Leia Organa

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Name: Leia Skywalker (birth name), Leia Organa (adopted name)
Occupation: rebel, diplomat, warrior, politician
Title/Rank: Princess, Senator, Jedi Knight, Chief of State (New Republic)
Location:
Status:
Relationships: Han Solo (husband), Luke Skywalker (twin brother), Anakin Skywalker (father), Padme Amidala (mother), Bail and Brehu Organa (adoptive parents)
Fandom: Star Wars
Other:
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Contents

Leia Organa is one of the main characters of the original Star Wars trilogy. She was a character, like Tasha Yar, who was a a flashpoint regarding fans' expectations and reactions regarding strong female characters.

Canon

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Leia is introduced as the Princess of Alderaan and a member of the Imperial Senate. She is captured and tortured by Darth Vader, and rescued by Luke, Han and Chewbacca. She is in the hidden rebel base on Yavin 4 when Luke destroys the Death Star. In the final scene, she presents Han and Luke with the Alderaanian Medal of Freedom.

In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Leia evacuates the rebel base on Hoth during an attack, then flees with Han Solo. On Bespin, Lando Calrissian betrays them to Darth Vader, and she admits her love for Han just before he is frozen in carbonite and handed over to Boba Fett. A repentant Lando helps Leia and Chewbacca escape. In a foreshadowing of her later development of Jedi powers, Leia senses that they should return, and they turn back just in time to rescue Luke, who is bady wounded.

In Return of the Jedi, Leia leads a mission to Tatooine to try to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. Leia poses as a bounty hunter in order to infiltrate Jabba's base. However, after she frees Han from the carbonite they are captured, and Leia is forced to wear the infamous Slave Leia gold bikini.

During a rescue led by Lando, Leia kills Jabba, strangling him with her slave chain. While regrouping on Endor, Luke reveals to Leia that they are actually twins, and that Vader is their father. Later, Leia and Han fight the Empire on Endor as the Rebel Fleet attempts to destroy the second Death Star. During the victory celebration Leia advises Han that he doesn't have to be jealous of Luke, as they are siblings.

In tie-in book canon, Leia establishes New Alderaan, for the survivors of her home planet. She also helps found the New Republic, devoting much of her time to politics and diplomacy, and and begins to study with Luke become a Jedi Knight. In her spare time, she marries Han Solo and they have children.

Early Fan Reaction

Leia was a character that generated a lot of fannish discussion. Some fans found her delightfully straight-forward and refreshing, an assertive woman in a male-dominated set of movies. Other fans felt her to be cold, manipulative, and bitchy. Letterzines are filled with impassioned support and rejection of Leia, and the early fan fiction reflected these views.

One fan writes in Han and Leia in Fanfiction: "The release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK added a new dimension to the characters, and it is Leia who seems to have gained the most from the change. Fan writers seldom had trouble seeing through the cocky character of Han Solo to the warmth and vulnerability below the surface. In the Han-Leia stories he still displays these qualities, often coupled with one not often shown in the films— patience. He seems to understand Leia's motivations better than she herself, and is willing to wait for her, or to help her reach out of herself to him. But it is Leia who has changed the most. While she has always had her fans (see the spirited defense of the character in "Interpretations" in KESSEL RUN), she was often left out of stories, relegated to figurehead of the rebellion, or given a role in which she behaved in a silly, foolishly stubborn, or bitchy manner. A less accessible character than her male counterparts, she has come into her own since TESB, It is more common now to find her portrayed as a competant, assertive woman who takes an active part in decision-making and problem solving. She is still stubborn, often with a nasty temper, but vulnerable. She has begun to grow and change. One can only hope that her evolution continues after the release of REVENGE OF THE JEDI." [1]

Some fans' reactions:

