WHAT DO YOU THINK OF AMY SCHUMER’S LEIA PICS?

SOURCE: GQ
SOURCE: GQ

AMBER LOVE 22-JULY-2015 I had been undecided on the Amy Schumer Princess Leia photos that were published last week by GQ. As far as I know, she did have power and consent. I will admit upfront, that if not for these photos and the commercial for her latest film TRAINWRECK, I kept seeing her name, but never knew who the hell she was. All I knew was that she has a public persona of being an outspoken comedian in a time when women are still not paid equally in Hollywood. After thinking about it for days, I’ve come down on the side of parody.

The reason I’m pointing out my ignorance of Schumer’s career is because I think the feelings people had towards Schumer already colored their criticisms. Was it in line with her stage persona? Was it vulgar without reason? Was she only looking for fanboy acceptance (fake geek girl!) when women can’t play in the same comedy sandbox as the men? If Olivia Munn had been the woman in these photos, she’d be seen as empowered even though on G4TV, she looked uncomfortable as hell when dressed as Slave Leia for Comic Con. I think what it comes down to is strictly the perception of Schumer who talks openly about sexual shame in her life and things that make men cringe (like pap smears).

As someone who enjoys making and watching porn/cheesecake parodies, I felt distanced from a set of my female friends once again. They said this photoshoot was pandering to men. It was in a men’s magazine, so, yes it was for male gaze in that regard. There are several burlesque troupes around the world that use STAR WARS themes including The Vanguard in Australia to LA’s own version, the Devil’s Playground. If I analyze the demographics of AmberUnmasked, my Facebook page, and my YouTube channel, I also have an 85-88% male audience though I’m not targeting them. They happen to be the ones that show up. I’d love a strong, equal demographic.

PHOTO BY DARRIN ROBINSON - VANGUARD STAR WARS BURLESQUE
PHOTO BY DARRIN ROBINSON – VANGUARD STAR WARS BURLESQUE

Schumer’s photoshoot covered all kinds of adult ground: There was the New Hope version of Princess Leia as a showgirl and dancing on top of the bar in a gay men’s dive bar; then there were the ones of her dressed as the Slave ROTJ version which is what I think turned people off because (in the GQ video) she said she fingered R2D2 and was fisted by C3-PO. It’s crass, but so is most other adult entertainment. GQ is not marketed to kids or tweens; it’s for adults. GQ isn’t doing anything that porn hasn’t done already; and they are in the same company as Vanity Fair and Playboy by actually acknowledging geek themes finally. Some of the Schumer pictures were downright tame like one of her in the back of a limo texting while dressed in white New Hope gown. There was nothing alarming or controversial about that.

I was reminded of a comic that I saw which explained the difference between “empowered” women in images and “objectified” imagery. I think there are grey areas because as an observer, you probably don’t have all the information. You don’t know if the woman felt pressured into taking the photos or not. You don’t know if it was her idea to begin with. You don’t know if she’s only looking at a photoshoot as a paid job regardless of the theme.

EmpowermentObjectification
SOURCE: EVERYDAY FEMINISM

About the only part of this well-conceived explanation between “empowerment” and “exploitation” is the section on fictional characters which may apply to Schumer’s photos; but like other porn homages, it’s parody. Slave Leia is and has always been about male gaze, but it’s the character of Leia (her words, actions, beliefs) that negate the gaze to harmonize her into a complex character. I still vehemently hate the slave outfit, but it’s not atypical or unique in any way as far as female characters are portrayed. Even Carrie Fisher spoke out against the parent who got into the press for wanting the Slave Leia action figure removed from a toy store.

I asked my 501st friend and AU contributor, James Hannon, what he thought about the spread:

“As a costumer who just loves the movie, I saw the pictures, and while I’m sure it was their intention to piss off Disney & associates, the pictures weren’t that bad… Fer crissake, there are multiple porn movies out there parodying Star Wars – not to mention the mainstream Zack and Miri Make a Porno… Just because the ownership of the films changed to a more family-friendly company, doesn’t mean the rules of parody in the US change to suit them… But I get it… Disney has to complain, otherwise it would be seen as supporting something it doesn’t stand for.” ~James Hannon

For me as a cosplayer and con attendee, I have always had a pretty strong stance which differs from my porn parody peers. If a show has a more 18+ section/aisles, then keeping such porn parody cosplay there is fine. But personally, I’m far more impressed by a real 501st Stormtrooper than a woman with a helmet and underwear walking around a con mocking a character that is for kids. The reason that I can’t possibly form an argument about it is because so many pop culture outfits for female characters really are that skimpy. Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Black Canary, Emma Frost – they’re pretty much in bathing suits or underwear. Then they seem to get skimpier when you bring anime and video game characters into the discussion.

But that’s a digression from the Schumer topic. You can think what comes out of her mouth and her portrayal are in poor taste, but she’s not edgy. Women have been doing these parodies for a long time. And in cosplay and burlesque, it’s all about it being the woman’s choice of character, costume, setting, and even photographer.