Sometimes I feel sorry for Leia Organa. She got the short end of the stick. Don’t get me wrong. She’s got a good deal of privilege, but having Vader for a birth father and leading the rebel alliance wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.
But, in particular, I’ve thought for a long time that Leia doesn’t ever get to be a real person, no matter who’s talking to, at, or about her.
People have been posting this picture left and right on my tumblr and twitter since December. Not going to lie, it’s been getting under my skin a little. I’m not going to talk about the tired Bikini Leia tropes, or about how her role is stunted after the first movie in a lot of ways. I’m going to focus on the alternate, newer trend in Leia love.
I’ll never dispute the badassery of Leia. The woman can take on The Man with the best of us. She’s gutsy and loyal. Her will is strong. As a kid, she was easily a favorite. But between the Leia as bad-ass sex icon and Leia as can-do-no-wrong purveyor of all things good, I can’t help but think we’re missing the point, all the points.
Preface to this: I’ve not read the extended Star Wars cannon. Though my wiki skills are on point, my first hand knowledge of the universe is limited to movies and the recent run of Star Wars comics. Since this is my place on the internet, I’m going to babble regardless. I promise to go get the newest Star Wars book this afternoon.
There seem to be a couple of fundamental errors in this statement, though, that have been under my skin.
We don’t know if Leia has the Force.
So, the Dark Side is a thing specific to the force, right? There are mundane helpers of the Dark Side and regular, every day employees of the Dark Side, but we all know the truth: if there is someone who can be actively tempted by the POWER OF THE DARK SIDE, they’ve got to be in touch with the Force.
But, I’ll give. I think her ability to sense Luke, her father, her son and husband are all pretty indicative of the force. We’ll save the no-training injustice talk for later.
Even if Leia does have the Force, are we really claiming she has never been tempted?!
Leia has lost a lot of stuff throughout her life.
Her family is dead.
Her planet is destroyed.
She’s had to wrestle for power in a system literally built to keep her from success.
Are we really so naïve as to claim that she’s never been tempted?
The true fact is, we don’t spend a lot of time with Leia. Her role in the story is to provide resources to the main male heroes and hopefully mentor Rey. Her story is not the focus nor has it ever been. She’s put through a lot and can be because we don’t have to follow her around. We don’t have to watch her cry the night Alderaan is destroyed. We don’t watch her rage at Vader or mourn the loss of the birth parents she’d never know. We don’t watch her struggle to come to grips with a leadership role she never asked for but can’t refuse.
Let’s not lie. All signs point to a Leia Organa who is just a bucket of rage and determination.
What we like to think as a fandom is that she can go throughout all of that without a speck of self-doubt or temptation. But, that’s certainly not the case.
And as we all know,
Luke is the obvious analog for Vader. He’s meant to be. Too young, too powerful, too uncontrolled.
But the same can easily be said for Leia. Ruler of a people without the guidance of others, fighting and mourning at the same time.
That her rage would never lead to a desire for destruction, to disproportionately wound those who have hurt her most? Let’s not be naïve. And if she does have the power, truly can be tempted by the Force, let’s not pretend that she hasn’t been. It’s easy to justify trying to change things from the inside. The whole point is that the Dark Side is a temptation to even the strongest among us. Temptation to give in to the pain, doubt, anger, is universal.
True fact: Leia isn’t strong because she’s never been tempted. She’s strong because she resists.