Princess Leia Organa and the Courage and Wisdom Found in Youth

I imagine Princess Leia got up early every morning.

As I watch A New Hope, I really can’t help but wonder how Princess Leia got where she was, especially once you get to the scene where she is confronting Darth Vader on the Tantive IV. Basically she is standing there telling the evil dark lord, Darth Vader, “…only you could be so bold.” with that trademark, snippy sarcasm. Princess Leia is laying it down, laying down the smack.

And consider this, in A New Hope there’s only one other character that stands up to Darth Vader and that’s Grand Moff Tarken. (played by the inimitable Peter Cushing.) What makes Princess Leia unique as a character is that nearly every single other character that interacts with Vader, for example Admiral Motti, played by the late Richard LeParmentier, is afraid of, even terrified of Vader. You see, Vader’s entrance and introduction in the film is very violent in nature. There’s a reason he is feared. When you’re watching A New Hope you can’t help but get that sense of fear, especially if you watched it as a kid. Because as a child you’re just then coming to the understanding that Vader is really someone to be feared. Specifically in the first scene when he’s interrogating Captain Antilles.

If this is a consular ship then where is the ambassador?

When you watch that scene as a kid you get a very healthy idea that Darth Vader is not a guy you want to mess with. And you know what? Princess Leia doesn’t care. She doesn’t give a Womprat’s bum. (I’ve always wanted to use “Womprat’s bum” in a sentence) She looks fear in the face and stares it down. Think about it. She does this as a 19-year-old kid. That’s what’s so amazing about Princess Leia as a character. As I watch these movies as an adult, I have a greater appreciation for how Leia never takes crap from anyone. She has this unusual ability to face the greatest terror in the galaxy and talk to him as if she is his peer, as if she has nothing to fear, which we all know is not true. Because in the above-mentioned scene, we see how terribly evil Darth Vader is.

Princess Leia kicks butt, takes names, and gets things done.

Princess Leia faces her fears and doesn’t let them define her. That’s what allows her to go toe-to-toe with someone like Darth Vader and not be intimidated. I think of the scene where she walks on board the Death Star viewing room. Governor Tarken is standing there and she says:

I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board

The specific context of what I’d like to talk about here is Luke’s friends, who Luke ultimately surrounds himself with. In that context, Princess Leia’s relationship with Luke is unique because she is in quite a few ways, as far as leadership ability goes, many strides ahead of him. She’s been there. She’s done it. She’s already been active in the Imperial Senate and is already a respected and feared politician at a very young age, much like her mother Padme. She’s a political idealist that has been striving and lobbying for the good of her planet. Long before Luke Skywalker was even thinking about anything in the larger galaxy, she already had-it-together when it comes to using her skills, talents and abilities for the betterment of the galaxy. When you think about it, Luke is still concerned with picking up his power converters at Tosche Station, meanwhile Princess Leia is carrying the plans of the Death Star to the rebellion so that they can blow up the greatest evil in the galaxy. So there you have it, a general idea of who Princess Leia is. And what’s really amazing is that we discover this in the first 10 to 15 minutes of A New Hope.

At the end of A New Hope, Luke and Leia have officially crossed paths. Later we will find out that they’re brother and sister but that point is (at this time) neither here, nor there. Luke and Leia will start working together after about the midway point of A New Hope, once Luke frees her from the prison.

So what can we learn from this? ie…

So What?

I think we can benefit from aligning ourselves with someone who’s close to our age and has similar ideals in the same way that Luke is close to Leia’s age and has similar ideals to Leia’s, but Leia has already accomplished so much more than Luke could possibly have. Because Luke has been trapped in the mundane for the past 19 years whereas Leia has not. A lot of that does have to do with Luke’s and Leia’s surroundings. We can’t entirely fault Luke for being a lazy bum for years and years on Tatooine because the nature of his surroundings more or less forced him to think that the greatest concern in the galaxy would probably be whether or not this year’s moisture crop would be better than last year’s moisture crop.

That’s Luke;s scope of accomplishment, whereas Leia has grown up in a any higher political class. Bail Organa helped her see the greater need for change in the galaxy at a younger age and she has a better idea of the evil of the Empire. We can certainly can see Luke’s concept of the Empire, especially in A New Hope is vague at best. Luke is constantly saying “It’s not really me.” “The Empire is so far away from here.” “What can I do?” These are the excuses that Luke finally runs out of once the Empire comes and kills his aunt and uncle, his father figure essentially,  that is what makes Luke’s wake-up call a reality. However, even once Luke’s wake-up call happens, he is miles and miles behind (or shall we say parsecs and parsecs behind) Leia in terms of maturity. I think that’s something that takes time for Luke to catch up with, that understanding of making your life significant, of leaving your moisture farm, and blowing up the Death Star.

