Me being a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy, it should hardly surprise you that I am a HUGE fan of the Star Wars franchise. As a young girl, they were some of the first science fiction movies I cut my teeth on, the amazing world and engaging characters becoming as much a part of my childhood as roller blades and ice cream trucks. Like most girls my age, I connected with the character of Princess Leia. The only primary female character in a sea of men, she became like a symbol to me—a princess who was beautiful, but also carried a gun and fought along side those men to save the galaxy.
As I grew into adulthood, my love for her became tainted by her sexualization—the way pop culture often turned her into nothing more than a sex symbol … a hot woman who once wore the skimpy gold bikini which starred in the not-so-secret fantasies of dudebros and nerd-guys everywhere. There was, of course, nothing wrong with Leia rocking that gold bikini or being sexy or sexual. However, that so many people reduced her to being that, and only that, irked me.
And then, The Force Awakens was released, bringing us a new, diverse cast that included a badass woman in the lead role. It also brought us a transformed Princess Leia, who has, in the years since we saw her last, shed her tiara and donned a suit of armor. ‘Call me General’, her clothing, hair, and regal bearing tell us through the screen. With a quiet strength that demands the respect of everyone around her, she replaces the princess of the past as my hero … a woman who might no longer have the sexy body, but has gained so much more. Wisdom. Experience. Strength.
She is the symbol of a new age of Science Fiction heroine—a woman who fights for her people and for a cause, but who also loves even when she has lost. In that regard, she is so much like Blythe, the heroine of the Bionics Novels. Like Leia, Blythe lost her home, along with most of the people she cared about in one fell swoop. Like Leia, she has found love in the midst of a revolution, and even though life has made her hard, there’s still a soft spot in the center of her heart for the people she cares about. Like Leia, time brings her wisdom and insight, the hardships she has endured only serving to make her stronger than ever.
As I continue to strive to write strong female characters in a genre where they are so sorely underrepresented, I am grateful for both Princess Leia and General Organa. I am grateful for the woman she was and the woman she has become. I imagine her at the forefront of a fictional revolution, leading the latest emergence of fantasy and sci-fi heroines into the future—one where they take their places as the heroes of their own stories, where they are free to be as strong, damaged, fearless, and emotional as they want. I imagine her being proud of the ones coming behind her, for whom she paved the way.