  • a fan speculates on the recent complaint over sex in SW fan fiction: "Han Solo has been jumped into a bunk with anything and every thing female and has been Unwholesome all over the galaxy for the past three years. Is it, perhaps, the fact that Leia is now getting some of the action that upsets Lucasfilm? It's all right for a man, but don't you dare lay an Unlawful, Lustful fingertip on Our Sweet Virgin of the Alliance?" [2]
  • one fan states that Leia is still a prize to won, and no improvement over Star Trek: "And don't anyone bring up the fact that Princess Leia fought along with the boy and men—she still occupies the old-time place for women in 30's sf—as a prize for the hero, after he has all the adventures and returns home. Lucas more than gave this away on the ABC program when he said they didn't know yet who they were going to award her to, in SW 2, the callow youth or the adventurer Han. So ah there, feminists—is this really better than ST?" [3]
  • a fan comments about Leia and Uhura: "Princess Leia's function (if it is that) of "token liberated woman" seems to irritate far more people than Lt. Uhura's token Black woman ever did. Everyone seems to want to squeeze Leia into one mold or another, which I think is impossible, because she is basically a compromise... Leia has a foot in both worlds (and occasionally one in her mouth, not that she cares), and why shouldn't she? Those who don't fancy her as totally independent like to point out that she and Aunt Beru taken together give ample evidence that Lucas' view of women and their place in the world is outdated. The "other side" holds that Leia is quite capable and independent, and Aunt Beru is simply "not well defined." I think perhaps both views are a little off. Leia is far too activist to be anybody's pawn or prize — at least not totally. On the other hand, Aunt Beru is pretty well summed up in the few scenes we see her in—she's a country housewife whose main interests are her small family and their farm. Whether or not you like that as a definition, it is one, and it's about all we see of her. Remember, it's not as though this were a depiction of a documented historical character, where one could say, "That's a distorted presentation." These are Lucas' inventions and he can present them however he likes. A character that isn't around long must generally be drawn in broad strokes, encompassing only the major outlines. I think we saw Aunt B's major outlines just as we were intended to. Leia will probably be better remembered for her feistiness than for her ultra-femininity, although she has a tender side (remember how gently she placed Luke's coat around his shoulders while commiserating with him over his loss and trying to encourage him?); Aunt Beru is largely content to stay in the background, although she speaks up—gently—when she thinks Uncle Owen is being unreasonable and tells him that they can't expect Luke to stay on the farm forever. Both ladies get their point across; they just have different weapons and methods, and one suspects that Leia speaks up far more frequently. Leia is Jane Fonda with overtones of Dale Arden, perhaps, but they're only overtones. Aunt Beru is Andy Griffith's Aunt Bee, with just the barest hint of Maude's opinions, and none of her mouth." [4]
  • a fan wonders about the fanfic that portrays the characters as "Wimpy, Goody-Two-Shoes Skywalker," "Han Drunken Buffoon Solo," "Leia Snippy-Brat/Frigid Bitch Organa," and "Darth Hi-My-First-Name-Is-Evil Vader," is because fans only have four hours of film to work with. "After all, with STREK we had 79 hours -- and still some writers never got it right!" [5]
  • "As a feminist, though I was delighted with Princess Leia, I was disappointed by the dearth of any other major female part—most especially among the pilots of the rebellion. They could have at least thrown one or two odd females [the editor interjects "sic"] in among all those chummy men in the briefing room. But nothing is perfect..." [6]
  • "To call Princess Leia a mere "prize" for the men of the story borders on being ludicrous. I rather think it is going to work the other way around, one of those men is going to be her prize! Leia seemed to me to be the aggressor in those two Luke/Leia kisses—is anyone worried about saving Luke from her? The lady is a tiger, not to mention red-blooded and healthy!" [7]
  • "Somehow I don't think Leia is going to be anybody's prize; I don't think Lucas was entirely serious when he spoke of who was going to get her. And from what I've seen so far, it's the women who are finding Leia threatening and putting her back Into her "proper" subordinate place; most of the fans writing SW fiction so far are women, and Leia is occupying a distinctly secondary role. It may be the Mary Sue phenomenon—I really think that a lot of ST fans find strong women either threatening or unbelievable, so they create female characters who are either subordinate to men or are Mary Sues who end up subordinate to men in the end too. I hope this attitude does not extend to SW fiction. I also hope that in the script for SW II that Leigh Brackett wrote before she died that Leia gets the treatment she deserves—that is, as a strong, independent, self-willed leader." [8]
  • "She's just about the most maligned character of SW that I've ever seen. Frankly, I found her a refreshing change from all of the previous heroines of sci-fi. There was no faintining (nee Dale Arden) or continuous screaming (ala Fay Wray in the original King Kong) on her part, nosirreebob. She was one cool cookie but I feel a lot of her coolness was only a thin veneer for the fear inside." [9]
  • "Another thing many people seem to be forgetting is the fact that Princess Leia was a major leader in the rebellion long before our two heroes waltzed across the screen. She is a delightful heroine with much more strength of character than anyone seems to be giving her credit for. One of the most delightful scenes in the entire movie is the one where she snatches the blaster from Luke and goes blasting across the detention area corridor to lead the way down the garbage shoot. Her own personal brand of "Alright, I'm in charge" bossiness is unique among most modern heroines. And Princess Leia is more than a reward for one of our two stalwart heroes—she will choose Han or Luke—or possibly neither; although (my personal feelings to the contrary) this is rather unlikely. It is sad, but true, that the writers of future SW scripts must be concerned with such mundane matters as box office receipts." [10]
