Ode to Princess Leia: The Sassy Soul of “Star Wars”

Princess LeiaIn the summer of 1977 on the corner of East 10th and Ashley Streets in Pine Bluff, Ark., I was Princess Leia.

Star Wars” premiered that summer, and a whole generation of kids became members of the Rebel Alliance in their minds and backyards. At least the boys did. The girls in my neighborhood preferred Barbies and baby dolls in their pink bedrooms, but not me. I played baseball, climbed fences and popped wheelies with the boys.

In a galaxy far, far away at the Broadmoor Twin movie theater, Princess Leia appeared like a screen soul sister – the only girl with the boys. The neighborhood of Belmont instantly transformed into Tatooine, Alderaan and the Death Star. My pony tails became braids twisted into some sort of messy Leia buns. In a former cotton field behind our houses, we imagined storm troopers capturing us. That image was so real in my young Jedi mind that they still appear in random adult dreams, stomping toward my house in their scary white armor.

I collected the “Star Wars” cards in bubble gum packs and bought the glasses featuring “Luke and the princess” at Burger King and a Princess Leia doll in the toy department at Dillard’s. Of course, I was too busy playing Leia to actually deal with the doll. That summer, I also fell in love with Han Solo, my first crush on a rogue but far from the last.

In the 1970s, Leia was a hero when there were very few kickass women on the big, or small, screen. Girls could pretend to be one of Charlie’s Angels or Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, but being detective Kelly Garrett could only take a girl so far and Wonder Woman was old school Amazonian. Besides, no boy wanted to play Bosley all the time – if ever.

Leia lived in another universe – not Los Angeles or even this planet, for goodness sake – where she was sassy, savvy and sexy in that long, white gown and later in that infamous metal bikini. She didn’t wait for the Luke Skywalker or Han Solo to defend her. She could aim her blaster and strike down storm troopers with dead accuracy while her buns remained perfectly in tact.

Now, in the 21st century, Leia is back with a vengeance. Carrie Fisher, along with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, are cast in “Star Wars: Episode VII,” set 35 years in the future from “The Return of the Jedi.”

The hype surrounding the film, due in December 2015, grows daily, thanks to rabid fans and social media.

JJ Abrams, who created the television show “Alias” and previously directed two of the Star Trek movies, is at the helm of Star Wars: Episode VII. It’s currently in production at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England, with a possible $200 million budget. Rumors circulate the plot will center on Luke, Leia and Han.

Here’s a tip, Mr. Abrams: If you’re smart, you’ll have the plot focus on Leia, who, as we know, ruled the early Star Wars movies and deeply developed as a character in the later spin-off books and comics. Girls need such a role model, and women want to see Fisher, who is a heroine to many for her survival with drug and alcohol addiction, tackle the galaxy’s dark side. Can you imagine Leia as a snarky grand matriarch, a Jedi princess utilizing all the mind tricks in her arsenal? Oh, I can. After all, she had all the best lines in “Star Wars.”

Fisher has joked about the role of her infamous hair buns in the new movie, saying, “That hairdo can never really be repeated without gales of laughter. I’ve begged them to put the hair back on in grey and just catch me cooking with the hair, like Granny Leia.”

If Leia is in a sci-fi kitchen baking cookies in the shape of Chewbacca for her grandkids, there is going to be a lot of disappointed Gen X women who grew up using paper towel rolls as blasters.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • radicalhw

    YES TO ALL OF THIS: the pinning up of fake buns, the running around the neighborhood telling walking carpets to get out of my way, the crush on Han Solo, the 12″ doll who kicked Barbie’s ass, the desperate hope that Leia is finally centered in the Star Wars saga! YES!

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