Childhood Heroine #9: Princess Leia
In geekdom, the generational divide comes down to one thing: are you old enough to have seen the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters? I wasn’t around for the first two movies, but Return of the Jedi was one of the first movies I saw; the only earlier moviegoing experiences I remember are E.T. and the 1982 re-release of Bambi. I remember my first viewing of Jedi as a spectacle of light, sound, and laser battles from which my five-year-old mind retained exactly two things: Speeder Bike Leia and the Ewoks.
Older fans tend to hate the Ewoks because they provide an uncomfortable reminder that Star Wars is basically aimed at children, but as an actual child I adored all action on the forest moon of Endor. And frankly, as far as merchandisable sellout characters go, you can do a lot worse than robot-worshipping teddy bears that want to eat people. I was Wicket for Halloween that year, and my baby brother was a baby Ewok in a stroller.
Later, Princess Leia got confused in my mind with the Princess Leia parody character in Spaceballs, and to this day, when I watch the Star Wars movies, I expect Leia to bust out with a machine gun and mow down a bunch of Stormtroopers. Speaking of which, if you enjoyed Spaceballs as a child in the ’80s, do not watch it as an adult. It has inexplicably been replaced by a bad movie.
The other good thing about Princess Leia was the hints that she had Force powers like Luke. I waited twenty years for the next set of Star Wars movies so I could see that foreshadowing pay off with Leia becoming an awesome Jedi knight. Instead I got her mom dying in childbirth like a character in a Victorian novel. The hell, George Lucas. But, um, thanks for the Ewoks and stuff.