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How Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia redefined women in media

As many have expressed, it’s really hard to say how deep of a loss Carrie Fisher’s passing is for someone that most of us never really met, met very briefly or hardly knew.  The biggest reason why this loss hurts, is that Carrie Fisher’s Princess  Leia was a character that redefined what it meant to be a woman, while betting the hero on screen as well.

In the 70’s and 80’s women’s roles were beginning to transition. Women were no longer that damsel in distress as they had so often been portrayed. Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman was starting to come into her own on television; and at the same time, Carrie Fisher was bringing a new brand of heroine to life on the big screen as Princess Leia. What made Leia stand out in ways that Wonder Woman didn’t is quite simple: she didn’t have super powers. Leia more than made up for the lack of powers with determination and grit.

In 3 movies, Carrie Fisher took the role and changed the direction of how women should (and forever would) be perceived in film. If you start with A New Hope, right from the beginning she was armed and dangerous as stormtroopers searched for her. This easily could have been her cowering in the corner and screaming upon discovery.  No, she was going to go down fighting.

One can note that once Luke Skywalker shows up to save her, she doesn’t run and jump passionately into his arms (thank goodness in hindsight, right? There is still that kiss though). Instead, she quips that he is short. If anything, it’s Luke who was so helpless in lust, with his nose wide open that Leia has to bring him back to reality, telling him that they need to leave…like yesterday. Then in less than 10 minutes, she is saving Han, Luke and Chewie with a blaster in hand, running towards danger, and brandishing an attitude.  Had morals been different in the 70’s, I am almost certain that as she blasted that hole into the trash compactor, a string of expletives probably would have followed and the world would have been ok for it.

In the Empire Strikes Back, Leia once again is all no nonsense as she assists in leading the fight to stay hidden on Hoth, coordinating troops to escape once discovered by the Empire, and electing to stay behind as Vader invaded the base. What other woman would have done that? When the Millennium Falcon was hiding from Vader in the asteroid field, she wasn’t sitting around fretting and crying about being trapped, she was getting dirty helping with repairing the ship. What Fisher’s Leia did was so atypical of women characters in Hollywood and it earned a great amount of respect.

Let’s remember that, even towards the end of ESB, it’s Leia again with blaster in hand, running headlong into danger as the other heroes try to outwit the Empire again – and yes, she is saving Luke. Mind you this was in the face of objections from Lando, who wants to escape Cloud City, but Leia- who does not want to leave anyone behind – defies the enemy by rescuing one of her own. Remember folks, it’s Leia ducking out TIE Fighters, not Lando.

We all know what happens in Return of the Jedi.  Don’t be fooled by that scantily clad chick in the metal bikini.

She will strangle the s**t out of you, steal your gun, take a bottle of Jack to the head (no, not really but you can see it right?) while burning your yacht down too. While this is happening, she is laughing because she knows she just kicked your butt. At some point Han Solo should be making notes not to piss her off. She just choked the same dude he was running from.  Got carnivorous teddy bears about to roast you?  No problem, Leia’s got it covered.  She will recruit those bears and set them loose to wreck havok.  She just got shot and surrounded by troopers?  Leia will draw you in and shoot you between the eyes. No she will not wilt because she got hurt, she only gets stronger.

Sure, let’s also stop for a moment and remember, yes, Leia appreciated having a guy, but the men in her life needed to understand that she didn’t need them to save her. She was ride or die when you were in a bind too.  Han Solo learned that lesson well when he got thawed out of carbonite.  How much love is that?

The woman is a certified badass with a GSD degree.  The character wasn’t a demure wallflower, but instead she took charge and everyone knew it. The best part about Star Wars was that it wasn’t just about the guys saving the day, everyone had a role to play. Many of us are so used to hearing the word “Princess” and automatically think, “Well, she needs a man on a white stallion to come along and rescue her.”  Not this one. So many times did we see women who scream and cower in movies and become more of a hindrance than a help.  When you consider other movies made during that time, I would have to say that it’s part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy the Temple of Doom as much as I did Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the 80’s, you had Marion Ravenwood, Princess Leia, Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor…and Willie Scott. We all knew who we didn’t want watching our backs.

Many of us appreciated the life breathed into Leia by Carrie Fisher because of the take charge attitude.  Even with the bikini scene, she voiced her displeasure about doing something that would objectify her in the eyes of some fans and even advised Daisy Ridley to avoid the same traps in the new films.  Leia’s character was one of many who brought to Hollywood the idea that women, even those of royal bearing, didn’t have to sit by helplessly waiting for others to save her. With what Fisher brought to the role, she opened the doors for Sigourney Weaver’s Ridley,  Karen Allen’s  Ravenwood all of the way down to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  Without Fisher’s Leia, we may never have gotten Xena, Hermione Granger, or  Sarah Connor.  Without Leia, we probably would not have gotten female driven movies like Mad Max, Salt, Tomb Raider,  The Hunger Games or Kill Bill.

Without Leia, we would not have Rey.

Not only did we lose a cultural icon, we lost a pioneer who not just opened doors, she blasted them open with an E-11.

Rest in the Force, Carrie and thank you.

 

About Harry C. (1057 Articles)
Founder of The Next Issue Podcast and Pop Culture Uncovered, Harry has been reading comics since he could reach a news stand. He is also a cosplayer with his current favorite role as being Bishop, of the X-men. He is a fan of Marvel, Image and DC and is really passionate about making sure that kids get the opportunity to read. This leads him to getting out to places with comics that others no longer need and putting them into the hands of kids who will treasure them. His favorite comic characters are Batman, Spider-man, and Tony Chiu.

3 Comments on How Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia redefined women in media

  1. This was one of the things that drew me to SW when I was a kid. Being a girl in the 80’s you didn’t see that often in movies. She was a bad ass that didnt say sorry for being one. May the force be with her.

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  2. Reblogged this on sargestamps and commented:

    A non-standard princess that knew how to kick serious ass.

    Like

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