I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I was just a little girl at the time, but my mom sat me and my little brother down in front of the television and said, “It’s time I showed you two these movies.” I was captivated. I loved the story, I had a gnarly crush on Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, I was fascinated by the Jedi, but most of all, I was captivated by Princess Leia Organa. She was the first fictitious character I truly remember wanting to emulate. Princess Leia may have been a character created for a fantastic story in a galaxy far, far away, but she was a role model to me and so many others.
Like a lot of little girls growing up in the nineties, I watched more than my fair share of Disney Princess movies. I loved them, so getting introduced to a princess like Leia Organa was quite the departure from what I was used to seeing. Unlike princesses like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, Princess Leia was anything but another pretty face. Leia may have had a small frame and looked delicate, only she was anything but. Leia could rock a bold hair style and look gorgeous in whatever she chose to wear, but that was the least important thing about her: Leia was a leader, and a damn fine one at that. She put herself to the hazard to help the Rebellion, she endured imprisonment and torture to keep the plans of the Rebellion safe, and even after watching her entire home planet and all of the people on it mercilessly incinerated before her very eyes, she still held strong.
Leia was such an important role model to so many of us because unlike a lot of female protagonists, she wasn’t a liability or a damsel in distress. When it came to overthrowing the Empire, Princess Leia was just as vital of a player as the likes of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Sure, she was rescued from time to time, but she spent just as much time rescuing as she did being rescued. After all, if it weren’t for her quick thinking on the Death Star, Luke, Han, and Chewie’s rescue attempt would have been thoroughly unsuccessful. You could go as far as to call her the strongest of the bunch. Unlike Han, she wasn’t a self-serving smuggler who had to be convinced to join the Rebellion, and unlike Luke, she wasn’t an uninformed farm kid who not only had to work through intense father issues, but also learn the ways of the Force. Leia was royalty and a politician. She was a rebel and a fighter long before we met her in A New Hope, and she never stopped. In The Force Awakens, she was continuing the fight against evil and the Dark Side, this time as a General, never once choosing to take a knee because she had already done her part, never allowing heartbreak to overcome her, and never running away to live in seclusion on an island when things got rough.
Leia Organa showed Star Wars fans that you didn’t have to be a big, burly, gun-wielding man to truly be a hero. She showed us a woman who was strong, smart, brave, intelligent, compassionate, wise, and enduring. She could wield a blaster and political office with total ease. And while Leia was all of those things, she would have never become the role model and icon of pop culture that she is today without Carrie Fisher. Fisher brought her own spark, her own bravery, and her own strength into the role of Leia Organa. Fisher was just as much of a fighter as Princess Leia, battling her own demons throughout her life, and just like Princess Leia, Fisher used her battle to do good for others as an activist for mental health, among other things.
In losing Carrie Fisher, we’ve lost the spark, the bit of magic that made Leia Organa the woman we all love and adore, but her legacy–that of Fisher herself and Leia Organa–will be remembered long after today. We will miss you, Carrie Fisher. Thank you for bringing Princess Leia to life so perfectly, and thank you for giving tons of fans one of the best role models anyone could ask for.
What did Princess Leia mean to you? Tell us your favorite Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia memories in the comments.