One of the implicit promises of the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney was that its universe would become more inclusive. Big Mouse is a genius at merchandising, after all, and movies have to appeal to everyone in order to sell as much as possible.
Judging by the cast for the upcoming Stars Wars sequel, though, Disney has apparently inherited George Lucas’ unfortunate tendency to populate his creations with men and a token female. (I’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask it again: With so few women around, is the Star Wars universe simply going to die off in a mass extinction via infertility, a la Children of Men, within two generations?) Like their predecessors, Disney’s Imagineers are content to imagine the future as a boys’ land — for men, by men, about men.
This isn’t just the case with the upcoming sequel, but with merchandising as well.
Keep in mind that Big Mouse’s e-shop does sell figurines of random Stormtroopers and plushies of Jawa and Bantha — needless to say, those of much more minor characters than Leia. [Edit: Yes, of course they sell Han Solo and Luke Skywalker dolls as well.]
Moreover, Disney’s wording is telling: there are no plans for Leia products. They haven’t simply sold out; their intention is to simply ignore girls and women, or indeed, any viewers who like kick-ass heroines. It’s a mistake that effectively cuts off Princess Leia fans, many of them presumably female, from feeling like they belong to the fandom.
Last year, Emily Asher-Perrin wrote a wonderful tribute to Leia that outlines what the princess-turned-politician-turned-Jedi Knight means to her:
“It’s not about that fantastic hair or the fact that she can fire a blaster. It’s not about how spunky she is or her lack of concern at being covered in Imperial garbage. It’s not even about how bright she was to hand over the Death Star plans to a cute little droid before things got out of hand. It’s about creative thinking, keeping it together when it counts, and outclassing every pretentious pencil pusher the Empire can throw her way. It’s about being a leader. The leader.”
The strange thing is, Disney evidently understands Leia’s appeal. How else to explain the fact that everyone’s favorite bunhead is one of only three characters, along with other fan favorites Han Solo and R2-D2, that serve as the Star Wars store’s front-page images?
Leia has always been an afterthought in the merchandising game; it’s traditionally been difficult to find her action figures. Check out that suspiciously simian version of the princess below, for which the only explanation is that someone clearly did not give a shit.
But you’d think that Disney, the ur-Princess Factory, would do better at selling female royalty in plastic form to little girls. What is Disney afraid of? That having more viewers and customers would derail the franchise? That appealing to four quadrants instead of two would dilute the brand? That giving customers what they want will make them question their loyalty?
As of press time, there are, in fact, no Star Wars merchandise for girls:
Good job, boys. Your money is flying out to a galaxy far, far away.