By Sara Karlovitch

I fell in love with Princess Leia when I was in elementary school. I remember watching A New Hope on loop, mouth agape and eyes full of wonder as she defeated the Empire with stratagy, amazing marksmanship and pure sass. To my 8-year-old self, it didn’t get  any cooler than Princess Leia. As soon as she asked, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” I knew I found my all-time hero.

Princess Leia, played by the late, magnificent Carrie Fisher, is not your run-of-the-mill princess that has seemingly saturated the pop-culture landscape. Princesses are expected to be polite, poised, delicate, fragile and faint at the sight of blood. Leia is none of these things. She can expertly wield a blaster, has a brilliant strategic mind and has the quickest tongue in the entire galaxy.  

Carrie Fisher first brought Princess Leia to life in 1977 in Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope. An instant success, Princess Leia was the first of her kind. Although Star Wars was considered a “boys” movie, Princess Leia provided young girls with a way into the Star Wars’ Universe. Girls could play with Princess Leia action figures, costumes and blasters. They dressed up as her for Halloween and wore their hair in buns.

Princess Leia gave girls someone to connect to. She was a new type of princess, one that was a pure ball of female empowerment, not frailty. Leia played a boy’s game and won. She rose to become general of Resistance forces, a role that would have been typically prescribed to a man in any other movie.

Leia’s personality is very much that of the women who first breathed life into her: Carrie Fisher. Fisher, who died Tuesday, led a life that would have made General Organa proud. She was a mental health advocate and spoke frankly about her own battle with Bi-Polar Disorder and her drug addiction. A fan made her therapy dog, Gary, a Twitter sensation with over 67,000 followers.

Princess Leia’s strength was Carrie Fisher’s strength and vice versa. Leia provided a new perspective on the modern female hero. She told girls that they are just as good as the boys. For the first time girls, had someone to look up to and relate to in not just science fiction, but pop culture in general. Carrie Fisher’s own life reflects the message her character proudly projected on screen.

Carrie Fisher not only created a role model for girls to look up to, she was a role model herself. Princess Leia is a hero only because the woman who played her was one herself. Carrie Fisher’s legacy is a profound one and reaches beyond a galaxy far, far away. May the Force be with her.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Global Panorama’s Flickr account.

Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at skarlovi@terpmail.umd.edu.

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