Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Defense of a Princess: Leia

In my Disneyland blog, I do alot of ragging on princesses. After more thought, I've realized that it's not "princesses" per se that are bad but the current ideology that surrounds princesses. As Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girly-Girl Culture, writes how the new culture of princesses "instead of being about a girl's empowerment and effectiveness in the world, it's actually about her self-absorption and spoiledness." Rather than being about asserting femininity, which is fine, it becomes about over-sexualization of childhood and definition by external looks.

Enter Princess Leia from the original Star Wars trilogy. A non-diva, kick-ass princess. A princess who doesn't wear a tiara all of the time and actually rocks some pretty awesome pants. A princess that I can get behind.

When we first meet Leia, she is part of the Imperial Senate and acting as a spy for the Rebellion. A spy princess! Later, she's tortured by Vader for information but resists and doesn't give up anything. She's definitely not the stereotypical portrait of a passive princess waiting for her prince to come.

With that said, I do need to acknowledge that Princess Leia does have a tendency to get herself captured and then rescued by Han, Luke, and Chewie. However, one of these captures (in Return of the Jedi) is because she poses for Jabba the Hutt as a Bounty Hunter in order to save Han Solo - hooray for role reversal! The princess goes in to save her "prince" and gets thisclose to succeeding. Granted, she ends up in a super sexy metal slave outfit because of this, but at least the outfit is shown being forced upon her rather than her choice of wearing it. Therefore, can I say it's a sign of oppression? AND she ends up strangling Jabba with the very chain he tried to keep her captive by. HELL YES. Even when she's getting rescued, she isn't passively standing by looking pretty, but being an active participant, kicking ass and taking names.

And yes, there is still the love between Leia and Han Solo, but it is one filled with sarcasm, great one liners, and mutual rescuing.

This is what I love about Star Wars. Leia is just as much a hero as Luke. The Jedi order has just as many awesome female characters as males and look at how many great bounty hunters have graced the Star Wars world (hellllooo Zam and Aurra Sing (my personal favorite)). 

So, again, I need to be careful with my definitions and assumptions. "Princess" itself is not a bad word - it's the commercialization, sexualization, and narcissism that comes along with certain modern notions of the princess. If one day, Droidlet (or any other future children, male or female) decide they want to play princess dress up, I'll throw them a Jedi robe and let them pick their color light saber. 

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