After a makeup company partnered with the Star Wars brand, there was resistance. Why? We’re just finally getting our unique shade of fandom. Embrace it.
A couple of weeks ago, Storybook Cosmetics announced that it’s slapping the Star Wars logo on a palette of what I can only assume will be extremely shimmery makeup, and my excitement has finally died down enough to write coherently about it.
You see, makeup is a key tool in my utility belt of ways to achieve existential solace, so when combined with my favorite movie franchise – no, my favorite possible window into a real, alternate universe – of all time, I believe I will actually be impervious to intrinsic meaninglessness’s constant nagging.
Do I think the palette will include red and white face paint to turn Padmé’s traditional Queen-of-Naboo get-up into an everyday look? No, but luckily for me, I learned how to recreate that costume Halloween circa 2003, which, not luckily for me, did not attract the cute boy in my 3rd-grade class who dressed as Anakin.
This Halloween, I went as Darth Vader because on top of no longer agreeing with the *ahem* dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi, I needed to mask my lazy, unaltered makeup routine. (I also needed said makeup to double as appropriate for the incredibly hungover workday that followed … and that I had to cut short.)
I fluctuate between an intense desire for a more female-friendly fandom and contentment with that which already exists. This is especially true now that I have no problem dressing up as the male characters, but in my ongoing effort to distance myself from pretentious fans, I’m always down to gush about how stoked I am for Star Wars products targeted predominately toward women. Granted, it is slightly embarrassing when a girly website confuses Tatooine with Tataouine, Tunisia, but I can let it slide since I once argued with some dude who vehemently asserted that Boba is actually pronounced “Bobba.”
Plus, this makeup feeds the eternal flame of my prequel love, kept burning, in large part, by my affinity for Padmé’s costumes. I learned how to sew solely to make them for my Barbies. It was an area of appeal that my like-minded, mostly male, peers overlooked.
I’m not saying that women are the only people who wear makeup by any stretch, but in a world of overtly masculine marketing that teaches boys to exclude and gives men who have already internalized the idea of gendered fandoms ammunition to exclude, Star Wars-themed makeup feels like a win for women.
The women in the Star Wars films look impeccable even in the middle of forest battles, deserts, and gladiator-style killings, but they are applauded for their tenacity and strength – as they well should be. Seeing Rey sit at a vanity and powder her nose or complain about a chipped nail would feel grossly out of place, yet she, Padmé, and Leia are all poster girls for Western beauty standards.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Dear fanboys: Stop complaining about the new Star Wars
- It’s a Small Galaxy after All: Is Disney Ruining Star Wars?
- Sexism makes Star Wars a galaxy far far away
But this isn’t about criticizing the fact that even the alien women in Star Wars look like they’re straight out of a middle school boy’s wet dream. It’s about the problem of our inability to let women who enjoy culturally masculine things also enjoy glitter and lip gloss and hot pink. No, wait. It’s about both. They’re entangled.
It’s “the slave girl bikini and the ripped up white bodysuit with a seam conveniently centered on the nipples” problem. No matter how autonomous, the women in Star Wars are most memorable when they are reduced to mannequins at which male audiences can gawk.
It’s the “are we reclaiming our sexuality or subconsciously catering to the male gaze” problem.
It’s the “women have to be sexy, tough, and intelligent to be taken seriously, but if they’re too sexy, they’re vain; if they’re too tough, they’re masculine; or if they’re too intelligent, they’re bossy and intimidating” problem.
That’s why there would never be pink lightsabers but there are scantily clad women chained up like Rottweilers. That’s why it has taken until now to have a female Jedi in the foreground of the plot. That’s why an unnecessary depiction of domestic violence by a moody man who needed his wife to be both a mother figure and a supportive, understanding lover was used to create irony.
Women are smart and powerful in Star Wars, but until now, they’ve been sidelined and objectified for the moments worth screencapping. (I really hope the new films stay on their trajectory in the opposite direction.)
The same attitude bleeds into the fandom, which is encompassed in the “fake nerd girl” stereotype. “Sure, she wears a Stormtrooper graphic tee, but she also wears eyeshadow, so she can’t possibly be an actual fan.” Female “nerds” are often accused of insincere interest for the purpose of adhering to an aesthetic.
I’m always down to gush about Star Wars products targeted predominately toward women … something as gimmicky as a Star Wars makeup palette is an acknowledgement that there are women and girls who like Star Wars and also like “girly” things.
Thanks to Rey, I think this attitude is waning or is at least being pushed to the side, but it was front and center when I was growing up. Somehow, my decision to start wearing makeup in eighth grade delegitimized every ounce of complexity I had ever shown. It was evident in the tone of shock and/or disbelief and/or patronization all women know.
Adolescent girls are under a great deal of pressure from the media, adults, and their peers to remain cognizant of how well their presentations, behaviors, and interests cater to men. That feeling of having to “choose” a box permeates into adulthood and lays bare where the institutional power lies even in the face of reclaiming their sexuality.
Anecdotally, that’s why it’s incredibly difficult for people to understand why I spent Halloween in a Darth Vader mask and a Saturday afternoon at Sephora. I no longer feel like I have to choose, but I’m influenced by people’s reactions – both past and present.
It defies the myth of the cool girl who is effortlessly hot, likes “dude stuff,” and, in essence, is outwardly okay with being sexually harassed. Once one of those criteria is not met, she is relegated by men to the too vain, too tough, or too smart category.
That is why something as gimmicky as a Star Wars makeup palette is so important to me. It’s an acknowledgement that there are women and girls who like Star Wars and also like “girly” things.
It might be a marketing scheme, but at least it’s a scheme that debunks the myth that women in nerdy fandoms must eschew femininity (unless it’s used to play into some dude’s adolescent fantasy) and internalize misogyny toward the “girly girls.”
So essentially, let us have our dolls … and our action figures too!