We need to have someone in our lives who may be of similar age and have similar ideals but who is already where we want to be. We need someone to start going towards, someone we look up to. I’m not talking about someone who we respect from a distance. We have to actually be in communication with them in person, in living reaction, and we need to have an in-person relationship with someone that could be our Leia as Leia was to Luke.

Apathy

It is so easy to get caught up in apathy. Apathy is the easy thing, the default. Apathy is what was killing Luke Skywalker on Tatooine. He was stuck. Once Obi-Wan crashed into his life and once the Empire destroyed his livelihood, his family, and his world, there was nothing there but himself. That’s what forced Luke to act. Luke had no choice. He had to get his bum in gear so to speak.

We, like Luke Skywalker,  have our hopes and dreams. We stare off into the twin sunsets and dream about what we’d love to do someday, what we wish would happen, what we believe we would love. Usually the only thing that is holding us back from achieving those dreams is ourselves. Actually, not even usually, it pretty much always is ourselves.

That ability to finally act on your dreams is something that I think Luke Skywalker certainly has the capacity to do, but as I said previously, it was those cataclysmic events that forced him to get there. I can certainly sympathize with that, but I think we can choose to act without having such a tragedy strike us. In many ways I can kind of sympathize with Luke Skywalker because he is, as some would say, a late bloomer. It has taken him longer to come to where he is (midway through A New Hope).

It’s that “burning farm” moment (more on that later) where Luke finally says to Obi-Wan “I want to learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like my father before me.”

“I want to learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like my father before me.”

So in summary, Princess Leia, who is after all, whom this is about, is one of the most significant people that Luke surrounds himself with throughout the original trilogy.  She’s the one to whom we can really turn for inspiration. When it comes to the go-get-it mentality she takes names and get things done.  She doesn’t take on the exact role of a mentor, but more the role of a peer that is already where Luke needs to go.

The Luke Skywalker of Return of the Jedi must come meet the Princess Leia of A New Hope.

Princess Leia is a prime example of someone who is motivated. The motivation that is most powerful comes, not from outside sources, but from an inside source, from yourself. Luke, at least in the early stages, was motivated by a cataclysmic event, by the ”burning farm” moment, by Obi-Wan showing up and mentoring him.

Leia is someone who didn’t have an Obi-Wan figure, she didn’t have a burning farm. Her great, defining moment came in the form of when her planet blew up, but she was already out there fighting the Empire in the best way she knew how. The funny thing about motivation is; you already have it within you. We all do. When you start going towards, going for, and achieving your goals, you become a much greater force to be reckoned with. Because, like a coworker who depends on everyone else’s praise to do a good job, Luke (I truly believe in the beginning anyway) depended far too much on Obi-Wan, and especially on Tatooine, depended far too much on his Aunt and Uncle as well as his familiar lifestyle there. This is what held him back. In the same way that the aforementioned coworker, when the praise dries up, stops performing and their life and work dips into that well of mediocrity.

When Princess Leia’s final defining moment comes, when Alderaan blows up, she’s already prepared to take it. She can roll with the punches. I think this is proven by how she behaved once they were back on the Millennium Falcon. (Robot Chicken made a joke of it.) Luke just lost his mentor that he had barely known for maybe a few weeks, and he’s falling apart.  Leia, on the other hand, had her entire planet blown up yet she was, after all, the one lying the comforting blanket over the shoulders of Luke.

Can we all just agree? Princess Leia Rocks!!!

Riley Blanton

Founder and Executive Editor of the Star Wars Report.

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  • http://twitter.com/12MG12 MG

    Leia of ANH definitely rocks. That’s why I feel like one of the biggest missed opportunities of the OT is that Leia never becomes a Jedi. If anything, she would seem to have more of what it takes than Luke. One of my biggest hopes is that in Ep. VII it turns out that Leia became at least as great of a Jedi, if not greater, as Luke.

    It’s too bad that Leia in ESB and ROTJ doesn’t quite hold up. Yes she still has her moments, but really she takes a back seat to Luke and Han and starts to fall into a more stereotypical female back-up role.

    • http://twitter.com/TheRileyGuy Riley Blanton

      I totally agree! Especially in ROTJ. I hope JJ sees that potential in Ep VII.