Le Sigh

A video of people playing the upcoming Star Wars Kinect has been making the rounds of the nerd blogosphere, and I wanted to throw my two cents in, too.  At this point Star Wars is less an expression of creativity and more a vehicle for merchandising, so why begrudge this rather unimaginative foray into the universe?  If nothing else, at least it's better than Masters of Teras Kasi or the N64 podracing game.  But there's a part in the video, at 4:35, that I find really problematic.

It's no secret that science fiction, like a lot of 'nerdy' properties, has real problems with the depiction of women.  It's not as bad as, say, North American superhero comics, which in some cases actually seem designed to drive away women, but there's still a sense that science fiction is a genre for guys.  And that's unfortunate, because science fiction should be for everybody.  Some properties have done better at walking the walk than others; Ripley from Aliens, Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, even Leia herself from the original Star Wars trilogy.  But lately, there's been a certain weakness in female characters in science fiction, particularly in the big properties.  Leia may have handled herself as well as any man, but her mother Padme literally lost the will to live when her man turned away from her.  Uhura may have been a breakout character back in the 60s, but now her biggest impact is to be Spock's love interest.  Nearly all the female characters in Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica, strong characters all, ended up either dead or happily raising babies.  Gwen Cooper of Torchwood just wants people to leave her alone so she can live with her man and her baby.  Fringe is still solid, anchored by a strong female character, but for science fiction television it seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

Now, I'm not saying that science fiction fans are sexist, or even that science fiction creators are sexist.  This is too big to be put at the feet of one person or a small handful of people.  But I think it's important to draw attention to this sort of thing, particularly when it's as blatant as a dancing game featuring Jabba the Hutt's sex slaves and a heroine reduced from a blaster-firing rebel leader to a sexualized caricature.  It's not wrong to think Carrie Fisher was attractive in the slave girl costume in Return of the Jedi; it's not even wrong to elevate that look to a nerd sex symbol, stripped of the context of Jabba's palace and the Hutt himself.  Heck, maybe Han and Leia liked to play 'rescue the grateful slave girl' years afterwards, and that's what all these cosplayers and fan artists are protraying.  What's problematic here, and what's becoming more and more problematic in my opinion, is the way female characters are reduced to sexual icons no matter their surroundings, whether they're princesses or soldiers or slaves or victims of any number of unpleasant things.  If Wonder Woman fights crime in a one piece bathing suit, well, that's one thing, but if Wonder Woman is constantly drawn in positions that have her nearly spilling out of her top, or showing off her ass and bust simultaneously, or posing like a pinup model when she's just going about her day, that's a bigger problem.  And it's becoming more and more of a problem, in genre productions in general and science fiction and fantasy in particular.

Just remember; Leia isn't dancing for you, guys.  She's dancing for a crime lord and murderer, who's holding her as a slave at best, and a sex slave at worst. 

And you're making her do it.

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