What Princess Leia Means to Me

What Princess Leia Means to Me

Last April, at the Star Wars Celebration 2015 there was a panel titled “What Princess Leia Means to Me.” The panel was made up of moderator Jennifer Heddle who is a senior editor at Lucasfilm, actress Catherine Taber, artists Cat Staggs and Katie Cook, author Christie Golden and Lucasfilm creative executive Rayne Roberts. The panel shared what Princess Leia meant to them, and both the panel and the audience applauded Leia for being strong and girly at the same time.

It struck me how a film released almost forty years ago contained a character who is still having a profound effect on girls today. We’re “Star Wars” crazy in our house {my daughter and me anyway, my husband not so much.} Part of our craziness is our love for Princess Leia.

She is the only female character in a film full of men. Not only that, she can hold her own against them, and she doesn’t take any lip from any of them, including the walking carpet, Chewbacca.  She gives orders and she comes up with viable solutions to real problems.

From the moment we see Princess Leia in all her cinnamon bun glory we know she is a force to be reckoned with, yielding her gun and shooting at the Storm Troopers. Even when Darth Vader himself questions her, Leia doesn’t flinch.

She doesn’t need to be saved and she is in charge of her own life. As a leader in the Rebel Alliance, Leia clearly will fight for what she believes in and she’s proof that girls can do anything. When the film was released in 1977, the women’s movement was in full swing.  Women no longer wanted to be the homemaker, the victim or the damsel in distress. They were fighting for equal rights. Marching in the streets and prompting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment {ERA,} which was introduced into every Congress from 1923 until it was finally passed in 1972.

I was five-years-old when I first saw “Star Wars” in the theatre. I remember Princess Leia seemed very powerful to me. At that time I was probably more interested in her hair and her pretty brown eyes than anything else. I was unaware of the societal shift that was happening in the country.

I’m proud to say, with the passage of the ERA, I’m part of the first generation of girls who grew up thinking we could be whatever we wanted to be. We were no longer confined to the jobs of stay-at-home moms or secretaries. If that’s what you chose to be, awesome, but you no longer HAD to be those things.

Princess Leia was just the role model my generation needed. She was a complex woman who was feisty yet friendly, who was caring and feminine, who fell in love but wasn’t looking to be saved. And thirty-eight years later, Princess Leia can be all of those things to my daughter as well.

What does Princess Leia mean to you?

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