Yesterday I babbled a little about how Anakin Skywalker, or more specifically Darth Vader over all, was a sympathetic character. I think I promised some thoughts about Leia today or at least in the very near future from that post.
I remember as a child and watching our copy of Jedi over and over until I am sure it must have worn out in some places that I clung tightly to the character of Leia. She was the only character of substance in the whole of the Trilogy that had any resemblance to me whatsoever. She was also this bad ass character too, one of the heroes, you know? She sauntered into Jabba’s palace with a thermodetonater and demanded that she be paid a high price for the bounty on Chewie’s head (however clever a ruse that was), she crept quietly in the night and freed Han from the carbonite, becoming one of Jabba’s prisoners, but which was all part of a deep and complex plan to free Han, kill Jabba, and get everyone out alive. She was a player in all of the game. And I loved that about her. Plus, she was a way better shot than all of those Storm Troopers. Combined.
She grew up believing herself the daughter of a Senator and a Queen. She grew up hearing stories of the heroes that were Jedi to the point that when she grew into adulthood, a member of the Rebellion and close friend of Luke Skywalker, student of the Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, she held that in a place of reverence. Strangely, she is able to sense when Luke is in danger, it has always worked since they had met, as a strange feeling that can’t be shaken off. Even those kept in the dark during the original release of the Saga couldn’t help but wonder why that was. Perhaps it was that famed sealed with a kiss moment meant to keep Han at bay, that even the cast of the movies didn’t know would be awkward later. On the forest moon of Endor, when Luke leaves to confront Vader she tells him that he has a power she could never understand.
He tells her that she is wrong, and that she is his sister. And not only does she realize that she has known this all along, but we see an awareness dawn over her, as if something huge has just laid upon her. He leaves telling her that she must learn to use that power too, just in case anything happens to him, because the Force is strong in his family, and she will be the Last Hope for the Alliance. Not too heavy a message for her.
But then Lucas stops his story for her there, at least for the movie watching audience, and I for one always felt frustrated and cheated that we as an audience never were able to see Leia realize that. Luke tells her that she must learn to use the Force as he has for the good of the Galaxy, and now that we have been privy to the story arch of Episodes I, II, and III I can only assume that the Skywalker twins are indeed the ones who were indeed meant to bring balance to the Force (and knowing that Luke goes on to found a new order of Jedi who learn to balance Light and Dark powers, this confirms my suspicions, but again, further frustrates me). We never see Leia decide one way or the other if she will do this, and if she does, knowing that she grew up with this lore of famous Jedi it is likely that she may, we never get to see her reach for this power. The movies never go far enough into exploring her character and for that I always felt cheated.
Why did Luke have to be the Jedi hero? As my friend Anna mused once, what would have happened if their roles had been reversed? Indeed. What if Leia had been the twin raised on Tattooine, and had been in the right place selecting the right droids at the right time and had chased them into the desert after the right hermit on the right wild adventure? Would Leia have been so enamored with the sight of a holoprojection of Luke that she would have ventured across light-years with a stranger with little more than a folktale about her father to rescue him? What if Luke had been raised by nobles instead of farmers? How might have things been different? Would the world have been ready to see Leia come to terms with the truth of her parentage? Would the late 70’s have been prepared to see Darth Vader slice off the hand of a young woman defiant against the Dark Side? Or would the 80’s have tolerated a movie where an Emperor tortured a young woman who gave herself up so that her friends might live? Would the rogue smuggler have stayed on the fight while a young farm girl ran off to the jungle to learn to control a power fueled by folklore and a long forgotten folksy religion?
Or what if the story had somehow brought them to the realization at a similar place and time. The idea that Leia needed to be protected longer, that somehow her Skywalker blood wouldn’t be as strong to keep her safe was absurd. Sure, we saw that Obi-Wan and Yoda were right willing to make the same mistakes with Luke that they did with Anakin — not trusting him enough with his own powers and abilities to give him all of the information or to let him choose his own way to solve a problem. I have no problem believing that they would not trust the same in Leia, so why trust her at all? Two new Jedi would certainly be harder to control, but at the same time, if Luke died, how were two ghosts who only commune with those sensitive to the Force to be able to train another? The plot didn’t make sense.
We also found that Leia was just as protective of Luke as he of her, and her insistence that he run away confirmed that. She was more sensible and less reckless, possibly due to her diplomat’s upbringing. Perhaps they would have been a better team than a one to one duo.
I am reading a book right now, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, the first Star Wars novel I have picked up, because I have an issue with time lines (but this one is stand-alone, so I had nothing to lose). In it, and though it is not a significant part of the plot it plays a good part of the driving effect, Leia is coming to terms with her awareness of the Force within her, and her realization that not only is this amazing thing she grew up hearing about a part of her — in her blood — but the most powerful Jedi of all times was her biological father. She is overwhelmed that she is possibly potentially one of the most powerful Jedi ever and that she was unaware of it all of her life. And now, she gets these feelings that she doesn’t trust, and on top of her self doubts she worries that if she is wrong and tries to explain them to anyone about them before hand she will be picked on about that “women’s intuition thing” being off-kilter. Or something.
This kind of exploration is what I was particularly interested in. I have always been interested in, and while it certainly isn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity (and of course, it follows the “bad guy realized that Luke has an untrained twin who could be turned” thing that pisses me off, as if Leia always has to be protected, because that is what the dudes always jump to do, but the narration does jump to her PoV as challenging that idea) it is something I have always wanted. I just tire of reading it in books and never seeing it onscreen. I seem to have missed my calling. Or something.
I think I will always find Leia to be untapped Jedi potential. Even if I find books that explore that, I wonder if they will ever find them as equals. If the fact that Anakin and Padmé birthed twins that they will ever be twin forces in the…er…Force.
(Note: I realize that later in canon that Leia does undergo go Jedi training and such in the books that only hard-core fans will ever read. My focus is primarily on the movies, and the way that Leia, as a character, is underdeveloped in my opinion. While her character was revolutionary for the time, she wasn’t taken far enough in terms of the lore that Lucas set up.)