  • "I could see in black and white why it is impossible for me to admire the character of Princess Leia, and why I conversely admire Luke so much. People keep saying, "Oh, but Leia's strong and independent." But these qualities are optional. What counts is what's in the heart. Leia's just not someone I can look up to because she's not better than myself, or probably than any of you... It has nothing to do with her being dedicated, courageous, or tough. It has to do with her being mean.... Just because she's in my favorite movie (STAR WARS) and is put up as a heroine doesn't mean I have to like her. I can't. I hope she's given only a cameo role at best in the next STAR WARS film, a scene at the end, perhaps. Thank goodness she can be easily ignored in TESB." [11]
  • a fan speculates on the recent complaint over sex in SW fan fiction: "Han Solo has been jumped into a bunk with anything and every thing female and has been Unwholesome all over the galaxy for the past three years. Is it, perhaps, the fact that Leia is now getting some of the action that upsets Lucasfilm? It's all right for a man, but don't you dare lay an Unlawful, Lustful fingertip on Our Sweet Virgin of the Alliance?" [12]
  • "I've got good feelings and bad about her. She is a strong female character, and the Maker knows there are few enough around. I rather got the impression that if Luke and Han et. al., had not arrived to rescue her, sooner or later she'd have gotten out alone. She is spirited, strong-willed, commanding and intelligent—Imperial Senator at age 20 is, after all, no mean feat, and neither is surviving Vader's interrogation. However, it is because of these "good points" that the flaws are born. She is strong-willed, and therefore bull-headed to an extreme ('I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you do as I tell you.') The commanding aspects of her personality often takes on the form of bitchiness, especially toward Han. I was of the opinion that the lady shculd have been pasted one a couple of times, and I thought Han showed considerable restraint in not doing so. The spiritedness came off as stubborn and ill-mannered—Luke, Han and Cnewie risk their necks to save her and does she even give them a thank-you? Of course not—it was their duty and honor to save her skin! She has to be brassy to get where she is, but I me of two guys cominq out of a theater after seeing SW, and one askinq the other, "Who did you like, Han or Luke?" "I'll take the Princess; she's got more balls than either one of them." Intentional or not, that's the way she sounds to me. Here's hoping that in the sequel they can make her a strong character, but sufficiently feminine, too. Princess Mary Sue, who does everything right, is not what I'm after, mind you. I ask for someone to tone down her sharp edges and give her a streak of softness, gentleness. The way she is now, she'd dominate Luke and destroy Han, if either of them were to be paired with her. As for 'who gets Leia," I think it will be the other round— it's who will she choose. My vote is being cast here and now for Vader—he's the only one that could possibly get the better of her!" [13]
  • "One thing that bothers me is the bad press Princess Leia is getting. Come on, people, you know damn well if she'd been a prince instead of a princess, her faults would be seen as virtues or at least as acceptable and understandable characteristics—Prince Leia would be self-confident, commanding, straight-talking, a leader, able to take over (and would be expected to do so!)... I do tend to agree that Han and Leia would probably kill each other within a week, but do Leia's detractors really think she'd be more attractive as a character, or as a person, if she were sweet, softspoken, and submissive to any arrogant male who comes along? Don't get me wrong, I like Han but he could use a bit of taking down himself. As to Leia and Luke, maybe she'd be good for him, give him encouragement to stand up for himself. Why all this crap about her having to dominate him, or anybody? In a personal relationship, dominance-submissiveness is not necessarily the only solution. By the way, do those who object to Leia dominating either of the males think it would be just fine and dandy if whomever she chose was able to dominate her? Yes, I'm accusing you of blatant sexism, all of you who think Leia is a bitch but Han perfectly acceptable in his attitude and behavior. I like Han now, but it took a long time to reach that point—unadulterated macho does not appeal to me. And it was reading a lot of Star Wars fanfic that helped me change my mind [such as] the stories that try to develop the characters and show possible other facets of their personalities. Seeing the movie with other people's interpretations in my mind (besides Lucas' one-sided portrayal, that is) I could see hope for Han as a human being—but I still think on screen he comes across as an arrogant pain in the posterior." [14]
  • "...[Mary Sues] may well be that one reason so many fanwrlters are concentrating on their own invented females rather than on Leia is that, in the end, she leaves them uncomfortable. (Nancy and Tracy Duncan made some very good points on this subject in their article, "Princess Leia: Should She Ever Have Been Liberated?" in Against the Sith. I commend it... the thrust of it being that in the SW novel, Leia comes across as much more human and sympathetic than she does in the film.) It isn't because she's liberated. Most of the female characters I enumerated in the first part of this tirade are also liberated; they are themselves and not afraid to be so; they can and often do accomplish "a man's work,"; they are brave, self-confident and skilled. It isn't because she's George Lucas' [creation] either: Luke, Han, Darth, Ben and even Chewie get plenty of play in the fanfic I've read. So it must be that even to those of us who like to write about liberated ladies, she's either unsympathetic, incomprehensible, or unnecessary. (Indeed, intending no criticism of George Lucas, her only function in the film seems to be to provide a focus for Luke's crush, act as a courier of stolen tapes, and be captured in order than in rescuing her "Our Heroes" may encounter dangers and adventures they never would have known if they'd been left to sit quietly in the gantry and wait for Kenobi.)" [15]
  • "C'mon guys, the Luke and Leia characters (especially Leia) are being elbowed aside far too much. They present incredible opportunities for development. They take what SW is all about. Leia is much more than a short, pushy little bitch and Luke is light years away from the sappy, starry-eyed youth he is often portrayed." [16]
