vul ·ner ·a ·ble adj.
1. Susceptible to physical or emotional injury.
If you do a search in Yahoo for “pic princess leia”, guess what you get? Bikini pics. Lots of bikini pics.
What I can’t find on the net is something I remember from an interview (was it in that People magazine spread that came out with Jedi?) was her comment on how that costume came about: she said she went to Lucas and asked him if Leia could have some more vulnerability than she’d shown in the last two films. And she guessed the bikini was his response. Anyone else remember that? I’ll keep looking and may edit the post if I find it. But I think it’s significant that I searched 12 pages in Yahoo, using several search strings, and nada, yet pics of the bikini are almost difficult to avoid.
This topic could go in SO many directions: was this the start of the prepubescent male’s dominance of the movie marketplace? Was it demeaning for her to be skimpily clad while still kicking ass (in my opinion, no, stages of dress are never, in themselves, the issue)? Did little boys find her attractive before the bikini, and if not, what does that say about them? Etc. Maybe I – or one of you – will address those issues in another post.
I’m sticking to once tiny portion of this issue: the discrepancy between what Fisher and Lucas thought the word “vulnerability” means.
Now, if Lucas understood actors – which, by all accounts, he never did, as evidenced by his recent love affair CGI characters who don’t ask about their motivation – he would know that the term vulnerability is actor shorthand for “being emotionally open to wounding”. Actors don’t generally concern themselves with the situations their characters are in – only the characters’ responses to those situations. Lucas could have fulfilled Fisher’s request either by writing her lines a bit differently, or by creating a situation that brought out her vulnerability.
He achieved neither.
For those who need a refresher course, let’s get the whole context here: Leia goes to Jabba’s Palace to rescue her comrade and lover. She gets caught. Then Jabba makes her into a bikini-clad slave. The implication is clear when he licks her – she’d be a sex slave if Jabba was biologically compatible. (We’re a little worried that was going to happen eventually anyway, but no one makes a brain-scubbing soap strong enough to wipe out that image, so we live in denial.)
If this was Lucas’ idea of vulnerable, it clearly demonstrates that his idea of a vulnerable woman is one in a position to be raped. If that’s truly his perception of vulnerability, one has to wonder if he would think to console a person who’s grieving, who’s been publicly humiliated, or who’s in danger of losing something they cherish. Or would he just look at them, assess that they’re in no physical danger, and go on his merry way?
Leia is far from vulnerable in that bikini. She’s even more defiant with Jabba than she was with Tarkin and Vader in the first film. She’s too busy fighting (admirably) to show much concern for anyone. While I have no problem with how she acquits herself in those scenes, I do have a problem with the idea that it expressed vulnerability. If anything, being skimpily clad and unarmed puts her more on guard, makes her more brittle. As it would any woman in a situation like that.