This Star Wars day (and in honor of Carrie Fisher’s final onscreen performance in The Last Jedi), here are a few thoughts about the iconic rebel general who always knew how to light a spark in our souls
“Darth Vader, only you could be so bold.”
Who knew a character’s first line could say so much? Spoken so casually, it’s like this woman is scolding a misbehaved child — or, in this case, a menacing black-cloaked figure who just strode onscreen to his own villainous theme music.
From the moment she appears onscreen, her fearless demeanor is instantly appealing. Not even the most futile situation quells the open defiance flashing behind her eyes; it flickers constantly and dangerously, regardless of whether she’s firing a blaster at a troop of Storm Troopers or being captured by them.
Over and over again, this fierce woman wields that spark of defiance as kindling to stoke the flames of a dying rebellion, and it’s captivating to watch.
Thus, Leia Organa makes her unforgettable entrance in 1977’s Star Wars, and each subsequent scene makes it clear that the spark behind her eyes isn’t just feistiness; it’s indicative of a raging, unquenchable inferno.
Unsurprisingly, she spends the rest of the film solidifying herself as one of the most capable, tenacious, and steadfast heroes of the Rebellion.
Despite her visible horror, she radiates unwavering strength when confronted with the death of her home planet. With that same unquenchable fire, she resists interrogation at the hands of one of the most feared Sith lords in the galaxy.
In one of my personal favorite scenes, she salvages her own poorly-planned rescue mission with sheer nerve and quick thinking — “Somebody has to save our skins,” she declares while firing upon Storm Troopers, saving her would-be rescuers and evading capture by forcing them down a garbage chute.
And of course, as the youngest commander of the Rebel Alliance (at the age of 19), she oversees the Rebel strike that leads to the destruction of the Death Star. (Meanwhile, at the age of 19, I was struggling to wake up every morning and fulfill my menial daily responsibilities while also remembering to eat and sleep. It’s still hard.)
In a lesser character, her traits might seem forced or unbelievable. Particularly in an era where strong characters risk being labeled a “Mary Sue” (a character, usually female, whose extreme competence renders him/her unbelievable), Leia’s enduring popularity and authenticity are a testament to the strength of her character.
I personally remember her as a woman onscreen who made me feel powerful not in spite of my sex, but because of it. She lit a fire in my soul.
And it’s her fiery inferno of a personality that makes her character not only likable, but so undeniably believable: Unlike Luke Skywalker, Leia didn’t become a force of nature throughout the course of the franchise — she entered the franchise by kicking down the walls. Where Luke Skywalker is an unwilling hero who inadvertently stumbles into his power, Leia is an inexorable force who fights relentlessly and ferociously for the sake of the Rebellion and for everything she believes in. Despite her royal status, and though she undoubtedly carries herself with the grace and confidence of royalty, this woman bears all the marks of having been a fighter for her entire life.
Appearing in four additional Star Wars films doesn’t dilute or dampen her spirit; throughout most of the series, she remains a driving force behind the Rebel Alliance and (unknowingly) the last living Jedi.
Thus, she is the series’ beacon of hope, its ray of light — but she’s so special because she never became clichéd or defined by this role. She isn’t remembered for being just brave, or sassy, or sarcastic, or resourceful, or inspirational; she stands out because she is all of these things all at once.
Leia carves a place in film history, and will always do so with Carrie Fisher’s beautifully fiery attitude. You already know this, but we love you, General. And we miss you.