The Star Wars films haven’t exactly been renowned for the way they’ve represented women over the years — which is to say, outside of a select few, the franchise really hasn’t represented them at all. And when the films do manage to dwell for a hot second on a female character, they don’t always do them justice, tending to instead objectify or stereotype. After sporting a series of insane outfits, Queen Amidala dies post-childbirth; even Princess Leia, the franchise’s main bad b*tch, spends more than her fair share of time sporting a metal bikini at the behest of a massive space slug. Off-screen, things apparently weren’t much better: Carrie Fisher herself has been outspoken about how she was treated on set, sharing that she was ordered not to wear a bra and to lose 10 pounds from her already slim 105-pound frame.
The forthcoming The Force Awakens seems poised, at least on the surface, to remedy the issue, what with J.J. Abrams’ casting of Daisy Ridley as Rey and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. But it turns out that behind the scenes of the new film, regressive sexism was alive and well. In a new interview with Good Housekeeping, Carrie Fisher explains that she was asked to slim down yet again, losing more than 35 pounds in order to be allowed on screen. “They don’t want to hire all of me – only about three-quarters! Nothing changes, it’s an appearance-driven thing. I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance,” she told the mag. “That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that’s how easy it is.” (Naturally, we’ve heard nothing of the sort from the likes of Harrison Ford or Mark Hamill, neither of whom are spring chickens themselves.)
Fisher went on to share how she lost the weight — and how insulted she felt by the entire ordeal. “I did it the same way everybody has to – don’t eat and exercise more! There is no other way to do it. I have a harder time eating properly than I do exercising. It’s easier for me to add an activity than to deny myself something. When I do lose the weight I don’t like that it makes me feel good about myself. It’s not who I am. My problem is they talk to me like an actress but I hear them like a writer.”
Of course, this type of objectification isn’t unique to the Star Wars set; the way women are asked to whittle themselves down and defy time itself is endemic to the industry. “We treat beauty like an accomplishment and that is insane,” says Fisher. “Everyone in L.A. says, ‘Oh you look good,’ and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never ‘How are you?’ or ‘You seem happy!’ ”
Any actress being asked to lose a third of her body weight is demoralizing, but it’s particularly terrible in this case, as Fisher has more than proved her worth to the franchise, and is solely responsible for turning the character of Princess Leia into a generation-spanning icon. Outside of the Star Wars universe, Fisher’s also a brilliant and respected screenwriter, author, and actress with decades of experience under her belt. But none of that matters, apparently, if that belt isn’t tight enough to satisfy some nightmare of a Hollywood exec. All of this is considerably more depressing in light of Fisher’s recent advice to new co-star Ridley, encouraging the Hollywood newcomer to fight against being sexualized on screen. As Fisher put it to EW back in October, “Don’t be a slave like I was.”