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‘Star Wars,’ CoverGirl, and the rise of geek women

Janelle Monaé in a CoverGirl advertisement.

When CoverGirl rolled out a set of “Star Wars’’-branded makeup in December, it seemed to some like just another iteration of the franchise’s unstoppable merchandizing campaign. After all, we’ve been buying tchotchkes linking us to a galaxy far, far away since 1977 — everything from tauntaun sleeping bags to toasters shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet. But CoverGirl didn’t just slap on some decals: They worked up looks based on the movies, such as Dark Apprentice (lips the color of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber), Storm Trooper (geometric black and white), and Resistance Pilot (lots of orange, modeled by sci-fi glam goddess Janelle Monáe.

But this is the kind of thing female science-fiction fans have been doing, on their own, for years. Finnish makeup artist Jangsara wowed the Internet all the way back in 2013 with an amazing R2D2-inspired look, starting with white eyeshadow and surrounding her eyes with droidlike painted rectangles and glued-on jewels. She’s not the only one, either. There’s even an all-“Star Wars’’ fashion blog called the Kessel Runway. Name any big blockbuster science-fiction movie, television show, book, or comic, and somewhere some enterprising woman has figured out a way to express her love in makeup — whether it’s “Watchmen”-themed nail polish or just figuring out the best way to do your face like the heroine of the video game “Bioshock: Infinite.” If department-store brands don’t come through, no worries. On Etsy.com, women sell their own homemade mixes of cosmetics inspired by “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” or “Game of Thrones.”


All this home industry has been created to fill a gap left by producers and merchandisers who have long thought of science fiction as masculine entertainment — even though they had a huge female audience. But now that “Star Wars’’ is a franchise with a central heroine, Rey, female geeks are more visible — and so is their expendable cash. Can official lipsticks and eyeshadows for such franchises as “Guardians of the Galaxy,’’ “Deadpool,’’ or “Batman v Superman’’ be far behind? We can hope — after all, those CoverGirl lipsticks sold out in a week.

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at si@arrr.net.