can we talk about leia organa’s character development more? because i care so, so much about leia, badass extraordinaire and all-around wonderful light of my life.
from the beginning, leia is just so fun and kickass and wonderful. of the original trio, she really is the most traditionally powerful one: unlike luke, who’s a bit of a naive backwater farmboy in anh, she knows her way around the galaxy; and unlike han, the scoundrel on the run whose life is a mess, she has significant political clout and unquestioned respect from subordinates. right from the get-go, we see her taking charge:
but beyond sheer joyful “wow, she’s so hilariously snarky and kicking so much ass” character appreciation, her characterization and how she develops is just exquisite. imo, her character arc sees her go from someone who represses her emotions to someone who finds strength in love and emotional vulnerability but still retains her power and leadership, and that’s just wonderful. and also makes me want to hug her for 90000 years and we all really need to appreciate leia organa because she is so strong and spectacular.
anh!leia seems to feel the need to bury her emotions to focus on the rebellion. she is tough as nails and practical, thinks of herself as worldly-wise, and is full of bravado. because she needs to be: leia in anh is facing a hostile world and is constantly in crisis management mode, usually around people she isn’t sure she can trust (which includes han and luke, especially at first!). she’s playing up her a badass, snark-in-the-face-of-danger demeanor to protect herself and gain control.
then time passes and we reach esb. and the day-to-day of rebelling grinds her down and the loss of her entire planet and family sinks in (which, let’s face it, she didn’t really have much time in anh to process – again, anh is crisis management), so it makes sense that esb!leia is pretty traumatized. as part of that, she’s absolutely refusing to admit she likes han at all: she doesn’t have time for this, she’s busy running her revolution. and after losing so many people, she’s scared of emotions. caring – about luke or han – is only a weakness and only brings pain. (sidenote: this isn’t to say that han isn’t pushy and annoying af, but – he’s onto something.)
and then there’s the huge turning point of the “i love you”/“i know” scene. imo, this is a key character development moment for both characters: han from selfishness to selflessness and leia from emotional repression to openness. han’s been in love with leia and bothering her for aaaaages – everyone knows that he loves her, but it’s she who’s been the distant one, who seems like she might not reciprocate his affection. and now they both think he might die, and that’s what catalyzes her development as a character: she realizes that pretending she didn’t love him hasn’t strengthened her. in fact, her refusal to admit her feelings may mean that this man she loves might go to his death thinking that he’s unloved. she may have hurt someone she loves because she hasn’t faced up to her feelings, and in this place, at this time, with darth vader and boba fett casually discussing the possibility han won’t survive, that thought is horrible. so she does something incredibly brave.
my read of han’s side of this scene is, in essence, that it’s han, as harrison ford puts it, thinking only of leia. of course he loves her too. she knows he loves her! everyone and their dog on hoth knows he loves her! saying “i love you” back would be so emotionally satisfying for him – “i love you”/“i love you too” is probably an exchange han has dreamed about (in between doodling “han organa” in his datapad) – but it wouldn’t do much for her. but “i know”: that tells her that he isn’t going to his death emotionally unfulfilled, that she didn’t waste their time together, that he knew all along. so han solo, mercenary out for himself, says something that’s just for her, completely selflessly.
and then we get rotj!leia! right from the get-go, rotj!leia has taken that turning point we see in esb and run with it: when previously it took a near-death moment for her to admit her feelings, her very first comment to han is telling him she’s “someone who loves you.” like, what a 180 from before!
she’s someone who finds strength in places of emotion. love isn’t loss! it’s strength. she can admit her feelings! more than that, she trusts her feelings to tell her what she needs to know! she doesn’t immediately adopt that anh style bravado towards strangers – she’s kind to wicket and in return she actually gains tactical advantages with the ewoks. she continues to be a powerful leader, but she’s also realized that she doesn’t have to shut down emotionally to kick ass and take names.
and then tfa!leia is so fascinating, because that emotional openness we see in esb has become one of her greatest strengths. i’m not sure i’ve ever seen that type of character before, actually: she’s the grizzled, respected general who is also the heart of the team, who finds strength in hope and love, who dares to believe in redemption. this new leia seems to be balancing being a general very well with being the one who openly loves people who are lost/evil/traitors to the republic: she expresses hope that both luke and kylo ren will return and seems to have forgiven them.
she appreciates finn’s desire to find rey, and takes that into account even as she gets him to give them vital information.
she’s fairly emotionally honest with han: she tells him she missed him and talks frankly about how she felt about ben.
so – on some level, she might seem to be static between movies, right? rotj!leia and tfa!leia both find strength in love and vulnerability and are capable of being better leaders by taking advantage of those traits.
but then you remember: she’s also lost a son, husband, and brother between movies! not to mention that she’s helped establish a new political superpower in the galaxy, shepherded in an unheralded era of peace, and begun running her second revolution. and these experiences seem, almost paradoxically, to have strengthened her belief in finding power in open/raw emotion, despite how much she’s lost and how difficult her journey has been? and i find that so, so interesting.
- leia organa is the
queengeneral of my heart and should be the general of yours as well <333
- we need moar fic about leia between movies pleassssse
- if you think leia is a “cold bitch” you can shut the hell up because you are wrong about everything and her emotional repression is for reasons (like trauma! or being surrounded by enemies and having to put a brave face on!) and it sometimes helps her and yeah she maybe grows out of it but that is a beautiful character arc of a blossoming flower and u do not deserve to get to talk about leia organa our queen and savior