Not so long ago, Disney made a comfortable living portraying a wholly unrealistic depiction of princesses. They made it out to be a world of ponies, servants, and elegant dresses. They often left out other details like having to marry cousins, raising inbred children with rare diseases, and being tabloid fodder every hour of every day. But even with those nasty details, the ponies would still be a major selling point. However, there’s another unrealistic depiction that tends to be a lot more appealing.
Princess Leia is the antithesis to many of the princesses that made Disney famous. She doesn’t wear elegant dresses. She doesn’t ride horses and sip tea. And her favorite fashion accessory is a blaster. At the beginning of the Star Wars trilogy, she was a damsel. However, she was a damsel that wasn’t afraid to fight back and have an attitude. By the end, she was on the front lines with Han Solo fighting the Empire. She even found time to look sexy in a chain bikini along the way. How many other princesses can boast that?
It’s every bit as unrealistic, a princess who will fight an evil empire and still look good in a bikini. But that doesn’t make it any less appealing. Princess Leia’s journey from damsel to warrior is just part of what gives the Star Wars mythos its appeal. But a good chunk of that journey is still undocumented. That’s the story that Princess Leia #1 attempts to explore and the results reveal that this journey had its share of potholes.
It’s easy to forget that Princess Leia is now the royal figurehead of a planet that just got blown up by the Death Star. Her entire world and the entire culture of Alderan was just wiped out with the same callousness that most exercise when closing an annoying pop-up ad. She never had a chance to deal with that in A New Hope, nor did she have a chance to confront the implications. It’s this event that starts Leia’s new journey, but it also shows she’s somewhat ill-prepared.
In addition to giving metals to Han and Luke for their efforts against the Death Star, she attempts to unite the rebels in their mourning for Alderan. However, she’s no Winston Churchill with her speeches. She doesn’t exactly bring her fellow rebels to tears like tweens attending a One Direction concert and that’s somewhat telling. It gives a distinct impression that Leia is not the kind of princess who is fit for these ceremonial roles. She’s not going to inspire the masses at rallies. She’s not going to worry them either by showing up in the tabloids with her getting drunk at a night club. In many ways, she’s not sure what kind of princess she’ll be and she’s exactly presented with many options.
It’s a situation that many other Disney princesses can relate to. She wants to be more than a royal version of Vanna White, but the Rebel generals don’t like the idea of her poking the Empire more than she already has. To be fair, they give a fairly reasonable explanation and that never would’ve flown in Downton Abby.
Being the princess of a planet the Empire went out of its way to destroy, she has a big price on her head. She could basically turn anyone with crippling gambling debt into a certified bounty hunter if she stumbles into the wrong area. Keeping her alive is good for the rebellion, especially at a time when they’re on a winning streak. She’s like a star running back on a football team that wants to take up rock climbing. It puts her in unnecessary danger when they need her to keep the streak going.
Reasonable or not, Princess Leia still makes that fateful decision to be than just a princess. But it isn’t a decision that she makes just because handing out metals is boring. She actually meets someone who openly criticizes her for her lackluster speech for Alderan. This character, Evaan, isn’t all that memorable. She’s basically Leia if she were a rebel pilot rather than a princess, but she essentially tells Leia what she needs to hear to make her decision.
By going against the leaders of the Rebel Alliance, she starts that journey that will eventually take her to tundra of Hoth and the forests of Endor. It’s an important step for her character, but it’s a step that lacks significant drama. There isn’t much emotion that goes into her decision. There’s a sense that she already wanted this. She just needed to find someone who would give her the right nudge. It slows the pace of the story at times, but it still focuses on the right elements. Princess Leia is going to help the Rebel Alliance and she’s going to do it her way. Sure, she might end up in a trash compactor at times, but it still establishes her as the kind of Princess who is more comfortable with a blaster than an evening gown.
The themes in Princess Leia #1 fit nicely into the overall mythos of Star Wars in that it explores Leia’s role in wake of the loss of Alderan. It’s a critical time where she’s in a position to make plenty of fateful decisions. The effects of these decisions eventually play out in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but they now have a greater context in terms of the journey that got her to these fateful moments. That journey is still unfolding and at a somewhat sluggish pace. But the fruits of that journey have been known since the mid-80s. Knowing the context of that journey just helps make those fruits taste even sweeter.