In a new commercial for its Star Wars–themed line of mascaras, lipsticks, and nail polish, CoverGirl asks viewers to weigh in on the age-old faceoff between good and evil makeup: “Will you be enticed by the dark side, or embrace the light side?” Choose the former, and you get a stormtrooper’s geometric black-and-white accents; pick the latter, and you can look like a golden, glowing interpretation of the droid C-3P0.
The last time CoverGirl tried a movie-inspired tie-in, it fumbled. A line affiliated with the Hunger Games film series in 2013 drew from the Capitol’s over-the-top fashion and makeup, a symbol of the contrast between that district’s material indulgence and the rest of the country’s poverty. Tumblr users puzzled over CoverGirl’s lack of regard for the inconvenient context of the books and film, in which Capitol residents obsess over luxury goods while watching poorer teens kill each other as entertainment. Some Nostradamus-in-training at the Daily Dot mused that “CoverGirl’s makeup line (which ‘celebrates’ the 12 Districts that work to support the super-rich Capitol) is basically the equivalent of a Star Wars marketing campaign inviting fans to join the Empire as an entry-level stormtrooper.”
Now, CoverGirl is doing something like that. And the results seem promising! The six looks in the commercial make both the Star Wars and CoverGirl brands—two heavily marketed, highly recognizable imprints—into something bold and new. The line gives familiar Star Wars characters a feminine, contemporary spin, and it offers CoverGirl the chance to dive into today’s trend toward loud, performative makeup like metallic lipsticks, a far cry from the the fresh-faced “easy, breezy, beautiful” look on which it made its name.
Predictably, True Star Wars Fans® have spoken out against the makeup company’s unjust cooptation of their sacred, hypermonetized franchise.
I just saw a commercial for Cover-Girl, the makeup, and their “Star Wars Edition.” This is the end.— Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) November 3, 2015
These OG Star Wars hipsters might not approve of a lowered bar for fan participation, especially one that’s motivated by women. But Star Wars–inspired makeup—whether made by CoverGirl or improvised with other brands—seems like a natural entry point for the green or modestly committed fan of any gender.
The best part of the CoverGirl campaign is its spot-on spokesperson: Janelle Monáe, whose music and android alter-ego have taken cues from sci-fi paradigms and space-age aesthetics in the tradition of Afrofuturism. “The android to me represents the ‘other', the new ‘other,’” Monáe told the BBC last year. “There are so many parallels to my own life; just being a female African-American artist in today’s music industry.” Given Monáe’s politics, the CoverGirl commercial’s use of an old labor slogan (“which side are you on?”), and circling theories about the erasure of oppression and racism in the popular history of the Star Wars universe, you might think CoverGirl’s just given Star Wars fans a new way to radically deconstruct the films while still collecting all 10 limited-edition mascaras like good capitalist citizens. The Capitol would be proud.