General LEIA ORGANA! To The Story Geeks, she’ll always be royalty. This week, on The Story Geeks podcast, we dig deeper into LEIA ORGANA’s journey from Princess Leia to General Leia. How did Leia change over the years? How did she grow? Is Leia someone we should look up to?
Alexis Torres (Black Hollywood Live and AfterBuzzTV) joins Daryl and Jay to dig deeper into one of our favorite Star Wars characters: LEIA ORGANA. What do you think of Princess/General LEIA? Share your thoughts in The Story Geeks Facebook Group!
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The Story Geeks’ blogger Ashley Pauls responds with her own take on the questions discussed in the podcast.
1. First of all, which Star Wars film do you think portrays Leia at her best?
I’m actually going to cheat and pick two: “A New Hope” and “The Last Jedi.” “A New Hope” feels special because it’s the film in which we first meet Leia, and I love how she immediately subverts character tropes. Leia is introduced as a princess, but she is most definitely not a stereotypical “damsel in distress.” Although she is rescued from the Death Star, she is never portrayed as a helpless character. She’s an important Rebel leader, and she’s as much a participant in her own rescue as Han, Luke, and Obi-Wan are.
Carrie Fisher’s final performance as the character in “The Last Jedi” also means a lot to me, because it shows how much she has grown throughout her character journey. In what is often a youth-obsessed Hollywood, I loved seeing an older female character treated with such respect and given great material to work with. Leia gets to continue using her leadership skills as a general in the struggling Resistance, and I appreciated how much other characters like Rey, Poe, and Finn look up to her. It’s a shame we won’t get to see Fisher continue that role in Episode IX, but hopefully the past footage they’re going to use will give us a satisfying conclusion to her character.
2. Walking through her journey movie by movie, what do you think are the most important themes and pivotal moments for Leia in…
• Star Wars: A New Hope
I kind of touched on this earlier, but it’s important that Episode IV immediately establishes Leia as a strong female character. No other characters make an issue of the fact that Leia is a woman in a leadership role; they just accept who she is and continue on with the story. It was cool to see her as a main action hero — and not just a “love interest” or person to be rescued.
• Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
It’s interesting to see Han and Leia’s interactions in this movie, and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher play so well off of each other as actors. You get to see the depth of Leia’s commitment to the Rebellion, which provides an interesting contrast to Han, who is more interested in helping his friends than the overarching cause. He’s a little like Finn in “The Last Jedi,” actually; he cares about Leia and Luke (like Finn cares about Rey), but he has a little more of a live free/don’t join attitude. I think by the end of the original trilogy, Han and Leia have come to understand each other’s perspectives more. Han fully commits to the cause, and Leia takes some significant risks to save the people she cares about.
• Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
This movie has a big moment for Leia; she learns that Luke is her brother and Darth Vader is her father. If I could make a tweak to “Return of the Jedi,” I would have delved deeper into Leia’s feelings about Darth Vader being her father (I’ve got to give another shout-out to Claudia Gray’s novel “Bloodline,” which does dive into this issue). It also would have been cool to see more emphasis on what Force powers Leia has as a Skywalker. Nevertheless, Leia does have some cool action scenes in this movie, and I love how she goes undercover to rescue Han.
• Star Wars: The Force Awakens
While it was great to see Carrie Fisher again, I didn’t think her character was used as well here as she was in “The Last Jedi” (which is a little sad, because Harrison Ford’s Han Solo was excellent in “The Force Awakens,” and was a highlight of that movie for me). Still, I loved seeing her as a general and watching her keep fighting for freedom and justice, even after all the terrible things that have happened to her.
• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The CGI Leia does have a bit of an uncanny valley effect, but the content of the cameo is so wonderful that I will give it a pass. I always tear up a bit when the other Rebel on the ship at the end of “Rogue One” asks Leia what the data tape they’ve just received is about, and she simply says, “Hope.” Leia herself is a true spark of hope for the galaxy.
• Star Wars: The Last Jedi
As mentioned before, this is my second favorite Leia appearance. She does a great job leading the Resistance under pressure, and I loved seeing her use the Force on screen. To be fair, I think the “flying Leia” scene could have been executed differently, but I’m a big fan of the concept of her using the Force, especially considering her powerful lineage. And, in a way, it also drives home the movie’s theme that you don’t have to be a full-fledged Jedi to tap into the Force, since Leia has not been trained the same way Luke has.
