The Legion of Leia: Tech reporter Jenna Busch leads movement for more female representation in sci-fiWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not unusual that Jenna Busch is a huge “Star Wars” fan, and that’s the whole point.
Growing up, the young woman who would become one of the most prominent geek reporters in the world — with stints for the SyFy Channel, Huffington Post, IGN and AOL under her belt — always loved science fiction and fantasy. But there was something different about “Star Wars” and, particularly, Princess Leia.
“She wasn’t shy and retiring. She was a senator. She was kicking ass, pretty much,” Busch said in an interview with Toledo Free Press.
But even at a young age, Busch noticed something about the “Star Wars” universe that troubled her. Princess Leia was the only female character she could play. “And so when I would go outside to play ‘Star Wars’ when I was a kid with all my girlfriends, I had to change some of the characters to be girls.”
The disparity between male and female leads in the “Star Wars” universe continued to gnaw at her — and millions of other female fans — right up through a few weeks ago, when the cast of “Episode VII” was revealed. Six from the original cast, seven new actors — and one, count her, one new woman. The ratio of male to female characters remained the same.
Busch wrote an entry on her blog, girlmeetslightsaber.blogspot.com, discussing her reaction. “I was actually pretty angry. … What I thought was, ‘You guys announce thirteen cast members, and two of them are women — you have no idea who your fans are,’” Busch said.
“And I don’t buy the argument, ‘Well, this one woman might be a huge part of the story!’ Well, so was Leia. Leia was a huge, huge part of the story. She still very well may be. But — I have a niece and a nephew. And when my niece goes out to play ‘Star Wars,’ she’s going to have one more woman to be. She’s going to see herself in one more person. My nephew is going to see himself all over the place.”
It wasn’t until a few days later that an idea began to blossom — a way to show displeasure for the lack of female representation while celebrating the character so many women love and identify with. Busch was out for dinner with a friend of hers, discussing the casting of “Episode VII.”
“So we’re talking about this, and in the blog post I had posted a picture of myself dressed as Princess Leia as a kid on Halloween. And she’s like, ‘I have one, too!’ And so we started talking about it and Legion of Leia came out of that idea.
“And we’re like, well, we’ll ask people to support us by changing their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter to Princess Leia. Whether it’s them, or someone else. And the response was mind-blowing,” Busch said.
“It was one of those things where, you know, you get the little buzz on your phone when someone follows you or tweets at you. And she and I were talking about how the phone just kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing. We couldn’t believe it. And I asked a bunch of people, well-known female industry people in the community to do stuff — and everyone did.”
Director Amy Berg, producer Jane Espensen, Ashley Eckstein and Catherine Taber of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” model Adrianne Curry and many, many more — all showed support and posted pictures of themselves as the character on May 4 — the unofficial “Star Wars” Day. The Legion of Leia’s message was simple and clear: “Star Wars” has tons and tons of female fans. Why isn’t over half of the world’s population represented more in the world’s most popular sci-fi franchise? Or, indeed, in pop culture in general?
It’s not over for the Legion now that May 4 has passed, either. Its Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/LegionofLeia — has continued to post news and profiles of important women in pop culture. (A profile of Espenson, who has written for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Once Upon a Time,” was posted May 19.)
“What we thought is, what can we do to promote change? So what I thought is, with what I do, I know a lot of pretty amazing women, who are directors and writers and actors and creators and comic book artists,” Busch said.
“And I thought, why don’t we do some stuff to discover new talent, and profile women who are doing this? … We’re doing a profile a week of someone in the industry, who’s working. We’d like to do fiction contests, art contests. And maybe even go on Google+ and have a hangout with some of these women, if we can get them to do it, and have them give advice to people.”