I get asked a lot about why I have a problem with Slave Leia, so I thought I’d write out a nice little treatise on the subject. The truth of the matter is that I don’t have a problem with Slave Leia. I have a problem with the fans perception of her.
Slave Leia, stripped of her power, chained to a tyrannical Jabba half-naked and miserable, is a dirty, and disgusting idea. And that’s on purpose. It makes sense in the context of our times and our idea of gender identity. After all, whether it’s other characters or their fans, the ways we constantly take women down for being powerful is to make them belong to someone else.
So if you were going to demean and degrade a woman who is the leader of a rebellion, a woman so bad ass that she’ll impersonate a bounty hunter to go into the bowels of the criminal underground, you would do it by chaining her up and treating her like an object to be owned. That is what someone like Jabba the Hutt would do, and he did.
But Leia—fucking kickass Leia—takes those chains (both metaphorical and literal) and chokes Jabba the Hutt until his smelly rotten corpse goes down with the Sandcrawler.
And I like that. I like that a lot. But I don’t think that’s the context Slave Leia is looked at in fandom. Slave Leia in the fandom is a sex object to fantasize over, not a woman gaining back her power.
So… yeah.. I don’t have a problem with Slave Leia, per se. Slave Leia still has agency. Slave Leia knows the shitty position she’s in, and she waits for her chance. Slave Leia doesn’t let her being slave degrade her into compliance and acceptance of her subjugation.
Slave Leia is not a tool, no matter how much Jabba tries to pigeon her into that.
Slave Leia to fans, however, is a different story. Slave Leia is sexy, and desirable. She’s a fantasy roleplay for Ross in Friends, and men drool over her. The fans don’t see that she was made to dress that way to cheapen and debase her because that’s how we see women as a society anyway.
The hypersexualization of Slave Leia in the fan culture is worrying precisely because it doesn’t recognize why Leia is dressed the way she is, but rather embraces it without questioning the motivations behind Jabba’s choice in wardrobe for her.
Or, rather, the TLDR:
Canon Slave Leia – Purposefully trying to take away power from a strong and independent woman.
Fan Slave Leia – Unintentionally robbing Leia of her agency by making her an sexual object rather than a person in the same way Jabba the Hutt does.