The Importance of Princess Leia

By 11:37 AM , , , , , ,

There are very many, very important moments in a child's life. These include learning to walk, discovering rain for the first time, first day of school, making a friend, or even falling off a bike for the first time. Some of these moments are smaller than others, and some hold more significance than others. Take a minute to think of your own childhood. Try to think of one moment when you learned something significant. How did you feel learning something new? What was it like, and what did you learn from it?

Perhaps we didn't realize how significant these small moments were at the time they were occurring, until years later, when he have better developed the ability to conceptualize. For me, one of these important learning moments was when I first watched Star Wars Episode IV.

Now, I think that for a lot of people who were alive and into movies in 1977, this was a pretty big deal. It has created a huge fandom after all. I wasn't alive in 1977. I was about seven years old when I first took the video cassette and put it into the VCR (this is a very old-fashioned sentence). I was a little intrigued when I heard the intro music, but stopped the tape when I read the text, to ask my parents what they had done with Episodes I-III, and they explained. I honestly believed for a really long time that they were lying to me! Still, I watched the movie, stewing in my angry feels about my parents "lying" to me. Soon, my anger faded, and I became distracted by the events of the movie.

I had been raised on Disney films. These princesses were usually damsels in distress, usually had to be rescued, and usually fell in love within the first few minutes of the movie. As a young girl, I wanted to be pretty and sing well like Ariel, be kind and calm in the face of bullies like Cinderella, and fall in love at first sight like Snow White. I knew the stories, I knew how these things were supposed to go. Darth Vader had taken the princess, so I knew what was going to happen when the guys busted into the station. This is why my seven-year-old mind was blown when I saw Princess Leia doing things to aid in her own rescue.


Princess Leia was so different from these other princesses I had encountered before. She wasn't polite in the face of bullies. She wielded weapons. She got angry and showed it. She took an active role in her rescue. She didn't let the men do all the fighting. When faced with a problem, she didn't freeze in fear, but tried to come up with creative solutions.

Princess Leia taught me that it was okay to be angry, to be witty, to be smart. I learned that a girl did not have to sit and look pretty and wait for things to happen. To have that kind of fictional character to look up to at such an impressionable age was priceless. I think it helped set the foundation for the type of adult I would eventually grow into.

None of these things were consciously gleaned from watching a movie. I didn't realize exactly the magnitude of what I learned back then. As it is with children, I just absorbed it (after the initial shock of seeing a princess do things) and went about my life. It's only in retrospect that I can begin to realize the meaning behind having such an important fictional character with such a strong personality to look up to at that age. 

From a developmental perspective, I think it's important that children have fictional characters that they can identify with and perhaps strive to be like. It matters what shows and movies they are watching, what books they're reading, and what they are being bombarded with by the media. It is important to have a variety of well-developed characters that can represent all groups of people, so that anyone regardless of any aspect of their being or identity is able to relate to someone. Everybody deserves to have their own Princess Leia moment. 


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2 comments

  1. Great story. I'm also a fan of Leia: she is just so badass! :)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, she is! Back then she was the only strong female fictional character I had ever really encountered. Luckily now there are more :)

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