucasfilm, though The Daily Beast has made repeated requests for comments—was met with a predictable chorus of boos (“But boobs!”).
However, perhaps more resounding is the eruption of cheers from progressive-minded Star Wars fans who’ve long protested the “slave” ensemble’s disproportionate use in representations of the rebel hero.
In Return of the Jedi, Leia turns the chain attached to her neck into a weapon and singlehandedly strangles her lascivious, slug-like captor to death as part of a plan to save Han Solo. In a delicious twist on the “Women in Refrigerators” trope—in which death or injury comes to female characters as a plot device to move a male hero's story forward—Solo is frozen in a giant hunk of carbonite (which has since been turned into an actual refrigerator!). In killing Jabba, Leia triumphantly defies being a damsel-in-distress—and she looks damn good while doing it too.
But the toys, posters, and video games depicting “Hutt-Slayer Leia” (a fan-led rebranded nickname used to counter the more popular “Slave Leia”) seldom depict Jabba’s death along with the bikini. Without that triumphant context, the only heroine in the original Star Wars trilogy is reduced to an objectified fanboy fantasy, erotic fuel for Ross Geller-types’ secret sexual dreams—or so the story goes.
“I got two daughters I don’t need to be seeing that crap,” an angry father told Fox News in July after his daughter discovered that the only Leia toy available in their Target depicted the heroine in the bikini, as well as enchained.
The “slave” outfit was the only Leia toy option available in the (infamously ugly) Black Series line of Star Wars action figures for many years, and the only Leia figure available at Toys R Us until just this year. The bikini-clad Hutt-Slayer Leia also appears in other material marketed to children (ages 4 and up, though, of course).
“I have been told by a Lucasfilm employee that women don’t buy Star Wars toys, so they are created for men,” says writer Tricia Barr, co-author of Ultimate Star Wars and administrator of Fangirl Blog. “The men who said these things were nice people who didn’t mean to be offensive, but they were blinded to the other half of fandom: the women.”
Carrie Fisher, who played Leia in the original trilogy and will reprise her role in December’s The Force Awakens, has always acknowledged the gratuitous aspects of what became her most iconic outfit. On Return of the Jedi’s opening night in 1983, Fisher explained the bikini to Rolling Stone as filmmakers’ bid to make Leia less “space bitch” and “more female.”
“[Leia] has no friends no family; her planet was blown up in seconds—along with her hairdresser—so all she has is a cause,” Fisher said. “From the first [Star Wars], she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry. In Return of the Jedi, she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”
Not coincidentally, Fisher’s advice to the newest Star Wars heroine, Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley was: “You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was…You keep fighting against that slave outfit.”
The bikini—which recently sold at auction for $96,000—was designed to be a brief homage to classic B-movies and the pulpy work of sci-fi artists like Frank Frazetta, according to Return of the Jedi costume designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers. But marketing material for Return of the Jedi, naturally, emphasized the scanty ensemble to the point where it became the film’s go-to representation of Leia, despite the character spending more time in commando gear in the film, during the Battle of Endor.
“The metal bikini was everywhere [at the time of release], and I believe that glorification of the imagery made people, and men in particular, immune to what Leia’s time in the bikini represents,” says Barr. “Despite her later victory in freeing herself, there ought to be nothing sexy about the outfit Leia wears when she is held captive, forced into the role of a dancing girl against her will and assaulted by Jabba onscreen.”
To be turned on by Leia in the outfit is to cross to the Dark Side, where Jabba’s lolling tongue and bulging eyes delight in captive Leia’s despair—but try telling that to the Ross Gellers of the world.
“When mainstream media goes to grab a picture of Leia, it often seems like they go right for the metal bikini,” says StarWars.com contributor Amy Ratcliffe. “We’ve been inundated with the image for decades, and I’m a fan of seeing Lucasfilm and Disney change the focus.”
Still, there are women—and men—who wear the bikini with pride at conventions and Star Wars gatherings, choosing to revel in the powerful moment Leia kills Jabba.
“We all get put in situations beyond our control, and it is awesome that [Leia] gets to regain control over her person. A lovely story of victory,” says cosplayer Laura Cherti, 44.
Another cosplayer, Jaime Levesque, 38, also enjoys wearing the costume. However, because men tend to “see something from their youth that was very sexualized,” she says, she also gets “a lot of late 30s, early 40s [aged] guys losing their you-know-what over me.”
Those men would do well to watch themselves around Hutt-Slayer women: like Leia, they only seem helpless—until their chain’s wrapped around your throat.