Return of the Jedi was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. It might have been the first movie I saw, period, and it’s definitely the first movie I remember watching. I was not quite three, and I remember being so excited on the way to the theater.
We talk about representation in media, and I think it matters that my first princess wasn’t someone in a castle waiting to be rescued by a prince, it was Princess Leia being a badass. Yes, Princess Leia got captured by Jabba, but she got captured while she was the one playing the hero and rescuing of Han Solo. Then she rescued herself by strangling Jabba with her chains, which is seriously badass.
That was my earliest representation of women in film, and it was of a powerful princess who could fight and rescue herself, and didn’t need to sit there in a tower waiting for the guy to come rescue her. She went out and rescued him. It opened up a world of possibilities to me before any of the other cultural messages about women as the damsel in distress had a chance to sneak in.
I never lived in a world where women on film couldn’t kick ass, and I owe that to Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia as a powerful woman despite George Lucas’s creepy ideas about underwear in space and metal bikinis. She took that role and gave us a powerful woman who didn’t put up with the bullshit from the men in her life because she was too busy trying to win a rebellion. When Leia got the guy in the end, it was on her terms and not because she needed him to rescue her.
Princess Leia was my princess, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Carrie Fisher for making her so real and powerful. She will be missed.
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