You have to feel for poor old Simon Pegg, who unwittingly wandered into a heated debate about gender equality this week. What started out as a fairly innocuous tweet about ‘cosplay girls’ at the San Diego Comic-Con, soon erupted into full-scale accusations of sexism and objectification.
To play Devil’s advocate for a moment, he probably didn’t help matters by following his tweet with a picture of 12 young women dressed in Princess Leia’s Jedi outfit, along with the caption “*makes noise like Homer Simpson thinking of donuts.*” Even so, the storm in a C-cup that followed, which kicked off when Courtney Stoker objected to his ‘gross’ comments, was surely a case of making a mountain out of some barely covered molehills.
Striking a tone that might kindly be described as apoplectic, furious feminists of all shapes and sizes (a diversity of body images I wholeheartedly celebrate), jumped on the bandwagon to label the hapless geek an offensive sexist.
The women disingenuously overlooked the fundamental hypocrisy of their own argument
Now, it could be argued that Pegg’s initial postings were misguided, and possibly even demeaning to women. Undoubtedly, he did himself no favours by initially dismissing the accusation as ‘boring’. So maybe some of the comments about his ‘objectification’ of women had some credibility. However, in the rush to attack his unreconstructed world-view, and subjectively interpret his comment as “conceiving of their fandom as existing solely for [his] fantasies”, the women disingenuously overlooked the fundamental hypocrisy of their own argument.
Aside from the fact that the line-up of 12 women featured not a single plus-size cosplayer, or any women of colour for that matter, they’d selected a minimalist ensemble that’s universally acknowledged as fuelling many a geek’s fantasy. There was a whole episode of Friends devoted to this very subject, and Pegg’s recent flick 'Paul' featured the Leia costume as its final punchline. So for Stoker to argue that “Leia cosplayers, are a part of the geek community. NOT DECORATION” is a bit of a stretch, unless Comic-Con was also attended by equally well-documented clusters of women modelling Leia’s Endor camouflage or her Hoth thermals.
Carrie Fisher herself has often spoken about the gradual sexualisation of her character in the original trilogy. During the filming of A New Hope, Lucas had insisted that her breasts be taped down, since “there are no bras in space.” Although she kindly ran a regular raffle, selecting a lucky crew member to remove the tape at the end of each day’s shooting. Over the intervening years, Lucas obviously mellowed, perhaps realising that his franchise was in danger of becoming a total sausage-fest. As a result, we saw a lot more of Leia in the final instalment of the trilogy, as her bounty hunter disguise was quickly discarded, in favour of a far more revealing two-piece.
I fully encourage feminists to tackle prejudice and discrimination wherever they encounter it. However, if they really want to claim the moral high-ground in this particular debate, perhaps they might like to reconsider which cosplay personae they leap to defend. After all, one of the most important features of Leia’s skimpiest outfit is the chain that kept her attached to her master. Remember, Leia’s metallic bikini was a slave outfit; not exactly the most progressive get-up for any woman keen to demonstrate her independence from the possessive gaze of men. In acknowledging their attractiveness, Pegg’s comments merely objectified women who’d deliberately chosen an outfit that explicitly represents female subjugation. That’s their choice, but no-one can blame him for simply playing along.
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