The news that broke yesterday was huge for nerds everywhere: Disney bought out LucasFilms. Reactions have been varied. Surprisingly the majority of people have seemed hopefully optimistic – an outlook that I share. But the future of Star Wars is not in any way clear. Every few hours we are learning more and their are a lot of questions.
And only time will tell how those questions will be answered.
We’re going to see a lot more speculation over the coming months. And you’ll see more posts from us on the topic, too.
But there’s one thing I want to address right now. A question that’s been very pressing all across the internet: is Princess Leia now a Disney Princess?
If the only qualifiers are the one is a.) a princess and b.) from a property owned by Disney, then, yes, she is. Just like Thor and Loki are now, technically, Disney Princes.
Now, I don’t expect them to start including Princess Leia in the Disney Princess merchandising. But I really kind of hope that she gets the same sort of marketing as the rest of the Disney Princesses. At least to some extent.
I mean, think about it.
Star Wars has stereotypically been marketed towards boys and boys alone. There are a few attempts here and there to market the series towards girls but from the beginning most merchandise has been geared towards boys. Almost all the major characters – save for Princess Leia – have been male and though the extended universe has given us some pretty awesome, strong female characters – Mara Jade, Ahsoka, Mirax Terrik, Jaina Solo, Syal Antilles, and Tahiri Veila among others.
We know that women in Star Wars can be bad ass.
But that doesn’t change the fact that society as a whole thinks of Star Wars and only sees the movies. They think of plastic lightsabers and action figures. They see a boy’s room with model starships locked in battle hanging from the ceiling. And I say this as a girl who has loved the series since third grade. Girls who try to break past the stereotype are bullied and mocked. Little girls who love Star Wars come home in tears because boys at school make fun of them for liking a boy’s movie.
Disney Princess Leia could change that.
Imagine the sort of merchandising that Disney could capitalize on by modeling a campaign similar to that of any other Princess for Leia. They sell costumes, tooth brushes, combs, lunch pails, backpacks and more in bright pink, blue, and yellow colors. Instead of the more traditional Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, imagine Princess Leia on one of those items.
Now, before people start harping on me about how girls and boys shouldn’t be marketed to differently and toys should be gender neutral, believe me. I agree. I think that a four year old girl should be allowed to have all the action figures she wants. To my parents’ credit, they agreed. I had Polly Pockets growing up but I also had GI Joes and Power Rangers. They got me what I wanted and accepted what I liked. When I became a tomboy they didn’t fight it. They let me be who I wanted to be.
But some girls want the pink toys. My sisters did. They were very traditionally girly. Both of them still are to the extreme. And yet Bailey still likes science fiction (and will be coming with us to Comic Con this year) and Morgan still likes marathoning Lord of the Rings – the extended editions, of course. Some girls want to be girly girls and they still want to like the things they like. My mom’s friend’s six year old twins both love Star Wars but that doesn’t stop Ainsley from wanting to dress in all pink and wear bows.
Girls like Star Wars and they want to be able to go to school and not be made fun of by their friends or boys or anyone else.
What Disney could – and should – do is vamp up the girl-centric marketing.
Now, they don’t have to put out a whole bunch of Disney Princess Leia merchandising. That’s just an exaggeration; a hypothetical if you will. I’m not advocating for Princess Leia to become an official Disney Princess.
But they can do more to reach out towards that young, female demographic.
If that means more pink merchandise, then fine.
What I would really like to see, though, is strong, female lead headlining this new revamped trilogy. I’m not saying make the main character a Katniss clone or anything. Princess Leia was the perfect blend of bad ass while still being feminine. And it’s okay for strong women to still be girly at times! That’s what girls need to see. That someone like them can be awesome and bad ass and still rock the party dress and stilettos.
And they could market that character so that girls can finally feel confident with their Star Wars backpacks. Disney has a lot of potential here to even out the series and help girls show how much they like it without having to put up bullying, teasing, or a general feeling that Star Wars really is for boys. They can find ways to spare those girls who want to like Star Wars and want to wear bows and wear dresses, too.
They have the potential to make it cool for girls to like Star Wars.
And I hope they take advantage of that opportunity.
I really do.
Because no little girl should ever be reduced to tears because the little boys at school tell her that Star Wars is just for boys. And no teacher should ever look down on their third grade student as mine did just because she says Star Wars is her favorite movie. That moment has stuck with me my entire life and not in a positive way.
The balls in your court, Disney. You do well at marketing things gender neutrally and you do a great job at marketing towards girls. I hope you can help us claim the kind of ownership in Star Wars that many of us have been trying to claim our entire lives.