Nerdery / Nostalgia'd! / Plastic Kingdom / Pop Culture Analysis

Let’s Talk about This Leia Thing

Leia finds your lack of her merchandise at the Disney Store disturbing.

So this story is a few weeks old, but I just heard about it on Facebook a couple of days ago. And it’s been covered at The Daily Dot and The Mary Sue, among other places. Still, as much as Leia means to me, I’m compelled to stick my two cents in here. If you haven’t heard, the Disney Store pretty much admitted on Twitter that they’re not pursuing carrying any Leia merchandise in their Star Wars sections.

Readers of this blog (or anyone who knows me relatively well) know that I have a longstanding relationship with Leia as one of the holy trinity of self-rescuing princesses (the others being She-Ra, Princess of Power, and Wonder Woman, princess of Paradise Island). I’ve written before about my Endor Leia action figure that I loved so dearly.

When I was a kid and saw Star Wars for the first time, I was mesmerized by Princess Leia and her role. Yes, for most people the trilogy is a story about Luke and his journey from moisture farmer to Jedi knight or a story of the Rebel Alliance’s triumph over the tyranny of the Empire, but from the opening scenes on Leia’s Blockade Runner, to me the story was about a diplomatic princess who led the Rebel Alliance. It was about a woman who didn’t know much about her origins but had risen to a place of power and was using it for good. And along the way, she met a handsome but challenging rogue with whom she fell in love, but that wasn’t the be-all, end-all to the story. She led the charge to overthrow the Empire, and in the end she gained a family in Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids (among others). (And if that isn’t a modern-era Disney princess story, I don’t know what is.)

See, that’s the beauty of Star Wars to me. There’s a linear narrative, but if you ask any fan of the franchise, you’ll likely hear a different story of why they love it. Some love Boba Fett, even though he doesn’t have a great deal of screen time. Others love the furry little Ewoks, who embody nature overtaking industry (or because they’re adorable). Some love the majesty and evil beauty of the Empire, citing Vader’s power as the reason they keep coming back. Leia is my favorite, but I also love the Stormtroopers. Everyone has a favorite character or scene, and we’re all pretty passionate about them.

I can understand not making merchandise for Leia the way she’ll be in the new movie, and even creating merchandise for other female characters in the new movie. But not creating any Leia merchandise for little girls to discover as their parents show them the original movies could be a momentum killer. When I was a kid, whenever I discovered a character I liked, I wanted to own something with that character on it, whether it was a toy, a tote bag, a shirt (or likely all of those things), or anything else. And from what I’m reading, little girls today aren’t that different (case in point–the originator of the tweet to the Disney Store was looking for Leia merchandise for her daughter, and the recent shortage of Frozen dolls due to the frenzy over the film). By saying franchises like Star Wars and Marvel are strictly for boys, Disney misses a huge opportunity to engage all of their audiences and ultimately make more money. Looking at conventions and adult collectors, men and women alike spend sometimes ridiculous amounts of money to collect items representing their favorite movies/characters/comics/etc.

So, gentle readers, what can we do? Well, for one, we can join in the Twitter campaign with #WeWantLeia. Tweet @DisneyStore, or just tweet using the hashtag. If you read the posts at that hashtag, you’ll see a lot of passionate fans and parents of fans imploring Disney to include Leia in Disney Store marketing and merchandise.

(Now, a note about this whole thing–you can buy Leia merchandise at the Disney parks, but this is specifically pertaining to the Disney Store franchise.)

And if you’re a parent looking to start a Princess Leia collection for your little girl, here are my recommendations.

1. Go vintage. There’s loads of vintage Leia merchandise, from the original action figures (yay!) to the questionable ’90s figures to some really incredible modern vintage-style figures. (The best modern version of Leia thus far in my opinion is the Leia from Hasbro’s Vintage Collection from several years ago.)

2. HerUniverse.com I absolutely love Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars cartoon) for starting a clothing line of Star Wars t-shirts and other fashions just for girls and women. They’ve recently branched out into other fandoms like Doctor Who, and everything there is adorable. The great thing about it is that they carry a wide variety of sizes, from little girls to big girls. I have an R2-D2 dress from that line, and since the spring line was released, I’m counting down to my next paycheck so I can order more from the site. Honestly, my entire wardrobe could come from this site, and I’d be perfectly happy with it. (And check out this little Leia cosplay tunic. SO CUTE!)

3. Etsy/Conventions/Artists/Crafters. It’s easy to find Princess Leia merchandise on sites like Etsy. From baby hats to posters to costumes to dolls to jewelry and more, if you follow the link in the previous sentence, you’ll see there’s a legion of crafters out there to accommodate your Leia needs. Also check out conventions, art shows/galleries, and craft shows. Especially with conventions, there are most likely a few geeky artists and crafters who are handy with a brush or needle or jewelry implements who’ll have something with Princess Leia on it. Plus, you’re supporting someone’s small business, so bonus! For example, my pal Jennifer Bennett of Handmade Stuffs created this adorable Space Princess.

So the moral of the story is, this Leia thing isn’t the end of the world. At worst, it’s a missed opportunity for the Disney Store, but we have the internet, so it’s not like that’s our only source of merchandise. If it proves true that Disney doesn’t see Star Wars as a unisex property, well, that’s another story. I think at this point anyone making that claim is doing some pretty big assuming, but time will tell.

So what do you think, gentle readers? Is this Disney Store thing a blip, or will it prove to be a symptom of a larger problem?

!!UPDATE!! A spokeswoman for Disney reported to Time Magazine that they will, indeed, be carrying Leia merchandise as part of their Star Wars line. This is great news!

