Hey everyone and welcome to The Sarlacc Pit. This week I want to discuss the character of Leia Organa, last Princess of Alderaan, leader of the Rebel Alliance, and General of the Resistance. I think that Star Wars has always done a great job with female characters on and off screen, but when you think of women in Star Wars, none stand out as much as Leia. I will admit, that as a male I probably have a different view of female characters than women, so I’m probably not the best person to discuss this, but I believe that Leia is one of the most important female characters to grow up with. In a world where women are so often objectified or made to be the goal of an adventure (i.e. save the woman, get the woman to fall in love with the hero, etc.), Leia stands right alongside the male leads, more often saving them from danger than the other way around. So I’m going to focus this discussion on the example that Leia shows, more than actual plot. However, there will be major spoilers for the original trilogy (OT), “The Force Awakens,” Marvel’s Star Wars and Star Wars: Princess Leia, as well as the novel Star Wars: Bloodline, so read at your own risk.
Strong in the Face of Adversity
A ruthless governor in front of her and a murderous cyborg behind her, still doesn’t keep Leia from throwing shade.
One thing I have always loved about Leia comes from the beginning of “A New Hope.” Her ship was captured by Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, easily the two scariest Imperials besides the Emperor himself. Does Leia shiver with fear and give in to her fate? Does she tell her enemies where the secret Rebel base is? No, this “princess” faces ruthless torture and interrogation, resists mind probes and Force abilities, and the whole time talks major trash to her captives. Even when Luke came to rescue her wearing stormtrooper armor the first thing she said is “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” For all she knew this was just any other stormtrooper armed with a blaster and coming to take her to another round of being tortured, but did she worry? Nope, she still threw insults at her enemy, because nothing could make Leia give the enemy any sort of pleasure from breaking her spirit.
Turning Tragedy into Determination
Finally Leia lied to Vader and Tarkin, telling them that the Rebel base was on Dantooine (which it wasn’t). Despite her apparent cooperation, Tarkin orders the Death Star to destroy Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan as an example for other planets who might assist the Rebellion. With the push of a button Leia’s homeworld, family, and friends are destroyed in front of her. Of all the people who could have given up, Leia had the best excuse. The Empire had taken everything from her for her involvement with the Rebel Alliance, but did she let that stop her? No, of course not. From then on she did everything she could to assist the Rebellion and others who needed help. Sure, she was devastated, but she put on a brave face (one that slips away briefly in Marvel’s Star Wars Annual #2) and still worked to destroy the Empire. She even went on a mission to save any remaining Alderaanians from the Empire after the Empire put a bounty on the heads of any survivors. When faced with loss, Leia took action instead of letting herself be destroyed.
A Damsel, Not So Much Distressed
In the OT, Leia was captured twice. Many people say that she was saved by Luke and Han in those situations, but I view them a little differently. Leia stayed strong both while being captured and tortured by the Empire, as well as when she was captured and forced to dress in a super uncomfortable metal bikini by a giant gangster slug. She remained calm, she stayed strong, and in both cases she immediately acted when she saw her chance. When Han and Luke saved her from the Death Star, she quickly took control over her own rescue operation, taking the blaster from Luke when he proved to be an incompetent shot and leading the way to escape. Aboard Jabba’s sail barge as soon as things got out of control she seized her chance, immediately slaying her captor, and freeing herself while the men were busy trying to not get eaten by the sarlacc below.
Responsibility Above All
Leia found out that she was Force sensitive during the events of “Return of the Jedi.” After the fall of the Empire, she could have easily left the hard life of rebellion and politics behind to go on a Jedi journey with her brother, or lived the life of a starship racer with Han Solo, but those were the easy options, the options that kept her close to her loved ones and held relatively little challenges. Instead, Leia chose the hard path. She had helped lead the Rebel Alliance to victory and now it was her duty to help piece the galaxy back together after the ruling government of the Empire was destroyed. She stayed strong through much political adversity and backlash when it was revealed that she was Darth Vader’s daughter in Star Wars: Bloodline, and even when much of the galaxy turned their backs on her, she continued to uphold her responsibilites. Finally, when rumors began circulating about remnants of the Empire trying to come together to destroy the New Republic, she led the Resistance in relative secret from the Republic. By the time the events of “The Force Awakens” occurred Leia had lost her family, her planet, her political standing, her brother to his journeys through the galaxy, her son to the dark side and her husband when he left after their child betrayed them. If there was ever a person who could say “please help me, I cannot do this anymore,” it was Leia. Instead she carried on, continuing to fight against evil and the dark side wherever she could find it. If that doesn’t show strength I do not know what does.
While Leia’s badassery is near indisputable, the character surely borrowed part of her strength on screen from the actress who played her, the late Carrie Fisher. Fisher struggled for years with addiction and bipolar disorder and was honest and open about with her fans and the public throughout. Through her own trials she became an outspoken proponent for women and those who struggled with addiction and mental disorders. As Leia was her biggest role in her career, it is hard to separate the actress and the character. Leia is strong because Carrie is strong, and vise-versa. While Carrie Fisher has passed, I look forward to her last role as General Leia in “Episode VIII,” and look forward to seeing more of leia in other off-screen media.
Ok, so saying that Leia is a strong female character is not a controversial topic. Even people who have problems with the metal bikini she wore in “Return of the Jedi” have to admit that she was pretty badass when she strangled a giant mafia slug while wearing it. However, next week I plan on discussing one of the most controversial topics in Star Wars canon: Midi-chlorians. Prepare to feel anger as I begin to defend their existence, confusion as you begin to accept my reasoning, and then wonder as I present some of my own theories on the nature of these symbiotic life forms. As always, thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!