Not many people know this, but when I was a little boy I hated Princess Leia.
Like, REALLY hated!
Not because she was a girl or anything, but because of the way she treated my favourite character, who, at the age of 8/9, was Chewbacca.
Throughout the movies her treatment of him made me feel like she was (in the words of my 8 year old self!) “super mean.” For example:
- In A New Hope, she calls him a “Walking Carpet.” I mean, talk about racist! He’s a walking sentient being!
- She doesn’t give him a medal at the end of A New Hope.
- In Empire she tells Han, “I’d rather kiss a Wookie!” Really? You’d rather? And you call yourself his friend?!?
Now my dumbass 8 year old attitude is long gone, and while I do think there are some problems with the Princess Leia portrayal, I have fundamentally changed my mind. As soon as I got a little older I recognised the inspiration she gave, not just to millions of girls/women, but also to millions of guys all around the world.
Soon after the tragic death of Carrie Fisher, a petition was started to try and convince Disney to make Princess Leia an official Disney princess. As of 13th Jan it has just over 97,000 signatures.
I have no doubt that every single person who signed that petition did so with their heart in the right place. But I do have one question…
Why does Princess Leia need to be a Disney Princess?
Is it an honour? Or a goal that would elevate her character?
When we nominate figures that are important to us for an award or achievement (such as a Nobel Prize or a Knighthood), we do so with the intention that such an award will be considered a “step-up” (so to speak.)
But can anyone really say that becoming a Disney Princess would elevate the character of Princess Leia? Joining a club which was established purely in order to sell more princess dresses?
Long before the creation of Sarah Connor or Ellen Ripley, Princess Leia came to us during a time when the world of sci-fi was dominated by men. She showed us that fighting for what is right and just, even in the face of great personal loss, is a worthy goal. Yes, she may have started off as a damsel in distress, but as her character develops, we see a far more complex woman than anything Disney has created.
She existed long before the establishment of the Disney Princess franchise and yet, almost single-handedly, destroyed the thousand year stereotype of princesses, showing that such a character could be smart, assertive, strong; and rock an amazing hairstyle to boot!
Princess Leia doesn’t need to be a Disney Princess because she’s already greater than any Disney Princess could hope to be.
I think the meme below says it better than I ever could.