Star Wars is a franchise that has lived and transcended generations. The cultural phenomenon began way back in 1977 and now, after 40 years, the excitement for this seemingly unending franchise is even stronger. The question is, what was it that made this science-fiction space opera resonate with so many people? Was it the lore of the story, was it the music, was it the characters? I believe there was a collaboration of all of these different aspects but the characters were a huge part of why A New Hope 40 years ago became such a global hit.
You had Luke, the simple farm boy who wanted to explore the stars and follow in the footsteps of his “dead” father. Then there was Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, the wise mentor. You had the rascally Han Solo, a scoundrel at first meeting but a hero at heart.
And finally you have Princess Leia, which this post is dedicated to.
At the time when A New Hope came out if you thought about the definition of a princess you would only think about a damsel in distress stuck in a tower. Princess Leia rewrote that narrative. Princess Leia didn’t run screaming from the stormtroopers, she shot at them. Princess Leia didn’t whimper in the face of Darth Vader, she patronized him. This was pretty much unheard of in that day and age of movies.
She was one of the pioneers of all the strong women you have in film today. Throughout A New Hope she never played the role of damsel in distress. And yes, she was rescued, but she didn’t treat her rescuers like they were “her heroes.” She instead told them off for not coming up with a better escape plan.
Then in The Empire Strikes Back her role in the film was to support the love story aspect of the movie but that didn’t diminish her tenacity or strength.
If you got on her nerves she would tell you straight to your face how she felt. And even when Han, the man that she truly loved, got frozen in carbonite she still kept her composure and didn’t break down into a weeping mess. That takes a lot of willpower.
And then in Return of the Jedi her awesomeness only increased when she went to rescue Han. She easily could’ve let Luke be Han’s rescuer but she was determined to rescue him herself, no matter the consequences.
And yes, she was sexualized a little too far in this movie. I mean, can you imagine Rey showing up in Episode IX in a metal bikini? The internet would explode with furious fans but Leia’s strength wasn’t diminished. In fact it was highlighted once again. Jabba the Hutt forced her to become his slave but that didn’t last long because you don’t mess with Leia. She didn’t just escape his captivity, she choked him to death too. I still remember seeing that scene for the first time when I was a little girl. I was so happy when she killed that disgusting slug of a crime-lord. It was a very powerful moment.
And for the rest of the film she never stopped being the strong, independent woman that she was. When the battle commenced on Endor she was there on the front lines with the rebels to defeat the Empire. She easily could’ve stayed out of harm’s way on a ship somewhere in space but that’s not Leia’s way. And if you recall, she was the only woman to stand on the front lines. Mon Mothma wasn’t even bold enough to do that.
Now fast forward thirty years and Leia Organa has become an even stronger character with her rising from the ranks of Princess to now being the general of the Resistance.
I remember when I found out Leia Organa was now a general. I thought it was the coolest thing. She was already one of the greatest heroines in film history and to have her return to Star Wars with such a powerful role was marvelous.
And she was just as tenacious in The Force Awakens as she was in the original trilogy. She couldn’t head to the front lines like when she was a young woman but she could direct the organization into the future and help mobilize the Resistance’s units throughout the galaxy.
When she returned in The Last Jedi it was an exciting moment for me to see her evolution in the story. We got to see her finally use the Force in a powerful way. Her strength was highlighted again when immediately after coming out of a coma she went and shot Poe Dameron, which was one of the greatest Leia moments I have ever seen. And even though I know she won’t be in Episode IX her role in The Last Jedi was everything that I hoped it would be.
All in all, if it weren’t for Princess Leia paving the way for heroines in 1977 you wouldn’t have the incredible female characters of this generation.
You’ve got Rey, a scavenger, a mechanic, a pilot, a warrior, a survivor. She is strong-minded, powerful, independent, and benevolent just like Leia was. And now she is literally the last Jedi! Isn’t that incredible? Her role in The Last Jedi was a blast to watch. And one of her strongest moments in the movie was at the very end of the movie when she and Kylo Ren had their last Force connection. When he looked at her with those dark, pleading eyes she returned his gaze with a steely expression before literally shutting the door on him. I loved that. Yes, she had started to harbor feelings for him but she wasn’t going to be swayed to the dark side with him because she’s not a damsel in distress who’ll run with the nearest cute guy across the galaxy. That’s pretty awesome.
Then you have Jyn.
Jyn isn’t your typical heroine. She’s a criminal, a survivor, and a rebel. She has learned to survive and she doesn’t apologize for her actions. Jyn is aluminum-alloy tough. To most people who would see her she’s cold as ice and steely as iron but to those who become close to her that sweet child that she used to be is still a huge part of her. Her contribution to the rebellion helped spur into action the Empire’s first great defeat, the destruction of the first Death Star. Without her the story of Luke and co. wouldn’t have even happened and that’s incredible.
You wouldn’t even have Captain Phasma if it weren’t for Princess Leia.
A female, chrome armored stormtrooper captain. That is so cool! Her role was slight in The Force Awakens but through books, comics, and her role in The Last Jedi she has become a fan favorite. And to top it all off, she’s the first female villain to appear in a Star Wars movie. That’s still shocking just thinking about it. Like Princess Leia paved the way for strong heroines Captain Phasma will pave the way for female Star Wars villains to come.
You’ve also got the newcomers, Rose Tico and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.
Rose is another strong-willed heroine who has placed a remarkable stamp in the Star Wars universe. She’s, first of all, the first Asian female character lead in a Star Wars film which is incredible. Secondly, her role in The Last Jedi was wonderful to watch and she ended up becoming one of my favorite new characters. And she was yet another strong character who didn’t need a man to save her or keep her safe. In fact, she sacrificed herself to save Finn! That’s a pretty powerful moment. When she undoubtedly returns in Episode IX I’m sure she’s going to be an even stronger character.
And the purple-haired Vice Admiral was a great addition to the Star Wars universe. Her role in The Last Jedi was paramount to the actual meager survival of the Resistance. I loved her strength and tenacity in the movie and her decision to sacrifice herself for the cause that she had believed in was impactful. And she literally told Leia in the movie that she wouldn’t be the leader she was if it wasn’t for her. That was another very powerful moment in the movie and one that shined even more considering Carrie Fisher’s unfortunate passing last year.
And let me not get started with all of the women throughout the books, games, and cartoons. All of these fantastic complex characters eventually hark back to the one who gave them all a chance to shine and be known: Princess Leia.
Little girls are growing up and seeing these characters and growing inspired to be heroes in their own lives. Without Leia these characters probably wouldn’t have even existed and that’s why Princess Leia is so special even to this day.
I thank you for reading and I hope you have an absolutely beautiful day. May the Force Be With You.