This article is part of POMEmag Space Week 2017.
A long time ago, in an elementary school classroom far, far away, a TV/VHS combo (you know the kind) rolled into my classroom and everything changed. The last days of my fifth-grade year had arrived, and along with it came a discovery a year in the making: Star Wars. My crush at the time was aggressively invested in SW, so I saw a chance to win his heart and dove in. Falling in love with the series wasn’t part of the plan, but it happened anyway — mainly because of the leader of the Rebel Alliance herself, Leia Organa. When I saw her taking charge of the Rebellion and putting men in their place when they were being dismissive or crass, I was inspired. She remains a hero and role model for me to this day.
Twelve years later Carrie Fisher, a hero in her own right and the woman who brought Leia to life, passed away. Her legacy, however, is burning brighter than ever. When the Women’s March and protests in solidarity with it bloomed around the world, a familiar face was pasted across protest signs, declaring that “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.” Leia’s tenacity and heroism are undeniable, essential, and resonant, now more than ever. Here are 7 reasons General Organa is a hero worthy enough to face the challenges of our times.
1. She’s Courageous Beyond Measure
When we first meet Leia in the original trilogy, she’s been captured by the Empire after her ship was intercepted, but fortunately, she manages to stow away the plans for the Death Star and plea for help from Obi-Wan in R2-D2 beforehand. When she’s discovered and taken by Darth Vader to see Governor Tarkin, she doesn’t tremble with fear — she puts him in his place with a truly iconic burn. This is just one small example of her unmatched bravery (see: Reason 6), but it’s one that I’ve always loved. Leia has no time for fascist bullshit. We should follow her lead accordingly.
2. She’s Strong as Hell
After the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan, Leia throws herself into her work with the Rebellion. This isn’t because she’s too hardcore for feelings, but because she channels her grief into resistance. In the Princess Leia comics by Mark Waid, we learn that after the events of A New Hope, Leia organizes a plan to find every remaining Alderaanian and save what she can of her home. It’s a powerful example, especially at a time when resistance to our current situation can feel nearly impossible. Channeling your feelings of anxiety, grief, or hopelessness into work is one way to cope with loss. If seeing Leia get to work isn’t motivating, I don’t know what is. (P.S. — self-care is just as important as fighting the good fight. Leia would want you to take things one step at a time, and fight for what’s right at your own pace. Every bit makes a difference!)
3. She is Fiercely Selfless
As I mentioned above, Leia works tirelessly to fight oppression and doesn’t stop when her interests aren’t involved. After she gathers the Alderaanians together, she continues to fight with the Rebellion because the fight is bigger than herself — it’s for the galaxy.
Take as another poignant example, her empathy for Tace, an Alderaanian who has unknowingly sold Leia out in the comics. Through her communications with her sister Tula, Tace has given away the location of the Lord Junn, one of the ships transporting Alderaanians. When a call to check in on Tula goes wrong, Leia then offers to take Tula’s place as prisoner so the two sisters can be reunited. So many courageous women put themselves in great danger to do the right thing. Real-life heroes like Bree Newsome and Malala Yousafzai have been equally selfless, and serve as shining examples of activism.
4. She Doesn’t Take Shit From Anyone
Let’s get things straight here: Leia is (among other things) a Senator, Rebellion Leader, and General. What she’s not is someone who tones herself down for others. Taking a page from the Eartha Kitt playbook, Leia doesn’t diminish her wit, killer charm, or boldness for anyone — Han Solo included. The people around her can take her as she is or move out of the way. May we all be as fearless and unapologetic as Leia, no matter the circumstances.
5. And I mean ANYONE
Putting Leia in a gold bikini and making her Jabba the Hutt’s slave still makes my blood boil. Seeing the film reduce a character as strong and resilient as Leia to an object of the male gaze with no autonomy is infuriating. I can say without hesitation that the best thing about the “Slave Leia” storyline in Return of the Jedi is that it ends with Leia’s chains around Jabba’s neck, silencing him forever. This move was a smart one, effectively showcasing her badassery and intolerance for chauvinistic, abusive pieces of trash.
6. She’s More Than Capable of Saving Herself/Everyone Else TYVM
Okay so you know how there’s that running joke (read: absolute truth) about Hermione being the whole reason Harry and Ron survive the events of Harry Potter? Well, Leia did it first. Without her clever skills, loyalty, and unfailing bravery, Han and Luke would’ve been long gone by the end of Return of the Jedi.
7. She’s an Icon of Empowerment
A woman as defiant, strong, and unbreakable as General Leia Organa would have the Trump administration shaking with fear. Her strength, skills, and courage were enough to lead a galactic rebellion against a totalitarian dictatorship not once, but twice! If there’s any sci-fi icon tailor-made to inspire everyone resisting our horrible reality, it’s Leia.
Fortunately, there are thousands of people following in her footsteps and forging their own paths towards a new hope. Marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, protecting Native land, immigrants, and women’s rights are all proof that people are rising up for what they believe in. May the force be with us.