3. Leia heads up a rather small (but growing) group of high profile female characters in the Star Wars universe. How do you feel her character represents women in storytelling?
Leia really was a groundbreaking character in blockbuster cinema, and I’d argue that her existence has made other female-led blockbusters possible. I don’t know if we’d have characters like Katniss Everdeen (“The Hunger Games”) or Star Wars’ own Rey, Jyn, or Qi’ra without Leia leading the way.
Even though Star Wars takes place in a fictional universe, Leia feels like a real person. She has a well-defined personality and a satisfying character arc (at least so far!). She isn’t pushed to the sidelines because she is a female character, and her leadership skills are celebrated and honored. Leia is a great role model for young girls and boys, and is a perfect example of the kind of well-rounded female characters that I like to see in film.
4. How does Leia’s personality change in the years we don’t see her (between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens”)? What are the key differences between “Princess Leia” and “General Organa”?
One of the things I love most about Leia is that she never loses that fierce inner strength. She has experienced so much tragedy and loss throughout her lifetime, and I would completely understand if she wanted to retreat from the galactic stage. One could argue that she doesn’t owe the galaxy anymore of herself; she’s already given so much. And yet, she never surrenders, first serving as a beacon of hope in the Rebellion and later in the Resistance.
I think the way Leia does change in between ROTJ and TFA is that she becomes a little more world-weary. She’s weighed down by guilt now, fairly or not, over how the First Order has taken over the galaxy and how her own son fell from the light. She’s older and wiser, and perhaps not as impulsive and revolutionary as she once was. This makes her the perfect mentor for Poe Dameron, who has some of the traits of both young Leia and young Han, I think. General Organa has matured into a smart, capable leader, and the Resistance couldn’t be in better hands.
5. We can’t talk about Leia without addressing the loss of Carrie Fisher and the impact it’s had on the Star Wars franchise. We’ve seen the loss of key actors in ongoing franchises before (Heath Ledger/“The Dark Knight,” Paul Walker/The Fast and the Furious, Richard Harris/Harry Potter, etc). How do you think the impact on Star Wars compares to other past franchises?
Carrie Fisher’s loss hit me really hard as a fan. Even beyond her iconic performance in the Star Wars franchise, she did a lot of work as an advocate for people suffering from mental illness and addiction. She was very open about her own personal struggles, and that made her message feel even more authentic. I will always be sad that she never got a chance to fully wrap up her character’s journey in Episode IX, especially since she did some great work in “The Last Jedi.”
While I haven’t seen many films in The Fast and the Furious franchise, to me it looks like they closed out the story involving Paul Walker’s character respectfully, at least from the perspective of an outside observer. It’s nice that fans got see him driving into the distance, towards a happy ending. And I believe recasting the role of Dumbledore was the only option in Harry Potter, and I think it worked well in that franchise.
Each situation is unique, and I would not have wanted Lucasfilm to recast the role of General Leia in Episode IX. Killing her off, especially off screen, didn’t feel right, either. While of course none of us have watched Episode IX yet, using unseen footage to include Leia in the film feels like the best possible solution.
6. How do you feel about the news of J.J. Abrams bringing Leia back for Episode IX through unused footage from “The Force Awakens”? What are your hopes for how her character will be wrapped up?
Although I’m a little nervous about how natural that unused footage will feel in the context of the film, I’m so thrilled Leia will get to be a part of the movie. Using old footage may end up feeling a little awkward or noticeable at times, but I’d much rather have Leia in the movie than not. I trust that J.J. Abrams will handle it well.
I’d like Leia to be alive in-universe at the end of the movie, because I’d love for her character to continue showing up in novels and other supplementary materials post-Episode IX. Most of all, I want to see her happy and at peace. She’s fought so long and hard, and she deserves a good ending. I want her to be proud of Poe Dameron, who looks up to her as a mentor and will (hopefully!) step into her shoes and become a respected leader in his own right. I want her to reconcile with her son Ben Solo and witness him turning back to the light.
However, should they choose to wrap up Leia’s story permanently in Episode IX, I’m imagining a closing shot of Leia standing next to her brother Luke as a Force Ghost. That would be a very emotional yet fitting end to the Skywalker saga.