Carrie Fisher died today. I wasn’t going to write about it. Even though I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I figured there were tons of pieces being written by better, more knowledgeable writers. What could I add? But, as I was reading many of these pieces this afternoon, I realized something. I seem to be the only straight, male Star Wars fan that never had a crush on Princess Leia.
I was four when I first saw Star Wars, five when I first saw Empire and eight when I first saw Jedi. I loved everything about them. I was a different Star Wars character every Halloween until I stopped dressing up for Halloween. I had R2-D2 and Darth Vader birthday cakes. I memorized every line of all three movies. I was obsessed. And if I’m being completely honest, I still am a little. And during those years of obsessive watching, thinking, playing, pretending and fantasizing about Star Wars, it never occurred to me that Princess Leia was any different than Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.
That is partly due to my age when I first discovered the character. As a four year old, I didn’t know that a damsel in distress was a thing, so I certainly didn’t view Leia as a damsel. As a five year old, I was impressed by the fact that everyone listened to Leia. She was the one telling everyone else what to do. As an eight year old, I didn’t notice, or care about, how much skin she was showing in Jabba’s palace. I cared that one of my heroes was a prisoner and in chains. By the time I was old enough to notice Leia as a woman, her image had long since solidified in my mind.
But I think my lack of a crush is also due to the movies themselves and Carrie Fisher’s performance. In Star Wars (It will always just be Star Wars to me. A New Hope came later and I never really got used to it.), they totally subvert the damsel in distress trope. In Empire and Jedi, no one questions Leia’s authority, knowledge or ability. It is just a part of the world the movies inhabit. It is so much a part of that world that what I later learned was normal, women being treated differently and taking on different kinds of roles, seems weird to me. I never developed a crush because the movies, and Carrie Fisher, never portrayed Leia as any different from any of the other characters.
I like to think that Carrie Fisher would have been flattered by my totally chaste love of her most iconic character. Star Wars really did shape my life. It’s about the closest thing to religion I’ve ever believed in. I don’t want to discount other influences, like my parents, but Princess Leia went a long way towards making me a feminist. That’s a legacy that Carrie Fisher should be proud of.