Star Wars‘ female characters follow a pattern found by researchers and it’s not great for women. According to a study carried out by Florida State University, the heroines in Star Wars dress more skimpily and grow more helpless when under the force of love. This is a really interesting observation that sheds light on the portrayal of women in the earlier Star Wars films. Padme Amidala and Princess Leia may look like emblems of female empowerment to some because of their senior positions but the study found that across the films, both characters were objectified through costume.
According to researchers at Florida State University, they usually sport robes and ornate dresses when protecting empires but shed those clothes when they fall in love. The authors observed that Padmé Amidala’s costumes in Episode I, when she holds substantial political power as Queen Amidala, depict her as fully clothed, revealing almost no skin, with dresses that hide the shape of her figure. The subsequent loss of power in later episodes and the greater emphasis on romance are associated with increased visibility of skin, higher body definition and softer hairstyles.
Similarly, Leia holds a position of authority in Star Wars Episode IV, which the authors argue is associated with a costume that leaves only her face and hands exposed. Again, more revealing costumes and softer hairstyles emerge as the trilogy progresses.
The study also went on to say:
The films show the two famous female characters exerting less power when the plot delves into romance. In movies and in real life, women do not need to give up control for being involved in a romance. Filmmakers can show women as leaders and romantic partners simultaneously, we do not have to be one or the other, we have seen some improvements, but much more can be done
The study was published in the open access journal Fashion and Textiles and observed the two characters over about 118 scenes across six films using as much as 34 different costumes.
There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the portrayal of women on screen. More should be done to make sure Star Wars, as well as other films, do not objectify women.