Long before Katniss Everdeen graced the pages of youth literature, we had another, more traditional heroine.
Princess Leia was adored by millions who fell in love with her and the magic of “Star Wars.” The movies are exciting, and the characters show depth and humor in seemingly impossible situations.
Though the space opera franchise existed in a galaxy and time far away, the character of Princess Leia, portrayed by the late Carrie Fisher, did more to reinforce traditional gender norms than some might think. This is a good thing.
Leia stood out for her bravery and resistance in a thoroughly feminine way. She was the girl who dressed like a girl, who rebuffed and then fell for the dashing guy. She was the princess who had a hand in saving the universe, but was also saved and protected by the men around her. She was a damsel in distress, a foil to the male heroes, and even a pin-up. She was brave, feisty, beautiful.
In other words, she’s everything modern-day feminists are encouraged to hate – the pretty girl who falls for the wise-cracking bad boy. She was the girl that girls wanted to be in the ’80s.
Somewhere along the way, though, too many in society got the notion that filling traditional gender roles – at home and on screen – was a bad thing. But just as most boys are naturally drawn to be warriors, most girls desire to be the beautiful princess who is rescued by her brave knight. Though actual, real-life roles look much different, those inner, inherent pulls remain.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Katniss type who does the fighting and the saving. If you look at current heroines, that is becoming standard. In the newly released Star Wars movie “Rogue One,” the backstory of the female lead character, Jyn Erso, is more Katniss than Leia. Jyn, and Rey from “The Force Awakens,” are praised for their tomboy demeanors. I can’t imagine a Leia-type character going over nearly as well as those characters are received now.
Princess Leia’s traditional role is no less important than Jyn’s and Rey’s. She is absolutely instrumental in the fight against the Empire, and none so much as when she bravely asks for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s help. Her character remains feminine and seeks out males who are key to solving the problems that plague the galaxy. Leia is wise, resourceful, can shoot a gun, pulls off wearing a white dress, and rocks the royal hairstyles. On top of that, she falls in love with a quick-witted warrior who gladly risks his life for hers. Princess Leia is thoroughly feminine, and not ashamed of it.
Some have concluded that Leia was little more than a sex symbol, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Fisher herself even rejected that label. It doesn’t take much to see that Leia embodied many feminine qualities and attitudes that go against the current wave of feminism which seeks to blur gender lines.
We’ll miss you, princess. For many reasons.