May the 4th Be With You & All Hail The Ultimate Rebel Princess, a Star Wars story.
In honour of this year’s Star Wars Day here’s an ode to one of cinemas most iconic, ground breaking and important female roles of all time.
Growing up every Christmas without fail Star Wars would be on our Television. I had an older brother who already had the toys and my Dad declared it cow boys and Indians in space, which in his book was definitely a compliment. So in the interests of full disclosure I have a long standing love affair with Princess Leia, she was my heroine growing up and was the first film character I wanted to be.
To this day she is the only princess real or make believe that I idolised. As a little girl tiaras and ballet classes did not appeal to me, I wanted to be the princess that was kicking ass in hair buns all across the galaxy, apart from when I borrowed my brothers Ewok outfit as briefly I wanted to be an Ewok instead and diligently wore it to family parties and most Sundays. At the time when I was 7 I just thought she was a mega cool chic, she was the only girl, surrounded by testosterone, having to hold her own and I guess being the younger sister and sporty tom boy I found I could identify with that.
Now 30 years later my admiration for the leader of the resistance has never wavered. At the time female leads were romantic roles whose aim was to gain the interest of a suitable bachelor or they were damsel in destress who waited around to be saved. For one of the first times in a film there was a multi-dimensional character, a woman who was in a strong leader role but remained feminine.
She wasn’t in Princes gown, she was sexy but with a reasonable amount of clothing on and stayed likeable and relatable throughout. By no means is the original trilogy perfect in terms of feminism etiquette, the slave outfit for example served the purpose of transforming Leia into an objectified female fuck toy, but it failed to reduce to nothing more than a sex object by her captor, as in the end she singlehandedly killed him before helping Luke blow up his ship. In the time context of when the film was made, this was pretty forward thinking. If she was in an episode of Law & Order SVW she would be hailed as a victorious survivor not a weak victim. Even when Leia got captured in Episode IV and Luke shows up to rescue her, instead of overly dramatic adoring appreciation she met his arrival with sass, with the most quoted Star Wars line of all time “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”
From the start of the original trilogy Leia proves she can handle both herself and a blaster, unlike the Stormtrooper the woman can actually shoot straight. When you consider the movie was made in 1977 and our own armed forces didn’t allow women on the front lines until 2016, it sent a powerful about the role of women in combat. She also rescues Han Solo instead of the other way around which goes against the narrative that so many little girls are subconsciously fed in their bedtime stories. I can probably count on one hand how often that happened in films when I was growing up and is still seen as a novelty today.
In 2019 there are still very few characters like Leia Organa and it is vital that young girls see alpha female characters in pop culture, they need to see examples of women both in real life and in fiction that shatter the myth that woman cannot not be strong or dominant. She shows us that a woman’s identity is the total glorious sum of all of her parts and despite her independence she is never turned into the stereotypical man hating feminist. Women need to be inspired to own their sexuality, regardless of the circumstances around them, who put their careers first, and if and when they fall in love, don’t lose themselves in that relationship. And most of all we need female characters that never allow anyone to control their narrative, that continue to defy sexist and ignorant tropes. After all, these fictional characters that little girls look up to may one day shape the type of women they are determined to be.