When We Rise
Last weekend, the entire pop culture nation recognized an important holiday: May the Fourth. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a day in which Star Wars fans celebrate this epic sci-fi film franchise with a pun on the famous quote, “May the Force be with you.” And in the wake of the new trailer release for Episode IX, the conclusion of the Skywalker saga, I decided to start reading Carrie Fisher’s book The Princess Diarist.
While I’m still in the midst of reading tales of “Carrison” and how this 19-year-old woman became a sci-fi sex symbol, I began to think about the role Leia has in the original trilogy, as well as the new. What if the Skywalker saga is really all about Leia?
People talk about Princess Leia needing to be rescued, but when you look at her time as a prisoner on the Death Star, how does she behave? She stands up to Vader when her ship is captured. She stands up to Tarkin, and all things considered, stays pretty composed when her entire planet, everyone she knows and loves is destroyed. When the boys come charging in to save her, she cracks jokes. When they’re pinned in a hallway, she takes charge and blasts her way out. In Return of the Jedi, she shows up to rescue the man she loves, kills Tattooine’s most feared gangster with her hands, gets shot in the arm and doesn’t even cry. Becomes general of the Rebel forces, and c’mon, survives getting blasted into space. And throughout it all, she saves the galaxy again and again. Perhaps it’s been Leia who is meant to bring balance to the Force all along.
One thing that has struck me though about this young woman going from Princess to General are the very few moments she doubts herself. In Return of the Jedi, when Luke tells her who she really is, she is shaken. She shows genuine fear and self-doubt. And even when Han tries to help, all she asks for is a little comforting, like most women do in times of emotional struggle. But then what does she do— she rises to the occasion. She fulfills her destiny.
This revelation reminded me of my favorite scene in Captain Marvel, in which Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who has been given the unique experience to become super-human, is faced with the truth about who she really is too. And she has this moment where she flashes back to all the times throughout her life when she fell. As a kid falling off her bike, crashing a go cart, falling from the ropes in military training. Hard falls. And then, she steps into it, and each of those scenes where she has fallen, she gets back up. She rises up from the ground, stronger, more determined than before. And then bursts into an unstoppable flame of superhero.
Carrie Fisher talks in her memoir how she and Leia will forever be one, that by portraying this character throughout her life, she was able to embody that strength of a both the princess and the general. Like Harrison Ford tells her, “You have the eyes of a doe and the balls of a samurai.”
When I consider the greatness of these characters, I’m reminded of how easy it is for us to be the victim of our own lives, needing someone to rescue us, tell us who we are, save us from the evils of the world. But the strength is always within, so big it scares us away from owning it. What greatness can we achieve if we rise up, embrace the power of who we truly are?
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”