On Star Wars

Fighting Princesses and Other Distressing Damsels

By Bill Spangler

Things were not going well for the good guys.

Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca the Wookiee had just infiltrated the detention level of the first Death Star. They had located the missing Princess Leia, but the only way out of the cell block was through a squadron of Imperial stormtroopers.

“This is some rescue,” Leia says. “When you came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”

“He’s the brains, sweetheart,” Han snaps, referring to Luke.

The princess’s response is almost as quick. She grabs Luke’s blaster and fires at a panel on the opposite side of the corridor. “What the hell are you doing?” Han demands.

“Someone has to save our skins!” Leia crosses the corridor, while laying down covering fire. “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” she orders.

Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope changed the face of movies in many ways. One change that is sometimes overlooked is the role of women in action-adventure films. The Star Wars films gave us women who didn’t wait passively to be rescued, women who could match the male characters in independence and resourcefulness.

The above scene captured this new attitude for a lot of people. And that approach received a warm welcome. Like many first-generation Star Wars fans, I made regular trips to the theater in 1977 to explore that galaxy far, far away. On those trips, I often heard cheering and applause when Leia took charge on the detention level.

Although there have been some definite  …

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