Tbh the only thing Timothy Zahn said that had me like ?? was when he was signing my book and I mentioned that I appreciated his thoughts in the panel. He said something about Leia being a character who’s already gone through her hero’s journey by the time ANH begins, and consequently she doesn’t have much of a journey throughout the movies (not disparaging her — I think in the context he was trying to affirm that she was a strong character). I tried not to gape, because boy do I think differently. I pointed out that she does learn how to let herself love and be loved and heal, but I avoided going much deeper.
The Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind book I’ve been reading has an excellent chapter on this by Mara Wood called “A Distressing Damsel: Leia’s Heroic Journey.” It points out that Leia’s character arc fits the heroine’s journey, as defined by psychologist Maureen Murdock in the early nineties:
“While the hero’s journey involves going outward into the vast world, Murdock describes the heroine’s as one of introspection and the exploration of one’s soul. The hero supposedly concentrates on doing, whereas the woman must learn how to be. Like Campbell, Murdock found heroic descriptions in mythology and literature from different cultures over centuries and throughout the world.
Even before Luke embarks on his hero’s journey, Leia starts on her own heroine’s journey. Her role in the Star Wars saga closely follows Murdock’s outline of the heroine’s journey and serves as an explicit example of the journey many women undertake, much as Luke’s journey follows Campbell’s description of the hero’s journey…. As Leia moves through each stage of the journey, she battles her own personal demons while simultaneously growing into the leader the New Republic needs.”
This chapter is a fascinating read — one of my favorites in the book — and I highly recommend it.
Anyway, I dislike the assumption that a strong female character has to have it all together; that she doesn’t need to go on her own journey, that she is at some pinnacle while everyone else is straining to achieve their own. A lot of people see Leia this way, but I think that’s ignoring so much of what happens to her in the movies, as well as her own words and actions.
Say it with me: a strong female character can and should struggle, and grow, and be complex. She doesn’t have to have it all together to be strong. And if you really look at Leia, look at her closely, she doesn’t, even though she tries to put on that front. She’s an emotional, traumatized mess underneath all the fire and ice on the outside, and that’s okay! Over the course of the movies we see her learning how to melt that ice and be vulnerable, how to hope, how to open up the doors of her heart again and love. She goes on her own journey, too, and it is just as valid.
One film critic: “Rogue One was just $200 million spent on filling in a plot hole.”
Me: “Well, yeah, but it was a plot hole that needed answering, in fairness. Everyone has wondered for decades why the Death Star had such a fatal design flaw in the first place.”
Answer: Because architect Hannibal Lecter was out to get those space nazi mother fuckers and was sabotaging them from the start.
Carrie Fisher photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair
“Carrie lived her life the way she wanted to, never apologizing for anything, which is something I’m still learning. ‘Embarrassed’ is the wrong word, but there were times through it all when I felt like I was … shrinking. And she told me never to shrink away from it—that it should be enjoyed.” —Daisy Ridely [x]