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59 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about This Leia Thing

  1. I am hoping Disney will take notice of this and change their position. I have to agree with you, growing up, Leia was the reason I found Star Wars so interesting, she was someone I looked up to and like with She-Ra, really introduced me to the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. So to think that they would not have that kind of merchandise completely boggles my mind. Frozen and Maleficent are two recent Disney films that have been highly successful and deal with females as leads. There is clearly a demand for girls to be interested in movies and collecting items just like the boys are. I am just really looking forward to the day when companies really start to pick up on this. Great article!

    • Thanks! I was really impressed by the community outcry, and it looks like Disney has changed their stance, based on the Time article I linked to in the update.

  2. Sounds like an interesting marketing gimmick. If they can get enough folks outraged then when they do offer them, and they will, those folks will be sort of forced into a purchase. Brilliant.

    • That may be part of it. Their decision to reverse their stance can only help their bottom line, to be sure. I’ll be interested to see how (if at all) this affects their overall marketing strategy in the pink aisles, since they haven’t really done anything with Marvel properties there either.

      • I’d imagine the girl toys are a low volume sale area for them. The indignation stirred by all this should help their bottom line dramatically. I know every time I threaten to cancel something that’s failing folks tend to rally round and support it. If I were in their business shoes I’d milk it for all it’s worth.

  3. I disagree. I hope Disney carries NO Star Wars merchandise at all – CERTAINLY not in the Covent Garden branch! It would be base sacrilege to put stormtroopers, battle droids, (any droids) Luke, Leia, or any character any serious fan of Star Wars remotely likes, into that sugary bubblegum chaos of pretty-pretty princesses.

  4. Pingback: The Potential For Women In Star Wars Episode VII | The L. Palmer Chronicles

  5. For someone who seeks empowered female heroes, why do you demand this of Disney? It is still the same Disney who brought us Tinkerbell – the eternal side kick, Jessica Rabbit – the objectified pin up, Stass Allie – one of the first Jedi to die, etc. Almost none of the female leads can do anything without either dressing as a male or having super-human powers.

    • But isn’t that the point, to challenge Disney to do things differently? They have an opportunity to garner a whole new fan base for Star Wars if they position their handling of female characters in that universe properly.

      • Disney has made abundantly it apparent that they’re not the slightest bit interested in changing how they portray females. I’m sorry, but I don’t see it as a “challenge” to Disney as long as you continue to consume their products. They are profit driven and until the profits change, the female characters won’t.

  6. A bit of trivia about Leia. Her picture appears in the “Abnormal Psychology” text book. It actually is referring to Carrie Fisher but the image in the weird bunned haired Leia. Fisher jokes about it in her 2010 documentary “Wishful Drinking”. She also talks of the Leia merchandising including soap, a pez dispenser, a life size sex doll and more. It’s a great doco.

  7. Glad to hear Leia is being carried by Disney. She is a Princess after all and Disney prides themselves on their princesses. This story had to help make a difference! I am just about 40 years old so Star Wars and its collectibles were a big part of our youth. Glad Disney didn’t miss the boat here. Great job!

  8. agreed – and it’s doubly confounding since Disney is the empire built upon PRINCESS merchandising. Leia’s one of the few Princesses that actually has the word PRINCESS in her name. (Princess Jasmine too, I suppose). such a head-scratcher.

  9. I was 9 or 10 the first time I saw Star Wars, and I had a total crush on Luke Skywalker–not Mark Hamill–Luke Skywalker. I just thought his story was so super cool. It was all about how any little guy can rise to the occasion and become something great. That being said, I liked Leia a lot because she was courageous and funny and really seemed to carry the guys through some tough situations sometimes. She was one of the first really cool female heroes I was ever interested in. She’s an important part of the original story, and if nothing else, I think Disney should include character merchandise for that reason if nothing else.

  10. I was surprised too. No Leia? She’s part of the Three-Hero-Team. You always say all three of their names when you talk about the OT. Okay, sure the story is about Luke…but she becomes so essential, especially as we find out that she’s Luke’s sister at the end.

    Disney’s first blunder.

  11. I couldn’t agree more! I believe that Leia is a wonderful representation of beauty and feminism in a unique way. I am a huge “Star Wars” fan and would love to see some Leia merchandise!

  12. prbly just a blip. Too many Leia fans, she’s not going to fade. Thanks for the HerUniverse.com link! That’s super cute. I might have to include it in one of my future posts. Oh, but you might want to fix the url link, it took me to wordpress.com not heruniverse.com

    • Her Universe is awesome! They recently picked up Marvel merchandise, and are releasing Transformers clothing as well (which is all kinds of rad).

      And thanks for the heads-up–I fixed the link. 🙂

  13. Even in the 1980s they made Leia action figures! Ok so it was Leia in Boushh disguise but I always preferred her in that garb. I remember my brother sticking her under the kitchen door and popping off her head. I buried his Chewbacca in the garden as sweet sweet revenge.

  14. Why wouldn’t they have Leia items? She is an imperative part of the series, without her the story would have been much different. I’m glad they rethought their original plan. 😀 Loved reading your blog!

  15. I’ve followed Carrie Fischer’s career for years, and I am a huge fan. Believe me, she will have a significant roll in the new movie and they will be rushing to put Leia items out afterward. You didn’t see any Frozen items until months after that movie exploded in popularity. Carrie has too much personality for JJ Abrams not to make use of her.

  16. Just to let you know I think the HerUniverse.com link you have is broken. It just leads back to WordPress for some reason for me. Otherwise great article! Thanks!

  17. Draco remembers Leia always being one of the rarest lego characters too. Maybe Lando was a bit more difficult because they only did yellow head at the time and ya, but she was usually only in the $100 dollar sets… 😦 It was frustrating.

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