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!