By the time we have all seen The Last Jedi (at least once if not 20 times), December 27 will come upon us. For most that might not mean much, but for the Star Wars fandom that date will forever be a day of remembrance and mourning. December 27 is the day Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016.
Carrie was and is more than just an actor that played a role in a movie series we all adore. She is family. Which makes Lucasfilm’s recent direction with the character all the more intriguing. For, since the release of The Force Awakens, the character of Leia has undergone a bit of a renaissance.
A Leiassance, if you will.
If all the rumors are to be believed, this is very intentional. The Force Awakens was intended to be Han Solo’s film of the new trilogy, with Luke and Leia stepping into the forefront for Episodes VIII and IX, respectively. This leads many to believe, yours truly among those masses, that Episode IX would see Leia at the very least attempting to redeem her son from the dark side.
In order to build to that, Leia had to undergo a renaissance. While most people who are deep into the fandom have an appreciation for Leia’s character, she often falls behind Luke and Han as the character of focus. In fact, with the prequels she fell even farther behind with the introduction of a larger galaxy.
This is not a knock on Leia, or even on fans. It is simply a consequence of Leia being the most complete character of the “Big Three” when we initially meet her. The only thing that really changes for her on screen is her willingness to open up to the possibility of love, and accepting that love and duty are not mutually exclusive entities.
Meanwhile, Luke goes on a grandiose hero’s journey, and Han goes from lovable rogue to hero of the Rebellion. That was not something we got to see from Leia. Her path to the Rebellion happened before A New Hope, and as we go through that film and the next two she essentially stays the same (which is not a bad thing, considering she is a complete and total badass who revolutionized how female heroes are viewed). She goes from grabbing the blaster on the Death Star to shooting a stormtrooper to once again save Han in Return of the Jedi.
Why even have Leia as part of the story then? For the exact reason that Rogue One would not have worked as a film without Chirrut. She is the rock. She is the stability that Han never knew he needed, and the emotional support for Luke in the most challenging years of his life. She was never intended to be the character we focused on.
Five years into the Disney Era, and with the ability of fangirls to finally have their voices heard across social media platforms and podcasts, Leia is finally starting to get the recognition she rightfully deserves. Not simply as a really cool character, but as someone who has had a life of trial and tribulation. As someone who has had to overcome and endure. As someone who has lived a life of loss and love.
The biggest difference between Han, Luke, and Leia is that Luke and Han go through a change we can very visually see, while Leia goes through a much more internal change. Her challenges are not how to wield a lightsaber nor become part of a rebel organization. Her trials are how to deal with loss, how to stick with your beliefs, how to put duty before emotion.
Her trials are how to be both the person the galaxy needs you to be and the person you need you to be; we are finally getting to see that now.
Much of the credit must go to Claudia Gray, who has written two phenomenal books on the character. First, with Bloodline, we get to see Leia deal with a plethora of internal conflict. She finds herself no longer wanting to be a politician, but knowing the galaxy needs her to be one. She has to come to terms with the galaxy learning that she is the daughter of Darth Vader, and also with her personal feelings on the matter. But above all, we see her dealing with the fact that the galaxy she fought so hard to create might not be possible at all.
In Leia: Princess of Alderaan, the young and idealistic princess that Senator Organa was trying to find again in Bloodline comes to the forefront. She wants to stand up, to help people. Nonetheless, much like she is reminded in Bloodline and even in the Leia comic miniseries, that is not always easy. And you don’t always get to see the results.
All of these ideas fuel the Leia we see in the films. We get to see her connection with Alderaan, from her personal relationships to her emotional ones. Watch Alderaan blow up again, knowing that she has failed her parents, failed her people, and failed the sacrifice of her first love. Tragic.
Watch her lead from the front at Hoth, commanding troops and staying past the last possible second, a lesson she learned from her mother. Watch her kill Jabba, knowing that it will be the butterfly that leads to her starting the Resistance, and possibly saving the galaxy again.
Watch her in The Last Jedi… well I guess we have to wait for that one. Yet the Leiassance cannot be overlooked. It cannot be silenced. Just like Carrie herself.