Princess Leia: How One Woman Created A Generation of Heroines in ‘Star Wars’

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.

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At the time of A New Hope princesses were usually thought of as damsels in distress that needed rescuing . 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. She did the exact opposite of nearly everything that was expected, except fall for the “prince” which in this case would be Luke Skywalker.

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. Ha! I love it. 🙂

Then in The Empire Strikes Back her role in the film did veer toward the romantic side of things but that didn’t diminish her tenacity or her strength.

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If you got on her nerves she would tell you straight to your face how she felt. (Remember when she called Han a stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf-herder?) 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 herself. She easily could’ve let Luke retrieve him but she was determined to be the one to conduct the rescue mission, no matter the consequences.

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And yes, she was sexualized a bit 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. Leia’s strength, however, still wasn’t diminished. In fact it was highlighted once again when Jabba the Hutt forced her to be his slave but then she choked him to death in eventual retaliation. I still remember seeing that scene for the first time as a little girl. It was so empowering seeing her reclaim her freedom from that disgusting crime-lord slug.

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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 her way. And if you recall, she was the only woman to participate in the Battle of Endor which is kind of ridiculous when you look back on it.

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.

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I remember when I found out Leia Organa was 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 help lead them to victory with simply her inspiring presence.

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In The Last Jedi we see her as a woman who has faced a lot in her life. She’s had to face loss on at so many different angles. She lost her son, Ben Solo, to the dark side. She lost her husband, Han Solo, by the murderous actions of her son. And she was losing Resistance fighters that had willingly joined her cause by the First Order.

In this movie we see General Leia at her lowest point but she still retains that strength she has always possessed. When she gets blasted from a Resistance ship she doesn’t allow herself to die but instead displays that she truly is a Skywalker by using the Force to save herself. It’s her single most inspiring moment in the franchise so far and yet another thing that validates how awesome she is.

All in all, if it weren’t for Leia paving the way for heroines in 1977 you wouldn’t have the incredible Star Wars women of this generation.

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You’ve got Rey, a scavenger, a mechanic, a pilot, a warrior, a survivor, and the trilogy’s new Jedi. She is strong-minded, powerful, independent, and benevolent. Her journey hasn’t been the easiest but like Leia she has found ways to stay strong. When Kylo Ren offered her a chance to rule the galaxy along with him she instead fought against him because she’s an independent woman who will not be bamboozled just because a man basically told her he loved her. And that’s why Rey is so awesome.

Then you have Jyn.

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Jyn isn’t your typical heroine. She’s a criminal as well as 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.

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A female, chrome armored stormtrooper captain. That is so cool! Her role was slight in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi but her impact was substantial. 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 has paved the way for female Star Wars villains to come and that’s super exciting.

Then there’s Rose who is forging her own groundbreaking path by becoming the first major Asian woman to have a role in Star Wars.

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Rose is another strong-willed heroine who doesn’t need rescuing at any time. She’s smart, sweet, and she is about as determined a Resistance fighter can be. I can’t wait to see her again in Episode IX. 🙂

You’ve also got Admiral Holdo who proves that women can be stern leaders in movies.

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I love Vice Admiral Holdo because when you first look at her with her purple hair, gown, and jewelry you immediately receive the perception that she probably isn’t that great of a leader. But then her stern attitude kicks in and that womanly persona that some people would consider weak melts away. Like Leia, she proves that you can be as pretty as you want to be and still kick some serious butt, mentally and physically.

And finally we have the newest female addition to the Star Wars universe, Qi’Ra.

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Qi’Ra is yet another strong-minded heroine who knows what she wants and goes after it. In Solo we see her change from being Han’s loyal girlfriend to a lieutenant in Crimson Dawn. Gone is her sweet innocence replaced by an impenetrable facade that makes her versatile in the criminal underworld. Once again, she’s a woman who never had to be rescued and I’m interested in learning more about her in the future.

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.

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Without her 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.

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