There’s a lot of talk these days about strong women in fiction, and rightly so. There is also a ton of talk about Rey being overpowered, and… not so rightly. It’s particularly idiotic when we accept at face value that literally any dude handed a gun in an action movie is automatically Rambo, including, ya know… Rambo. Hell, including Luke himself, which the puppy/GG crowd will fight to the death, but let’s talk about that original trilogy for a second.
Because while you can debate Luke’s Hero’s Journey all day long (Luke sucks), the fact of the matter is Lucas lucked into one of the bad-ass women of all time. I say lucked into, because I have zero confidence in Lucas’ ability to A) write a decent character in the first place and B) because his track record of treating race and gender with respect is… not good. And C) because all the things that makes Leia awesome, I am pretty sure he did by omission. Here is a non-exhaustive list of Awesome Shit Leia Does:
- Fights tyranny, not just with guns, but through proper channels and peacefully
- Also guns
- Resists torture by a Sith Lord
- Watches her home planet be destroyed rather than give up information
- Still manages to get off a snappy line when she is rescued*
- Realizes her rescuers are, uhhhhh, kinda idiots who have no plan, and takes over
- Comforts Luke (who sucks) about his friend dying**
- Coordinates and attack on the Death Star right after all that
- Doesn’t leave anyone at Echo Base until she is literally dragged out
- Watches the same Sith Lord torture her crush
- Saves Luke’s stupid ass
- Tries to save her BF by going undercover in a mob
- Gets captured and shoved in a bikini (click that link, kids)
- Chokes the guy/slug that shoved her in said bikini
- Volunteers for super-dangerous mission
- Finds out her dad is the Sith lord who tortured her and her BF
- Saves her BF
- Finishes super-dangerous mission
- Completing super-dangerous mission leads directly to conception of Poe
- Sorry I got distracted there
- Son turns to the Dark Side
- Husband peaces out
- She leads a new Rebellion… thingy
- Husband comes back!
- Son doesn’t
- Son kills husband
- Makes sure Rey, who she just met, goes to Luke (why? HE SUCKS) to train
That’s just so far. Most of us would have curled up in a ball and cried from half of that.
Which brings us to the writing side of it, and the asterisk up there is why I say Lucas lucked out here- that line wasn’t in the script, it was all Carrie coming up with it on the spot. I think Lucas wrote Leia to be a damsel in distress through a lot of it. Because, and maybe this is just me, but if I write about someone getting tortured and watching their planet blow up, I would want to explore the effect it had on them. But Lucas just moves on, as most movies and books do when a woman goes through something traumatic. It’s a plot point, a thing to motivate the actual protagonist (Luke, who sucks) along.
Which brings us to the double asterisk up there- Luke loses a friend who has known for… two days? Ish? Leia watched her home go all ‘splodey. Granted, Luke lost his family and home too, and his pain would certainly be real, but… whole planet. And there she is, comforting him. Lucas & Co. just gloss over her pain, but in doing so, make her stronger. Because she, through all of, handles herself. The only person we see her vulnerable with is Han, and that makes their romance more compelling than the standard guy-gets-girl narrative.
I don’t have a super-huge point here, besides:
- Leia is bad ass
- Luke sucks
- Don’t talk shit about Rey, she is perfect
And, maybe, from the writing side of it, there is a good lesson in not over-thinking things. Let your characters be who they are, and maybe they will be stronger for it.
PS Seriously, don’t talk shit about Rey. I will cut you.