4. Princess Leia, The Hidden-in-Plain-Sight-and-Left-There Heroine

The anonymous twin sister of Luke Skywalker and daughter of Darth Vader, Princess Leia is a young Galactic senator dedicated to ridding the Star Wars universe of intergalactic imperialism.

Seasoned, gray-haired generals take instruction from her not because of her physical prowess or her political position, which has no more force as neither her world nor the Galactic Senate exists any longer, but because of her smarts, endurance, dedication, and sacrifice. She possesses super powers, but she doesn’t know that she has them, much less how to use them. Furthermore, while Lucas kept it vague to maintain his PG rating, the floating needle, a lovers’ kiss, a disgusting lick, and a metal bikini all hint at rites of passage or horrible violations. Lucas did not exempt her from the vulnerabilities of womanhood.

She endures and overcomes these challenges of state and sex without tapping into anything more than her own courage. Princess Leia should hold a more vaunted place in the heroine pantheon considering the iconic popularity of Star Wars. I used to think she didn’t get her due praise because Lucas did not understand her character, admitting in one of the many “making of” shows that when he was writing the final confrontation between Luke and Vader he had not yet worked out “the significance of the sister.” I’ve also suspected that Carrie Fisher playing Leia while in the bowels of heroin addiction hampered her ability to bring much power to the part by Return of the Jedi. Neither helped the character, but I think if she punched Han or sliced Jabba up rather than strangling him, we’d have more respect for her.