Through the years, fanboys have tried reducing Leia to a sexpot and a slave, but for little girls (and boys!) paying attention, Leia was always clearly the biggest badass of them all.
She’s a princess who smuggles Death Star plans and shoots blasters at the bad guys. She’s the Skywalker that doesn’t need a lightsaber because with a little ingenuity, she’s ready to vanquish her enemies with her bare hands. She’s a rebel and a fighter, and she yearns to prove she’s more than just a pretty face born into power.
And yet, despite her rebellious spirit, Leia is the grounded, mature backbone behind the series. Devastating revelations are hurled at her, and she continues on single-mindedly doing her duty. She doesn’t whine about the burden of responsibility weighing down on her; she chooses to accept it. She embraces her role as a princess and a leader, and her self-discipline allows her to be a sturdy presence others can trust when the world is falling apart.
It’s amusing then to watch the boys around her slowly try to figure Leia out, before begrudgingly accepting that she’s really the one in charge. Luke and Han are both eager to pin her down as a distressed damsel in need of rescue, but as soon as they meet her, she flips the trope on them. When the boys screw up her rescue, Leia’s quick-thinking ends up saving the would-be heroes instead. She grabs the boys’ guns, shoots some Stormtroopers, and yells, “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” because someone has to save their skins!
At this point in Star Wars Luke is still playing at being a hero, while Han is a reluctant hero, but Leia doesn’t have time to worry about being heroic because she’s too busy living out Tina Fey’s catchphrase: Bitches get stuff done.
Leia is Type A with a purpose. She’s the boss, and she refuses to let anyone forget it. Her fiery wit and headstrong temper demand that men not only treat her as an equal, but as someone to be followed. “PUT THAT THING AWAY, YOU’RE GOING TO GET US ALL KILLED!” she yells at Han when he starts shooting off his blaster in the trash compactor, and we can almost hear the little voice inside his head reluctantly agree, “Damn. She’s so right.”
Leia puts up a cold front as an ice princess to keep her composure and sense of sanity in even the most desperate situations, but she’s warm when she wants to be. When people allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of her, she responds with empathy. She comforts Luke as he cries over Obi Wan — a guy he met literally only hours earlier — but she remains strong and barely bats an eye as she’s forced to watch her biological father destroy her home planet.
She’s just endured interrogative torture and every single person she has ever loved is dead, but she doesn’t have time to be sorry, Commander, she has an attack plan to work out, and IT’S OUR ONLY HOPE. Might her ability to compartmentalize her internal crisis make her a psychopath? Well, at the very least, it makes her a Skywalker.
Despite being a princess, Leia has never been all sunshine and rainbows. Sure, she wishes she liked nice boys, but she really has a thing for scoundrels. All sass and strength, Leia provides a contrast to her twin, the seemingly pure Luke. She has a darkness to her — a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good. It forces us to wonder what would have become of her if she’d been raised by Anakin instead of by her pacifist parents on Alderaan.
Speaking of spirited women in unexpected packages, this Star Wars season, Carrie Fisher has emerged as the true star of the ongoing press tour, shaming horny fanboys and empowering young starlets to take control of their own bodies before the franchise does it for them. When a New Jersey dad flipped out about Star Wars toys depicting Leia in her Hutt-slayer outfit, Carrie responded with candid class: “How about telling his daughter that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it.”
That’s right, you tell them, Carrie! Leia isn’t anyone’s slave! The woman busts in to enemy camps and rescues her man! She grabs that metal leash the slaver slug wrapped around her neck and literally strangles her oppressor with the chains of his own oppression! She’s Leia Unchained! In 10 minutes, she single-handedly did what scoundrel space smugglers had been wanting to do for YEARS. Then she turned around and blew up the Hutt’s yacht as a final f*ck you before skedaddling out of there in style.
So yeah, stuffy dad in New Jersey who’s terrified that his daughter will want to grow up to be like Princess Leia, I can see why you’re afraid. I would be pretty afraid, too, if I supported the fundamentals of the patriarchy.
Because in Leia, we have a woman who goes toe to toe with every man she meets, including the sexy smuggler who stole her heart. She rolls with the punches. She’s unfazed by the manipulations of men. Leia keeps her class and composure, even amidst men constantly trying to humiliate her into submission. She’s smart enough to know what’s right, and brave enough to go out and fight for it. And most importantly, she was never Daddy’s little princess — she was always her own.