Can we take a second to talk about the I love you. I know.interchange in Empire?
I get in a lot of arguments with my guy friends about this. Bless them - I mean really - because they think they are being progressive. And its actually kind of heart warming to see. But, usually, the people who think Han is an asshole for saying I knowinstead of I love you, too chalk his behavior up to some kind of toxic masculinity. Han won’t say he loves her because he refuses to be vulnerable. Han is too arrogant to admit he has a weakness. Han is aggressive. Han is downright cruel at times.
And… okay. I guess I can see where they’re coming from. But, to me, that is a really shallow interpretation of his character.
I guess what I, and I think many people who ship Han/Leia, see in that interchange is that Han’s response isn’t motivated by his own feelings. His response has nothing to do with what’s he’s thinking or how he feels.
It’s about validating how Leia feels.
Which, honesty, I think she needed more at that moment than a mirrored declaration.
Leia sacrifices everything for the cause. Her strength to put the rebellion before her personal interest is incredible. It’s her defining characteristic. It’s what we all know and love about her.
It’s also what she knows and loves about herself. By Empire, Leia has lost almost everything of any personal value to her. She’s lost her family. Her home. Her friends. Her position in the Senate. All she has is her own sense of identity. The only thing she can use to define herself anymore is her core values.
Can you imagine how difficult it would be to let anything compromise that?
Admitting that she has feelings for Han would be admitting that she has room in her heart for anything other than the cause. It would be admitting that her life is not solely defined by the rebellion that her family died for. It would be admitting that behind her emotionless, rational, militaristic persona is actually just a twenty-two year old girl with feelings, longings, and desires that are entirely selfish.
Han knows this about her.
Ultimately, it’s why Leia loves him. Because even Luke, her own twin with whom she shares a connection in the force, at times fails to see her as anything other than the princess.
But somehow this dirty, cocky, smart ass, nerf herder is the one person who has ever managed to look into her soul and see past every single wall she has built around herself.
Han knows her. She has never had to tell him anything. She has never had to pour her heart out to him. She has never had to make herself vulnerable in front of him. And yet, he still knows.
I guess many people see that scene and they see a cocky smart ass being clever and evasive instead of sincere when he says I know.
But that’s not what his eyes say.
His eyes say…
I know you love me.
I’ve known you love me for a long time.
It hasn’t scared me away.
It hasn’t made me think less of you.
It hasn’t made me see you as weak.
You’ve screamed at me, hit me, threatened me, insulted me, and done everything to push me away, but I still know that you love me.
And I know you know that I love you, too.
Because it’s taken an invasion of a base, a broken down hyperdrive, a giant cave dwelling slug monster, Boba Fett, a carbonite chamber, and Darth fucking Vader himself to actually make me leave you.
And I know that you will do everything in your power to bring me back.
[My family, eating in a restaurant. A kid walks past our table in a Star Wars “Rebels Have More Fun” T-Shirt] Me: That shirt is inaccurate. Rebels don’t have more fun. No one in Star Wars has more fun than Sheev. I mean, that guy is living his dreams. My Husband: Exactly. Everyone else is mostly watching their friends die and getting betrayed and crying all the time. Me: It’s like they never even saw Return of the Jedi. I know he dies in that one, but come on. Sidious is having a BALL right up until the minute he he gets chucked into the abyss.