  • "I don't want to go on and on, but I would like to say that I wish Leia's fans would realize that it is possible to dislike Leia as a character without disliking strong, confident, liberated female characters in general. Since TESB, I have a much more positive view of her, but when SW came out, I disliked her intensely for reasons that had more to do with her politics than her personal life. As a medievalist and a conservative, a believer in hierarchy and order with Imperial sympathies, I saw her as a fanatic revolutionary ideologue and (to use a snobbish old phrase) a traitor to her class. People like that have caused an incredible amount of misery to an incredible number of plain human beings in our own Earth's history, and I do not find them admirable when transferred to a galaxy far, far away. Still, as someone once said, she's got a lot of spirit, and now she seems to developing a heart as well. I might find myself liking her after all." [17]
  • "People avoid her, rather women do, because they are so hung up on Han. What's that old word, "jealousy"?! ... you Leia haters out there, let go already and grow up!" [18]
  • "There appear to be two sides (how convenient.) Those who think Leia is a great gal, even if she is a little bitchy, and those who think she is a fancy little fluff that Lucas added to give "Our Boys" something to play with. Both sides have one thing in common, they constantly refer to her as "Princess" and completely ignore her other title of "Senator." When you think about it, her behavior in both movies more closely resembles that of a senator than that of a princess. She didn't get to be leader of the rebellion because she was the highest ranking [person.] She can lead. I don't think that's something she learned greeting, foreign ambassadors or christening new bridges. So what if she isn't the archetypical "Princess."? If she had been a whimpering, damsel in distress, there would probably be a large contingent of female SW fans shouting "chauvinism." Unfortunately, it appears that Leia represents a "rival" to some of her opposition. It is, I imagine, difficult to manuver your carefully constructed alter-ego into an alluring position with "Our Boys" while Leia is peeking over your shoulder. I must admit it's quite a problem. All of that has little to do with how she actually functions in the movie. In some ways, she is the balance of reality that keeps Luke, Han, Ben, Vader and all the others from seeming [too] overplayed. We can expect the rest of the major characters to perform in their own inimitable way the archetypical dance for which they were created. They are seldom disappointing. So Leia sticks like a thorn in our own paws because she plays both sides against the middle, and comes out still wearing the white of purity. Let's face it, without Leia, SW would be just another fairy-tale. The interplay between characters would eventually lead up to the invevitabie happy ending where the hero gets the girl. She isn't what we expect and that makes her hard to swallow. Personally, I think she the strongest and most individual character in SW, but she does stick out. She does have flaws. They all do. It's difficult to judge a creation that has only just begun. I can understand why artists get uptight when someone peeking over their shoulder at a portrait in progress becomes disappointed at what they see. Who knows? I still think it's a little early to pass judgement on Leia. All the evidence has not been released." [19]
  • "I think I would like to stick in my two cents worth about Leia, speaking from my own bias, and that is that I like the character very much as she is. The most important factor in Leia's personality is that she is a revolutionary, and more than that, she is a leader in the revolutionary movement, which role she presumably has partly from her position (the Princess of Alderaan is going to be a potent symbol to the Alliance, particularly after the destruction of Alderaan) and partly from ability. Leia is not immature; she is extremely mature in a way that neither Luke nor Han may ever be. She's learned to put herself last, to work for a cause that may ultimately benefit all the people of the galaxy, and to keep that goal constantly before her. If she must ignore or suppress the gentler feelings-there's be time for those when the battle is won, she'll have suppressed all those gentle emotions for so long that she'll find it difficult or impossible to rekindle them; and she won't be the first revolutionary to become something of a sad or tragic figure in later life. But I think she would think the risk is worth it: she's made her choice, and I'm quite sure, the way she is portrayed, that she made it consciously, knowing what the tradeoffs were. Actually, I don't think either Luke or Han at this point is the right man for her. Luke is still in awe of her, while Han is acting in a way that could subvert her ability to lead the rebellion, probably because he doesn't understand why she acts the way she does. Luke, I think, could become the right one, havinq already come the right one, having already some of the seeds of dedication of the sort Leia already has." [20]
  • "The "Leia Conspiracy"... hmmm.. . I loved her In SW. The one line that endeared her to me was the one to Luke — "You're who?" It was perfect—who was this blond turkey to her, anyway? I really got sick of heroines jumping into their rescuer's arms and asking no questions! But in TESB—another matter entirely! She was, to put it mildly, a bitch! The thing that really made me hot was her use of Han and Luke against each other. You don't do that to friends—it's damned dirty pool! Besides that scene, however, I don't think that the character of Le1a is the problem — it's Carrie Fisher. She doesn't seem to care, and a remark that she made in an interview only seems to prove my point. She said that she didn't know anything about Leia, except that she liked white and wore her hair funny. Now, what caring actor knows so little about a character that he or she is portraying?" [21]
  • "... Lucas may not know how to present the strong female characters to the maximum, but Leia certainly is a good try and has many virtues as well as [her] faults (like our dear Han and Luke). In the scene where Leia is playing off Han and Luke together that she was teasing. Simple game-playing. Sexual attration provokes this most often, and on a scale of one to ten I'd say that scene rates a ten for this sort of behavior by Leia. And if Leia was teasing in that scene, then so was Han with his jokes at her. Tit for tat." [22]

