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Anyone who knows me pretty well knows that I am a major Star Wars geek. I’m talking about the first, original trilogy (Star Wars IV, V, and VI), not the newer series with Anakin, Padme, and (shudder) Jar Jar Binks.
I was eleven when I first saw Star Wars in the theaters (and by this I mean “Star Wars IV: A New Hope”). This movie blew me away. It blew away a lot of people actually, and played in movie theaters all summer long, with lines around the block. My dad took my brother and me to see it about six times during its theatrical run (because that was the only way to see it—there were no VCRs or DVD players back in the Stone Age).
Why did I love Star Wars so much? Well, in addition to the amazing light saber battles, the awesome special effects, the all-around evilness of Darth Vader, and that amazing opening shot with the huge Imperial Cruiser, it had one of the coolest heroines I’d ever seen in the movies.
Princess Leia. (Or should I say, Princess/Senator Leia Organa).
She might have been a princess, but she didn’t act like one. She had a blaster and wasn’t afraid to use it. When she was captured, she stood up to Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin and insulted them. She wasn’t just someone’s girlfriend, but a character in her own right and one of the leaders of the Rebellion. I actually thought Luke was kind of a dull boyfriend for her, so I was glad that she had her own mission. And I was even gladder that she ended up with Han Solo in the second film.
I’ll admit that sometimes she was kind of bossy (“Could someone please get this great big hairy walking carpet out of my way?”) and the garbage chute decision wasn’t the best move, and there was that freaky hairdo that looked like earmuffs/cinnamon rolls stuck to her head. But I still thought she was awesome. Plus, she wasn’t squeezed into a form-fitting costume (although if you check out the original poster, it makes her costume look way more revealing than it was!). I’m not even going to get into the whole annoying slave-girl metal-bikini thing she wore in Return of the Jedi!.
Before you judge my taste in heroines, keep in mind that there weren’t a lot of strong female heroines on TV or in the movies during the late 70s. I was a big fan of the original Bionic Woman TV show, but it bothered me that Jaime Sommers was originally just Steve Austin’s girlfriend and she pretty much followed the orders of a couple of guys in the OSI. And the Disney Princesses of my childhood were nothing like Merida, Belle, or Mulan; I had Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora (this is before the new era of Disney animated films, starting with The Little Mermaid in 1989).
So, when the neighborhood gang got together I always chose to be Princess Leia in our Star Wars game (and because I was kind of bossy like her, I got to be her). And I owned the original Leia action figure (complete with her own mini blaster rifle) and a cool Princess Leia t-shirt. I might have also written some embarrassingly bad fan fiction (*ahem* “Diary of A Rebel Princess” *cringes*) which will stay locked in a storage bin forever.
You know what’s really cool? In 1977, I was Princess Leia for Halloween, complete with a homemade costume and my long brown hair coiled into two buns.18 years later, my daughter also went as Princess Leia for Halloween! How’s that for a long-lasting heroine?
What about you? Who was your first major TV or movie heroine?
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