by Nicole Murphy
Great role models for girls and young women is a topic that rises time and again and it’s no surprise. It’s easy for men to find role models – everywhere they look, there are politicians and business men and actors and sports stars. A plethora of choices, all laid out for you. Find one that matches, and off you go.
Girls have a far smaller pool to choose from, and sometimes it can be hard to find someone to admire and emulate. There are remarkable women out there, but the media often doesn’t give them the exposure they deserve and, unless you go looking, you might never find someone who proves you can do whatever you want.
Movies offer one of the few places where you can, from time to time, see women as clearly as men. When a woman appears that is right up there with the guys, they are instantly grabbed hold of by girls and young women desperate for someone to look up to.
Recently it’s been characters like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy, and of course the actress that plays her, Jennifer Lawrence, who is herself a fabulous woman to look up to. Jessica Jones is also proving to be one of these longed for characters. But there are also times when as a young woman, particular one who loves science fiction and fantasy, the media isn’t offering up a lot of options for you.
Which is why I consider myself really lucky that I grew up during the first Star Wars era – 1977-1983. That’s because I got to have Princess Leia as my role model.
I was seven when I saw the first Star Wars film – ripe to have my first female role model. There wasn’t a lot on television. I remember Sarah Jane from Doctor Who, and Miss Jane from Mr Squiggle, but neither of them were women that spoke to my heart. Certainly all the newsreaders and most of the actors you saw were men.
Then there was Leia. Smart enough to get the plans for the Death Star off the ship before Darth Vader took her captive. Strong enough to withstand torture and not reveal the whereabouts of the rebel bases.
The moment I truly fell in love with Leia was when Luke burst into her cell to rescue her. Leia, lying on her bed, raises herself on one elbow and says in a sarcastic tone, “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?”
Ah, Leia. Facing probable death and still not willing to go down without showing how much she hates the Empire.
Then of course, the big strong men that rescued her get caught up, and she has to rescue them, grabbing a blaster and shooting out a vent so they can crawl into the ship innards and escape their pursuers. The fact they ended up in a rubbish compacter and almost crushed to death is NOT Leia’s fault.
For the next two films, Leia continued to be fabulous. Strong. Determined. Willing to jump in and do what had to be done. I loved watching her race the speeders around the forest of Endor, and every time she grabbed a blaster and started shooting, I almost danced with glee. This wasn’t a woman that hid out of the way when the fighting started. She was right there, side by side with the men, taking the risk because she was going to fight as hard for what they believed in as they did.
Even though Leia disappeared from the big screen in 1983, she didn’t leave us. She’s been in books. She’s been in cartoons. Best of all, it turned out Carrie Fisher (the actress who played Leia) was every bit as sensational as the woman she embodied. Smart. Funny. Strong in a way that actually makes Leia look like a pussy.
So I not only got Leia, I got Carrie Fisher too to be my role model. The woman who taught me that even when I’m afraid, I need to just get on and do it anyway.
Today, Star Wars – The Force Awakens opens. I’m finding it hard to contain my excitement because, finally, 32 years after she was last on the big screen, Leia is back. And 32 years later, I’m ready to see my role model as the mature version, leading me into my own maturity.
If Leia doesn’t grab a blaster and start shooting the crap out of some baddies, I will be having words with JJ Abrams. You better believe it. Even us old girls need to get out and fight for what we believe in.
Nicole writes her own feisty, strong, SF romance stories. Check out her Jorda Trilogy, which kicks off with Loving the Prince.
From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.