Thursday, May 4, 2017

5 Important Lessons from Princess Leia

The entire Star Wars community, including cast, crew, creators, and fans, is still dealing with the loss of Carrie Fisher, making May the 4th a bittersweet celebration this year. For fangirls around the world, this blow was particularly intense on a far more personal level than most celebrity deaths, largely because of the impact Princess Leia had on many of us.

During a time when most of our ‘princess’ icons were damsels in distress, Leia was a woman capable of holding her own, commanding respect, and remaining strong and bold even in the face of certain death.

I was introduced to Star Wars by my father at the age of six, and Princess Leia immediately captivated me. As far as I can recall, princesses had never interested me because I didn’t want to hear about someone who needed to be saved. There were no female characters I adored, none whose spirit and personality were something I wanted to aspire to. But then, there was Leia. In a story of heroes and warriors, she stood out as being capable, determined, and fearless.

Leia was beautiful and bold. She didn’t wait for people to give her the opportunity to lead or present herself as worthy of being heard as a woman; she simply stood up and did what she needed to.

For many of us, Princess Leia was the first feminist icon in our limited world views. She also set the tone for strong female leads in the franchise long before the Star Wars EU was even birthed into existence.

As a lifelong devotee of all things Star Wars, the Original Trilogy presented me with only a fraction of who Leia was. Through the Extended Universe, we saw a young woman flourish and grow into a force to be reckoned with. She intricately wove together many aspects of womanhood into one beautiful canvas. Being a warm, loving, and tender mother and wife was easily reconciled with her determination and boldness as a leader. Although there were certainly times when apprehension led her to slower reactions, generally speaking, she knew when was the time for being political and when springing to action was a better course of action.

The things I learned from Princess Leia changed the way I looked at female leads forever. They led me to pursue books with strong female leads who defied gender stereotypes and found success through hard work and determination. Leia filtered into everything from determining the type of woman I wanted to be to the types of female characters I cultivate for my novels.

These are just some of the lessons Leia taught me:

1.  Never let someone intimidate you into compromising what you stand for. 

Leia believed with her entire being that life under the control of the Sith and the Empire would be a far worse sentence than not living at all. Her life was not worth betraying her people for. She believed so strongly that even torture devices designed to force the truth out of people couldn’t break through her bravery. She stood face to face with one of the most powerful villains in the universe and refused to back down or give in, knowing standing her ground could very well mean her own death. 

2. While not opposed to help, a woman doesn’t need saving. 

Sure, if Han and Luke hadn’t shown up she probably would have been executed, but she didn’t need them to cut through the stormtroopers and do all the hard work. When they were backed into a corner and unable to think on their feet, Leia took control and made a move to get them out of there. She had no problems fighting back and had no patience for people trying to play the hero if they weren’t prepared to follow through. When the rebels went to battle, she was prepared to do what she needed to do and lead her troops. She stayed until the last possible moment, refusing to abandon ship until she knew everyone else was safely away. 

3. Emotions aren’t a setback, own them. 

As women, we are often told our emotions make us incapable of being rational, of being leaders, or of doing things as well as men. Leia proved that concept wrong. Her emotions weren’t shut down or buried, but they didn’t make her less of anything either. She used them to fuel whatever she was doing. Her heartbreak over the destruction of Alderaan didn’t turn her into a heaping mess. With the impending attack on the rebel base by the Death Star, she knew her grief could not overwhelm her, instead using it to help her focus on the task of destroying the weapon. 

Her love for Han Solo wasn’t weakness either. She embraced her feelings and channelled them into passion--passion to fight, passion to take risks, and a passion to stand up for what was right and stand against her oppressors. 

Her emotions were a part of her and they made her stronger.

4. You can be feminine and be powerful

Leia was a force to be reckoned with. She often wore feminine outfits, her hair was always done, and she always had on a splash of makeup. She was beautiful, and with a small frame almost dainty, but none of that got in the way of her being able to lead. As mentioned earlier, she didn’t wait for permission or acknowledgement that it was okay to command respect and take charge--Leia simply stood up and did it. She was well-educated and knowledgeable, but she also knew how to cultivate a strong team by supporting the talents and expertise of those who surrounded her. Her gentleness and loving nature encouraged the support of those around her because they knew she was genuinely working for their freedom. Tenderness combined with a fighting spirit helped lead her to success.

5. It’s okay to be exactly who you are.

Throughout history, women have been told how we should look, act, dress, and speak. We’re told the types of jobs we should be doing, what our life goals should be, and what we should be most proud of. Leia wasn’t someone who changed her behaviour, looks, or personality to suit others. She was happy to show her emotions when she wanted. She was sarcastic and funny, not afraid to show annoyance, and was exactly the person she wanted to be. She pursued a role in the rebellion, and later on continued in leadership, not because it was expected of her as a Princess, but because it was what she truly believed in. 


The woman behind the character most certainly played a large role in making Leia who she was. She contributed greatly to changes in the scripts and shaped our favourite Princess into the well-rounded woman so many of us adore. 

Her princess will remain an inspiration to us for the rest of our lives.

May the force be with you, always, Carrie.

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” - Carrie Fisher


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