This week, photographs of “Hana Solo and Slave Leo” went viral on Reddit and later on Twitter after Mark Hamill tweeted them. "It could have been worse," he captioned the photo, which he juxtaposed with a photograph from of himself and Carrie Fisher in Return of the Jedi.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) May 8, 2018
The “Hana Solo and Slave Leo” pictures show a gender reversal of the Star Wars characters Han Solo and Princess Leia, in reference to the infamous scene where a golden bikini-clad Leia (Fisher) is chained to the monstrous Jabba the Hutt in the original Star Wars trilogy. From its inception, the image of “slave Leia” was controversial, as it promoted sexism, female objectification, and, well, enslavement. Fisher herself was no fan of the costume, telling Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley, “Don’t be a slave like I was. … You keep fighting against that slave outfit,” in a conversation with Interview before her death.
The Advocate found the identities of the models in the viral photographs: actors America Young (Girls! Girls Girls!, Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures) and Dove Meir (House of Demons, Diverted Eden). Below, Meir and Young discuss the feminist vision of the photographs, which were shot by Rob Daly in November.
Dove Meir: America Young and I are big supporters of the gender equality movement, and thought this would be a great gender reversal to show what it would have looked like if the "manliest" role in Star Wars was played by a woman, and for the role of the damsel in distress to be played by a man.
America Young: Some of the best changes and advancements come from the question "What if?" What if the characters in Star Wars were gender-nonconforming? What if all the male roles were played by women, and vice versa? What if Jabba were more interested in men as sex slaves than women? Then Hana Solo would be frozen in carbonite and Prince Leo would be dressed as the object. What if the biggest franchise in the world asked, "What if?"
Also, I just wanted to be the smuggler and Dove is a good sport.
Meir: Wide-eyed shock and glee! We grew up with Star Wars, so having Mark tweet our photo is amazing and surreal.
Young: Absolute joy! And all the texts and tags we got from friends freaking out with us and for us made it even better!
Meir: Well, the exposed skin probably helped a little bit, but it seems like people are loving the costume idea and are sharing it with each other, as well as the fact that the Solo film will be released soon. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of female Solos this coming Halloween, and a few male Leias as well.
Young: Well, the comment, "Those are the best Leia buns I've seen yet," I think really sums it up! But there were also so many comments saying, "Now, this is a movie I want to see!" I think we tapped into something. The audience is out there and ready for something different.
Meir: We actually tried to make it look as if it were a man as a slave and a woman as Han Solo, so it wasn't technically "drag," but that was an option we were considering. We decided to focus specifically on gender equality in film for this particular project. If it were drag, she'd be wearing men's clothes and I'd have a bra and a wig. We're totally open to more gender swaps and drag as well! Any suggestions?
Meir: My guess is there are already LGBT/gender-nonconforming characters in the Star Wars canon. There are rumors about one main character being gay, but it hasn't been confirmed yet. I think it's important to have diversity, especially in a film series that depicts such a vast universe. It would be great to see more LGBT/gender-nonconforming representation. I believe it's important ... [to] see characters in film that are like ourselves and give us confidence in who we are so we don't fear being ourselves. It's not about pointing out what's different and declaring "It's OK." It's about recognizing that it's just another normal part of our world, and focusing on our goals, missions, and stories, instead of exemplifying what makes us different. Even if it's done with a positive intention, pointing the spotlight on it is still stating that it's separate from the norm. I want to see more LGBT/gender-nonconforming characters in films, but I want to follow their journeys and root for them rather than being pulled out of the story to comment on how great it is that the community is represented.
Young: Yes! I know how I feel when I see a character on screen that I identify with. I feel ... like I'm breathing. I feel my heart in my chest. I feel heard, seen, realized. And I cannot even imagine how it would feel to never see "yourself" on screen, as though a character you identify doesn't have a story worth telling, worth showing. Star Wars is the biggest franchise out there. I wouldn't be surprised if it's better known than the Bible at this point. And to not show all the beautiful, gorgeous diversity of our world in that vast galaxy would be a huge opportunity missed.
Meir: Right now I'm celebrating two feature films in which I was cast that are available on VOD: House of Demons and The Concessionaires Must Die as well as a feature, Diverted Eden, which has won a few awards at film festivals. I'm the voice and motion-captured body and face for Ken's best friend, Ryan, on Barbie Vlog on YouTube. And I've recently shot two wonderful films that I'm still under NDAs so I can't tell you much about, but one is about an airplane pilot and the other is about hunting Nazis in the late 1940s in Chicago. I'm also always working on indie projects with friends and colleagues. You can check me out and stay up to date on projects and cosplay photo shoots on my Instagram @Dovemeir.
Young: My feature directorial debut The Concessionaires Must Die, a slacker geek comedy executive produced by Stan Lee, is out on VOD platforms. I'm directing an animated series for Mattel. My web series that I directed, Whatta Lark, which is about motherhood and drag queens, is online now. I'm also stunt coordinating a few features and writing my next feature to direct! My Twitter & Instagram are @america_young.