In my opinion, there are only a few evergreen feminist icons that deserve our constant and enthusiastic celebration. One of these icons is turning 40 today: Princess Leia. OK, well, technically, what I mean to say is that it is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which means we’ve known Princess Leia for 40 years (seeing as she was introduced to us in A New Hope).
Over the last four decades, Princess Leia has become a feminist Star Wars icon within the sci-fi and fantasy realms, and as we spend more time with her, we realize that she is every bit as tough as she is tender, a lover as much as a fighter and every inch a leader, Leia is just… So. Damn. Cool.
To celebrate this very special anniversary, I feel it’s only appropriate to highlight a few of the times Princess Leia was the embodiment of resistance goals, all the times she stood up to her mostly male oppressors, subverted female stereotypes or proved that she could save herself (thank you very much!).
1. Standing up to Darth Vader in A New Hope
The sass and authority is so real, y’all. Watching Leia stand up to the real enemy without batting an eyelid is one of the biggest reasons she should be everyone’s role model.
2. When Leia attempts to fight her way out of captivity
Hearing Leia exclaim, “Somebody has to save our skins!” as she grabs Luke’s gun is sweet music to my ears.
3. Leia cozying up to the Ewoks
Leia doesn’t always have to be fierce to prove she’s the boss, applesauce. Her cozying up to the prickly Ewoks in order to gain their trust and their aid in the Resistance is a next-level move.
4. Killing Jabba the Hutt like a boss
Literally no words, only fist bumps across space and time for this amazing moment. Oh, and if you want to know why Leia killing her gross captor was necessary and amazing, check out this examination of the terrible implications of Slave Leia at Uproxx.
5. Telling Han Solo that she loves him
It’s one of the most iconic lines in film history, and it’s also one of the great moments of tenderness between Leia and Han. Seeing Leia’s vulnerability shine through is a big deal for our tough-as-nails leader, and she’s all the cooler for it.
6. Calling Han Solo seriously hilarious names to make a point
Even when she’s calling Han the very silly insult “scruffy-looking nerf herder” just to make a point about doing what she says, she’s fierce AF.
7. Rescuing Han Solo from the carbonite freeze
Because Leia can save herself and she can save the man that she loves.
8. Leia’s fight with Han Solo on Hoth to protect everyone
The fight on Hoth marks a turning point in Leia and Han’s relationship, but it also shows us what kind of emotional weights are constantly placed on Leia. While she’s not to admit that she cares deeply for Han, it’s apparent she does as she asks him to stay on Hoth. But we also see that she has to consider what’s best for the Resistance army stationed at Hoth by demanding Han – a wanted man at this point — stay and fight.
9. Saving Luke Skywalker from death
Watching Leia using her twin senses to help find and save her brother (seriously, Luke, get your shit together) was so amazing.
10. Sending Rey into battle with wise words
Leia metaphorically passed the torch of female power in the Resistance to Rey in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Of course, this was a metaphorical torch passing since she is known as General Leia and is still a primary leader of the Resistance. That said, watching her recognize another young woman who faces similarly great challenges like the ones she faced in her youth makes this moment in Leia’s journey a lovely feminist moment.
11. Discovering a new hope in Rogue One
It still counts as Leia even if it’s a CGI version of our favorite princess. The final — and shocking — reveal of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story involves showing Leia getting handed the plans to the Death Star. This moment immediately precedes the first moments of A New Hope, tying the whole storyline together but, more important, we get to witness Leia seeing the first glimmer of hope for destroying Darth Vader. Hell, yeah.
Bow down to Princess Leia because she is truly the embodiment of #ResistanceGoals.