Sunday, March 8, 2015

I'm beginning to like her: Thoughts on Princess Leia Organa

Ever since bluefish and I wrote posts about Han and Luke, I've been wanting to round out the trio of Original Trilogy stars by sharing some things that make Leia great, too. Today is International Women's Day, so I figured now was the time to do it!

Of all of the characters in the Original Trilogy, Leia may be the one who is the most complex. Some of her characteristics seem to be contradictions at first glance, so I will explore some of those contradictions to see how they make Leia a fantastic, well-rounded character.
Leia is fiery and does not take crap from anyone...

Whether Leia is being captured or being rescued, she is not impressed. When Tarkin tells her that she will be executed, Leia refuses to give him the satisfaction of seeing her afraid. Instead, she taunts him to his face. Shortly thereafter, when a stormtrooper shows up at her door to take her to her death (as far as she knows), she makes a crack about his height. Even when Luke reveals that he is, in fact, there to rescue her, he does not get the grateful reaction he may have hoped for. Instead, she asks, "You're who?" It is not until Luke says he is there with Ben Kenobi, and thus that this rescue is the a result of Leia's plan to send out a message via R2, that she agrees to go with Luke.

Of all the people Leia gives a hard time to, the person I most enjoy her repartee with is Han. Leia is not impressed by Han's ship, his flying skills, or his choice of copilot.  It is that back-and-forth that makes Leia and Han such a great couple to watch.

...and she is kind.

When Luke is broken up over losing Obi-Wan, Leia is there for him. Even though she just saw her whole planet destroyed, she places aside her own grief to help Luke with his. I have read a lot of reactions to that scene, often wondering whether it makes sense for Leia to comfort Luke when he lost someone he barely knew, given that she just lost her entire family and many friends. I think that it comes down to the fact that Leia is one of those people who deals with her own grief by helping others with theirs. Also, Leia knew how much was on the line when she went up against the Empire, while Luke was just beginning to understand that risk when Obi-Wan died.

Even though she usually gives Han a hard time, she knows when to be gentle with him. She holds him and comforts him after he is tortured by Vader in The Empire Strikes Back and when she unfreezes him in Return of the Jedi. Since Han is vulnerable, without his cocky swagger, Leia allows herself to open up to him and treat him with more warmth. I think that Leia resists starting a relationship with Han because she can't afford to be distracted from the fight against the Empire, but when she sees him hurt, she had to admit to herself how much she cares about him.

She is capable with a blaster...

In one of the first scenes in the trilogy, Leia takes down a stormtrooper before she is captured, and that stormtrooper is by no means her last. Leia does not hesitate to grab a blaster and exchange fire with the Empire's soldiers, and when she does, she's a dead shot who seems to never miss. In Return of the Jedi, she demonstrates even more combat skills, jumping onto a speederbike and taking off on a high-speed chase through a dense forest.

In the first two Star Wars movies, Leia joins in the fighting because she finds herself in danger and is unwilling to be a damsel in distress. First, she gets captured by Imperials and rescued in A New Hope, and then she finds herself under attack on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. Otherwise, she is a leader who is probably too valuable to risk in a fight if the Rebels have any choice in the matter. In Return of the Jedi, though, we see her seek out an opportunity to strike against the Empire herself when Leia joins the team of commandos attacking the bunker on Endor. This proves that she must have some combat training, or else there is no way that the Rebel high command would have allowed her to go. Suddenly her steely nerves and deft shooting make more sense!

...and she desires peace.

Of the main characters in the Original Trilogy, Leia is the only one who starts the movie as a member of the Rebellion. Luke yearns for adventure, perhaps not yet realizing the toll it might take, and Han is at first in it for the money, but Leia truly believes in the Rebel cause and understands the risks and challenges the Rebels face. Despite the war raging in the galaxy, Leia fights for peace. When Vader meets her, he mocks her by saying "You weren't on any mercy mission this time," proving that her previous missions had been humanitarian.

When Echo Base comes under Imperial attack during The Empire Strikes Back, Leia makes the safety of the Rebel fighters the top priority. And later when the Rebels encounter the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, Leia tries her best to create a truce between the two groups.

It is no small wonder that the character of Princess Leia has become so iconic. She is a fun character to watch, as well as a truly admirable person. Happy International (and also Intergalactic) Women's Day, from Supervillainous!

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