Monday, 7 May 2007

Princess Leia made me a feminist

I know it's been a while since I posted but I've been busy in land of joyTM, also known as Norway and buying a car and other mundanities since I returned. There are many exciting posts backlogged now, including an article on Virgina Woolf and Iran (together not 2 separate articles) that I wrote on a train, two band reviews and a number of other sundry musings.

But before any of that I saw this story today and I had to blog about it, it came as no surprise to me, I've watched the original 3 movies so many times that I actually know a lot of it off by heart. As a 10 year old girl I actually knew the entirety of those three movie of by heart. And not just because they where cool sci-fi films. Nope, Star Wars changed my world. It wasn't the first of my great existential moments of childhood, of which I shall say more in a later post, but it was the experience that made me a feminist.

I mean Princess Leia is a pretty amazing role model. She's an experienced politician, and while ok she is beautiful it is, in the first 2 original movies, a beauty without vanity, prepared to get down and dirty with the rebellion. She's a leader, valued for her intelligence and her passionate commitment to a political course. She's a fighter, in fact she's the best shot out of anyone in the original star wars films. And she doesn't just sit and wait for stuff to happen to her, she instigates, she's more important than her love interest and he isn't threatened by that. Their relationship is based on antagonism sure but also respect. I challenge you to find a better feminist role model in the movies for children growing up in the 80's and 90's. There was really very little there.

Which is the key for me really. Growing up in the deepest darkest back waters of west wales I had no feminist role models apart from my grandmother and the kick ass feminist attitude of ones then 60 year old grandma is rarely apparent to 10 year olds. I lived in a household where women waited on and took care of men. Where men could and did use physical violence and the threat of physical violence to silence women and 10 year old girls. I lived in a society where intelligence, especially and particularly female intelligence, was a bad thing. And where male and female relationships were based on the physical attractiveness of women, not their fesitiness or abilities. In that context Star Wars didn't just give me hope, it showed me what to hope for. And gave me a massive crush on Harrison Ford that I still can't quite get over....

Writing this has reminded me that I've been wanting for a long time to write a series of essays on female characters relationships as models for their fans relationships. Maybe I'll post them up here. I could cover how the Sarah and Jareth relationship in Labyrinth has left a generation of intelligent women with a david bowie fetish (or according to one of my ex-girlfriends a significant penis fear... but that's an entirely different story), and examine how her self actualisation is only achieved through rejecting powerful symbols of patriarchal oppression.

Or how Spike and Buffy's relationship on BtVS is a direct consequence of the psychological affects of the Han and Leia and Sarah and Jareth relationship on the audience physche; same generation was the key audience for all three shows. Buffy has a relationship based on mutual antagonism and respect, but which also has a phase of jareth like obsession and possessive behaviour which is only resolved when she rejects his power over her through self determination.
The relationships of key characters in shows can actually be seen to reflect the growing rise of feminism and, in turn, the changing feminist struggles of its audience....

I could write a brilliant doctorate on this, if only I was doing a phd in television or media or something. Instead I got in the Warwick PGCE course and shall be studying there next year. I am very excited, I mean this will pay the bills and I'll have the chance to shape and mold young minds. Apparently some people find it slightly disturbing the way I start moving my hands like a puppet master of tiny invisible puppets everytime I say that....

But yes to swing back on topic. Princess Leia is why I because a feminist. Not many people can say that.


snakeface said...

As I sit here in my EMPIRE STRIKES BACK t-shirt, the one I had to buy from the men's section of jayjay's because they don't provide awesome in a women's, I have to say that there's probably a lot of women out there who've been similarly inspired.

One of my biggest complaints of the prequels is that Padme is one tenth of Leia's awesomeness. Maybe less.

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for the post. I'll keep it in mind as I look for (astonishingly scarce) female role models for my 3 year old.

Angie said...

Hi! Here from Feministe! :)

I love in the first movie when Luke comes to "rescue" her and she greets him with skepticism and dismissal. Aren't you a little short to be a Stormtrooper? She doesn't just fall into his arms willingly. She's got a mind of her own.

Yeah, those movies have a lot of problems, but Lia, she's a thing of beauty and wonder. Me, I think Baby and Dirty Dancing had something to do with my feminism but that's a post for another day! ;)

miss sophie said...

I love that bit too! And I can actually always saw Baby as a feminist character too. Please post about it :)
Thank you all for commenting!