For those of you that don’t know, Leia is the heroine of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy. The story follows her attempts to form a rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire and bring balance to the Force. She’s an iconic science fiction character and has been hailed as a role model for young girls everywhere.
Many of Princess Leia's lines (delivered by actress Carrie Fisher) have since become part of the cinematic canon: her repeated, almost hypnotic exhortation, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”; her wryly unimpressed reaction when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) arrives in disguise to rescue her from a detention cell: “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”
Does she live up to her reputation? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!
NOTE: I’ll be basing my analysis off the original trilogy of movies only.
- · Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?
Leia spends most of the trilogy leading a rebellion against a thinly veiled Nazi allegory, and she plays a very active role in this. She co-ordinates battle plans, steals the schematics for the Death Star, and literally has to be dragged out of her military base when it starts collapsing around her ears. She does all this at great personal risk. She’s captured more than once, and it’s implied she’s also tortured by that weird slug thing that looks like a cross between a Dalek and a colander – but she keeps her focus on the master plan. She’s very much in control of her own destiny and the destinies of many of the other characters. Great job, Princess Leia!.
- · Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?
Leia doesn’t really have many hobbies, but her goals and beliefs are pretty clear: she believes that the Empire is evil, and she makes taking it down her first priority. In the movies, there’s no clear source for these beliefs apart from her own convictions, and so once again, she passes this round.
- · Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?
Throughout the trilogy, Leia’s personality and skills both remain fairly consistent. She’s always a fiery, strong-willed character who knows her way around a blaster. Towards the end of “Return of the Jedi” she starts picking up on some of her latent Jedi abilities, but this doesn’t happen in a completely unrealistic way: she only hears Luke’s message to her, rather than suddenly developing the ability to shoot lightning from her hands.
"That's what you think." (image: giphy.com)
The only issue worth raising in terms of consistency is Princess Leia becomes much weaker when she’s captured. She’s perfectly capable of fighting her way out of trouble, but as soon as one of the bad guys grabs her upper arm, she’s completely powerless and all she can do is flail. However, it’s worth pointing out that when she is captured, she’s outnumbered by enemies who are much better armed than she is, so you could make a case that this is a tactical move on her part.
- · Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?
A princess from leading a rebellion against an evil empire and trying to restore peace to the galaxy.
- · Does she develop over the course of the story?
Leia doesn’t really develop much over the course of the movies. While she does achieve her goals, and bring down the Empire – she doesn’t really learn anything while she’s doing it.
- · Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?
Leia gets captured a lot in the Star Wars trilogy. It’s true that she manages to get captured at least once in every film, forcing some of the other characters to come and rescue her, but this isn’t all she does – a substantial amount of her screen time is devoted to making sure that the audience sees her leading the rebellion, taking charge of the other characters and just generally keeping the plot moving..
- · How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?
Leia relates to gender stereotypes in a really interesting way. In some ways, she’s very clearly in the role of the damsel in distress, who must depend on the male characters to save her. She’s also absent from a lot of the serious battle scenes (particularly the X-wing fights), often being placed in the rebel base, watching the attack from the sidelines. This plays into a lot of ideas that women are not capable of fighting to the same standard as men.
While she’s absent from a lot of the big fight scenes, it’s shown that she’s a capable fighter, can pilot a speeder relatively easily, and is more than prepared to full-on CHOKE JABBA TO DEATH WITH HER OWN SLAVE CHAIN. What’s more, she’s shown to be a very skilled political leader, who’s more than capable of drawing up battle plans and inspiring her troops. This really undercuts the stereotype that young women are not cut out for political or leadership roles – she is by far the best political leader we see in the original series.
In this respect, Leia’s character can be pretty divisive. While the positive aspects of her character in relation to gender stereotypes cannot be denied, whether she passes this round or not really depends on how much the individual viewer is bothered by her role as the damsel in distress. For my part, I think it’s worth noting that being captured by an enemy doesn’t make you weak (it just makes you a prisoner), and during her captivity she withstands torture and Sith mind games and never gives in.
- · Princess Leia has had a huge impact on popular culture.
Aside from being one of the most metal princesses ever, she’s a role model that many of the young girls (have and still) look up to. While Princess might not stand up to a full-blown character analysis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s not worth analyzing at all.
However, with the death of another Hollywood Start this 2016, I wonder what strong female character will take her place.
RIP, Princess Leia.
She is the decisive, relentlessly courageous, ever resourceful, slyly funny Princess who saves the day for the galaxy.
And thank you Carrie Fisher, you will be missed.