Leia as "The Other"

  • A fan wants Leia to be the Other: "If there were a Pulitzer Prize for zinedom, then A.E. Zeek should get one for her article on the Other. No way that this will be the last word on the subject, but it is the most comprehensive. I don't think Leia will turn out to be the Other, if for no other reason than STAR WARS is a "boys fantasy", and girls/women' don't have much of a place in such."[23]
  • A fan is distressed that Leia is really the only female (aside from the little seen Beru) in the movies: "As for the subject of who is the "other", I personally prefer a brand new character. I hope it's a woman. I keep remembering that Lucas said the third and last trilogy would be about Luke's children. Now, I am just wondering if the "other" might not be Luke's future wife. It would be a shame if Lucas decided to populate the middle trilogy with only one main female character. Anyone for a female Jedi? Lucas has gotten a lot of flack for the lack of women in the SW films. Yet he seems almost unconcerned, as if he knows something we don't. Maybe with another woman in the films, some fans won't pick on Leia as much." [24]

Some Examples of Leia Fiction

Zine Art

References

  1. from Alderaan #9 (1982)
  2. from Jundland Wastes #5/6 (1981)
  3. from Alderaan #1
  4. from Alderaan #2
  5. from Jundland Wastes #2 (1981)
  6. from Jundland Wastes #2 (1981)
  7. from Jundland Wastes #2 (1981)
  8. from Jundland Wastes #3 (1981)
  9. from Jundland Wastes #3 (1981)
  10. from Jundland Wastes #2 (1981)
  11. from Against the Sith #9
  12. from Jundland Wastes #5/6
  13. from Alderaan #5
  14. from Alderaan #7
  15. from Alderaan #9
  16. from Alderaan #9
  17. from Alderaan #10
  18. from Alderaan #12
  19. from Alderaan #12
  20. from Alderaan #14
  21. from Alderaan #14
  22. from Alderaan #14
  23. from Jundland Wastes #7 (1982)
  24. from Jundland Wastes #9
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