Criticisms of Fisher’s appearance prove misguided
One day, a creature by the name of Jabba the Hutt captured Alderon’s Princess Leia, and he put her in a gold bikini, the Gold Bikini. In the eyes of many viewers, on that day, in “Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi,” Princess Leia became a vivid sex symbol. (Okay, perhaps in the fandom and nerd circle alone.) She was considered a beautiful and yet unattainable woman (well, unless you’re Han Solo). However, today, this presentation couldn’t be any further from the truth, as fandom and misogynists alike are treating Princess Leia as anything but beautiful. Following the release of “Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the series, actress Carrie Fisher returned as General Leia. With brilliant and impenetrable wit and a commanding personality, Leia led many successful battles, in the original trilogy, against the Empire, putting the Force in a position to bring light to galaxy. Despite this mastery, trolls on the internet are attacking the actress’s physical appearance. SurferJoe, with the Twitter handle @surfJoeMalibu, tweeted at Fisher, “YOU DIDNT AGE WELL AND U SUCKED IN STAR WARS. IT WAS A REST HOME FLICK. WANT MY MONEY BACK @Variety @carrieffisher #StarWars @bad_robot.” A barrage of similar, abhorrent comments were aimed at Fisher, to which she responded: “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”
In this, Fisher clearly established that youth and beauty exist only in a time capsule. Looking back, though, critics, as well as Lucasfilm and Marvel, have established that the popular image of Princess Leia as the “slave girl” won’t find itself in the shelves of stores anymore due to its sexist nature, a low point for the series, according to a Nov. 4 MSNBC article. J. Scott Campell, a comic artist for Marvel, confirmed the rumor, expressing, “I’ve heard it from two sources. We can’t even draw Leia in a sexy pose at Marvel, let alone in that outfit!” While feminists and fans alike rejoice at this apparent win, it only makes me further question why we are so obsessed with beauty and all the pain that comes along with sustaining it.
According to the American Society for Plastic Surgery, in 2014, Americans in the United States spent upwards of 12 billion dollars on surgical and non-surgical procedures, with ten million cosmetic procedures performed that same year. To establish some perspective, that is just how much money in public funds was allocated to build 51 stadiums around the country between 2001 and 2010, according to a July 28 John Oliver “Last Week Tonight” segment. Ridiculous expenditures aside, this epidemic of beauty extends far beyond our borders. In South Korea, the obsession with the ideal face and body has become a way of life. According to a March 23 article in the New Yorker, estimates put South Korea as having the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world. In fact, plastic surgery has become so commonplace that job applications require images, and negative comments about physical appearance can come across with little insult, as if someone was critiquing the wallpaper in your apartment.
Additionally, 10 million women in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Anorexia nervosa results in the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness for its victims. In fact, 5-10 percent of those who are diagnosed with the disease will die in the first ten years, and 18-20 percent will be deceased in the first twenty years. Disorders such as these come with not only lethal physical consequences but emotional and psychological ones, as well. In a study of 1,885 individuals struggling with eating disorders, S.J. Crow and his colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School found that individuals with anorexia nervosa and “less severe” eating disorders had a statistically greater chance of committing suicide than those without the disorder. Yes, beauty and thinness are important to Western society, but we are literally killing ourselves over it. We need to divert our attention from an obsession with physical beauty and instead measure worth based off of lasting qualities such as merit or lack thereof.
Unsurprisingly, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t aspire to such “lofty” ideals. On numerous occasions, the presidential hopeful has slung arrows at Huffington Post’s co-founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington. In an April 6 tweet, Trump stated, “@laurasgoldman: .@realDonaldTrump why is it necessary to comment on .@ariannahuff looks? Because she is a dog who wrongfully comments on me.” In defense, a July 17 Huffington Post blog post promised that it “will cover his [Trump’s] campaign as part of our [the Huffington Post’s] Entertainment Section.” This baseless attack on Arianna Huffington goes to show that some influential individuals our society choose to focus on appearance before merit. A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Huffington has received numerous public accolades, including ranking in at number 12 on Forbes’ 2009 list of the “Most Influential Women in Media” and being recognized as the sixty-first most powerful woman in the world in 2015 by Forbes.
Similarly, Trump slammed GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina in a Sept. 9 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. He shrieked, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” Although Trump later backpedaled on his virulent statement — Trump expressed during a Sept. 16 GOP debate, “I think she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman” — these unwarranted personal attacks and latter compliments about physical appearance delve little into the concrete political issues at hand, and they further establish the idea that Trump’s campaign is a joke. His time and influence could have been better spent attacking Fiorina’s controversial tenure as Hewlett-Packard CEO from 1999 to 2005 or her views on political issues. While Trump is only one individual, he represents a growing tide of individuals in the States who base worth on beauty rather than merit. You only have to look as far as the polling data to realize this unsettling reality — Trump holds 24 percent of the votes in the Iowa caucus, a close second to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), according to a Jan. 10 NBC News, Wall Street Journal and Marist poll.
In “Return of the Jedi,” Darth Vader makes a novel ethical choice — he saves his son, Jedi Luke Skywalker, from an untimely death at the hands of his master, Emperor Palpatine. This decision reveals the internal struggle Vader faces between the light and the dark side. Attributed to his intelligence and intuitive spirit, Luke recognized the good in Vader. He expresses to his sister Leia his need to confront Vader: “Because there is good in him. I’ve felt it. He won’t turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try.” Followers of the series continue to surprise me though. The reason we all have come to know and love “Star Wars” isn’t merely for the on-point special effects and lightsaber fight scenes. “Star Wars” tells the story of a unassuming group’s rise against a brutal and atrocious empire, and that involves some serious ethos. These characters in this story stand for something, and when we base our judgements of the series merely on how Princess Leia looks in a gold bikini, we have forgotten the message. We have certainly let the characters, with their high ideals, down.