I grew up wanting more than anything to be Ariel, the spunky little mermaid that won a prince’s heart. She used her charm and looks (let’s be honest) to turn him away from the evil faux-Ursula, going on to rock the puffiest wedding dress I think any of us has ever seen. Growing up on a lake, it was only natural that every time I went swimming I pretended to be her, forcing my brother and all of my cousins to swim with their legs together, too.
As I got older, my tastes in idols changed, they became more real and less hand-drawn. I discovered who Ruth Bader Ginsberg was, and suddenly Elizabeth Warren came crashing into my life as well, and I had new people, as well as ideals, to admire. There’s always the fun questions on the internet and between friends like “Who is your favorite…”, asking your opinion on a variety of things. Eventually the Disney princess question would come up and I’d answer Ariel, even if I didn’t totally believe in my answer anymore. Then one fine day, Disney made a teeny tiny purchase and brought Star Wars under their massive umbrella. I could finally change my answer to Leia, matching my grown-up feelings in regards to strength, poise and badassery, qualities I want (and demand) in an influential leader. No longer do I feel the need to want to be a princess, as was taught to our generation through the numerous classic Disney films that came out between the 1980s and 2000s. Now, more than ever, I’m excited to answer my favorite Disney princess is Leia, so that I can eagerly explain why she should be regarded as a General, not a royal.
Sure, Leia Organa was the ‘damsel in distress’ when we first met her in 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Running from the devilish Darth Vader (in a scene that is now forever changed by the events in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), her angelic white robe made her stand out against the darkness of Vader. She was good, with a touch of purity thanks to that now-infamous dress, with a hair-do that has rocked the ages. What viewers didn’t expect to get though was a fierce, brilliant, snarky, independent, I-can-rescue-my-own-damn-self woman who would later go on to become one of the galaxy’s greatest Generals. Leia Organa was no ordinary princess that we had come to know through the years of media production, the image of a frightened young girl who needed that knight in shining armor to wisk her away from the baddie. She could take the shit and sling it right back with twice the gusto, and that’s what makes her such an amazing role model.
As time went on and a new Star Wars film was released, we saw more of Leia Organa taking no prisoners, and doing whatever it took to save the ones she loved. Commanding the attack on the Death Star 1.0, assisting Rebel forces on Hoth, making Jabba the Hut her bitch, riding a speeder bike through the forests of Endor while pew-pewing Imperials off their own bikes… there was nothing this woman couldn’t do. And she did it with class, grace, and as always a mischievous grin on her face. I promise you, there is no doubt in any of the minds of Star Wars fans, and I’d wager to say this includes fans of cinema in general, that no actress beyond Carrie Fisher could have pulled this epic portrayal off.
Parts of Carrie were embedded in Leia, giving her the right amount of sass and vulnerability, two of the very poignant traits that marked Fisher’s life. Both ladies told it like it is, leaving off the sugar coating because there simply isn’t time for that. Bolting onto the scene with personalities larger than life, there was no possible way someone could ignore the two women, and they sure as hell weren’t going to let that happen in the first place. Carrie Fisher lived a colorful, chaotic and fearlessly truthful life, only having recently left for the astral plane, news that devastated the world over. Her legacy will no doubt live on in many films, shows, interviews, books and more, but it will always come back around to her time as Leia Organa. For that, and for her, I’m eternally grateful. I can only hope to channel my inner Carrie/Leia when I need to rise up and be a badass, and if I’m able to accomplish that… I can do anything. Just like both women did.