For me and many other males of a certain age and inclination, the reaction to Princess Leia in the Star Wars films was one which changed as the years went on and morefilms came out.
When the first film came out, and I was 7 or so, she was just, well, there, being captured and rescued and arguing with the male characters and then dishing out medals at the end. I think I may have had the Leia action figure which came out, but it wasn’t my favourite or anything.
Then The Empire Strikes Back came out, and I seem to remember Leia having more to do – she was in charge on the ice planet, and more like one of the troops. Still, as a boy of about ten, I saw that she was a girl, and of course that meant she probably smelled like flowers and liked ponies or something. I don’t know, all right? I was young and foolish then (as opposed to older and … well, yes).
But a few years later, in Return Of The Jedi there was a frankly gratuitous scene with Leia in a metal bikini (much referred to amongst boys of a certain age, and the focus of an episode of Friends), which coincided with certain age-wrought changes in me to the extent that… well, yes, I found the scene oddly compelling. That’s how shallow and facile I was then (and probably am now, some might say).
As I say, the scene with Leia in a metal bikini in the 1983 film was pretty unnecessary really, and I don’t think it would be stretching it to say it was sexist. Fortunately, in 1995 a remodelled version of the Princess Leia action figure was released, and I think it’s fair to say that it went some way to addressing the unnecessary sexualisation of the character:
… well, maybe you find that alluring. It doesn’t do it for me, and I’m not alone in that, as apparently collectors call this the ‘Monkey Face Leia’ figure. I can see why, though it looks both simian and constipated.
Still, Carrie Fisher has demonstrated a sharp sense of humour about all this, I feel – in 2008 she said “Among George’s many possessions, he owns my likeness, so that every time I look in the mirror I have to send him a couple of bucks. That’s partly why he’s so rich.”