By Alexa Fitzgerald
The original Star Wars trilogy consisting of Episode IV – A New Hope, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi introduced the world to Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. Carrie Fisher’s iconic character is a member of the Imperial Senate, a diplomat and a spy agent for the Rebel Alliance. Fearless and strong-willed, Leia is never at a loss for words and speaks her mind. Her feminist character resonates with women and girls alike because of how different she was from the real-life examples of what a woman should be up until this decade.
However, one question always lingered in my mind: why did Leia have to bear the title of princess, one that often symbolizes compliance and sexualization? The answer resided on the surface of a trilogy, that only three women ever appeared on screen as either dancers or slave girls. Men make all the decisions, lead all the battles, pilot all the planes, smuggle goods and train as Jedis. All the robots are male for crying out loud. For a trilogy written in the late 70s and early 80s, it really captured the mood of the time that women’s lives were to revolve around men.
Even with the stereotypical discrimination of the time against women in the trilogy, the fierce Princess Leia still emerged as the first feminist icon of film. She endures torture from Darth Vader, kills Jabba the Hutt, rescues both lead men in the trilogy, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, helps disperse tactical information and directs the Rebel fighters. A young Carrie Fisher portrayed Leia as a confident and rebellious woman, one unafraid to challenge male dominance in the galaxy no matter the consequences.
Then the sequel Star Wars trilogy comprised thus far with Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Episode VIII – The Last Jedi reprised the venerable Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Leader of the Resistance. She’s not just a mother or a wife, she’s a leader with crucial duties and responsibilities as a revolutionary. General Leia is everything the feminist Princess Leia was: a strong leader, snarky, not to mention her exceptional hair. But this time General Leia is telling the boys what to do, rather than just doing what they did.
That question that always lingered in my mind about why Leia had to be a Princess was no longer there. The sequel trilogy has broken down the boundaries of the one dimensional female role that was illustrated in the original trilogy, and opened the floodgates of opportunity. Taking its shot by establishing prominent female lead characters, one as the last but first female Jedi and one as the Vice Admiral of the Resistance alongside our General Leia.
In a world and society that long and often silences the voices of its women and girls, Princess General Leia is a beacon of hope for all feminists. General Leia teaches women that they can be political leaders and freedom fighters or anything else they wish to become that they were once discouraged to be because it was a man’s role. In the midst of the large-scale Women’s Marches, women found solace in the subsational feminist message conveyed by General Leia, that woman, too, can and should fearlessly speak their minds and take charge of their lives. In appreciation and affirmation of General Leia’s long, hard fought battle to the top, many women across the country took up signs in honor of Carrie Fisher’s extraordinary character. In the eyes of these many women and girls across the world, mine included, General Leia became the ultimate expression of female empowerment and strength and remains one as we continue through a national identity crisis and the #MeToo movement.
Alexa is a freshman.
Graphic by Caroline Polich