Things I Learned From Disney Princesses: Princess Leia

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Erin M Rogan (@Rogue98)

In the acquisitions of both Marvel and LucasFilm, Disney is venturing into new territory. They are slowly building their fan base beyond Disnerds to more traditional nerd fandoms. That is, as we all know, a delicate process because we nerds are protective of our passions in a way that many other groups are not. We are slow to love changes for fear our beloved characters will be bastardized or sacrificed upon the pillar of commercialism.

But I think, and I doubt I am alone in this, that marrying our passions might bring new exciting things. Granted, I am new to the Star Wars fandom (my parents are not nerds, so I didn’t grow up with it), but I think I have stumbled upon the striking difference between our traditional Disney worlds and those of Star Wars, Marvel, and the like.
You see, in looking at the other Disney Princesses I have been writing about, I learned things on a very personal, individual level. Some princesses have helped me treat myself well and some have helped me treat other people with love and kindness. But, in no example I have given thus far, has the learning been on as wide a scope as that of Princess Leia.

Star Wars isn’t about a small group of rebels trying to help one person or even one group of people. It’s about an entire revolution! It’s about a rebellion on a giant scale and the potential good of millions of people! For as inspirational as Rapunzel and Belle and the rest have been, none of them faced such tasks.

I don’t mean to diminish the great odds these other princesses overcame just because they were on personal levels. How we take care of ourselves and the people close to us are just as important as those big battles. What I am saying is that some of us are better at taking care of just a couple people and some of us are better at leading armies.

It would be a mistake to attempt to fit Leia into the mold the traditional Disney Princesses fit into. While she is kind and fiercely loyal to Luke, Han, and Chewy, it is far more interesting that she has the kind of strength that lends itself to fighting battles and inspiring nations; she isn’t sixteen and she isn’t fighting for her right to choose her own destiny because it’s obvious that she has already done that.
The very first thing about Leia that struck me was the fact that she is both a princess and a senator. Why should a princess feel the need to become a senator? Shouldn’t she have plenty of power already by virtue of her familial status? But Leia apparently decided that she was going to take an active role in the changes that were coming.
What makes a person with that kind of life decide to work that much harder? Leia must have always had an extremely strong sense of character to make such a decision. Furthermore, this is a woman who likely could have gotten away with a very passive role in the rebellion and, instead, decided to lead an army.

Leia, in spite of the fact that she probably didn’t have to do so, affected change and fought for people other than herself. It is people with that kind of conviction and drive that get things done. These are the people who can not only win a fight, but inspire others to win as well.

There is a scene in The Empire Strikes Back in which Leia gives instructions to an army of men. She gives them their orders in a plain and direct manner and they do not hesitate to follow her orders.

Besides the obviously interesting fact that the army is willing to take orders from the only woman around (in a movie made in the 1970s), the way in which Leia gives the orders is intriguing. There is nothing of Henry V’s Saint Crispin’s Day Speech in her rhetoric. There is nothing emotional or stirring about the way she speaks to the men. By all counts, she is much more stereotypically masculine than feminine in this scene.
If there were ever a case for the idea that men and women are equally powerful, I think this is it. Throughout the films, Leia is beautiful, but plainly dressed (with that one exception and I know you know what I mean!) and caring, but not weepy. She is feminine in the way she carries herself, but that does not stop her from tapping into more masculine traits when it’s called for. Leia is a prime example that people can draw strength from anything they have inside them, whether society tells us it “fits” us or not.

This is strikingly different from the way Disney has traditionally approached women and femininity. Although I still do not believe that Disney Princesses pressure little girls to be thin and some idealized version of “pretty,” I do believe that Leia pushes those boundaries in a way that the other princesses do not.

The reason I have been writing these articles is that we believe there are too few strong female characters in our stories. And even if you do not agree with me that there is hidden strength in the Disney Princesses, you cannot deny the strength in Princess Leia. In fact, most of the stories in our Nerdverse do have strong women for us to admire and, possibly, emulate. I think that, whether you believe Star Wars and Disney belong together or not, the Disney Princesses have only gotten stronger because of it.For more things I learned from Disney Princesses:
Rapunzel
Belle
Ariel
Cinderella

 

Photo credit : SketchyMcDrawPants.wordpress.com


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