Ugh apparently I am having a lot of Leia Organa feelings because I just read her wiki page and I’m just thinking about the SW narrative and man, so much of her heroism is covert. It’s just so frustrating. On all the posters she’s being rescued, she’s being helped, she’s being shown (in her slave bikini UGH don’t even get me started on that shit). Her character has been marketed as the woman in sci-fi, spunky but still a woman (which is to say, skilled but with limitations; someone else will have to come and help her eventually. And because ugh to be a woman in sci-fi is often to be awesome but with limitations, with the underlying idea that she is working within her limited skills and okay that’s another story for another time). She was subjected to a lot of things, and got to do a lot of things but at the same time it’s acknowledged that she was hard as nails, a tough delegate and determined to take care of herself. Yet she’s always dependent on others somehow within the film narrative and in these posters and other canon stories outside of the films. It’s just so contradictory and so frustrating. I feel like I can see Leia just smirking at everybody to hide the frustration she has underneath: if only everyone could see how great she is. They’re getting the princess, diplomat facade. The caretaker whose concern makes her steeled and fierce. The leader playing innocent but secretly taking down the entire Empire. The woman playing her roles and adding her determination to them in order to have some form of control over what is expected of her. But she plays her roles well and waits for the right moment to use those roles to take control. If circumstances were altered just so, she’d be the hero and everyone would be dependent on her, outright. It could’ve been so easy for her character to be front and center: the woman with so many roles must take on the biggest one—the hero.
Argh, archetypes, I want to subvert them so badly. Leia did, but I wish she could’ve done more. With Luke’s hero’s journey, he had the chance to refuse the call multiple times, fail multiple times, literally go into the cave and flee from it, and still he got to fulfill his identity and become the hero. Leia was never even offered the call; we the viewers barely got to know that it could’ve been her, that she could’ve been the one to cross the threshold and answer the call. Her duty was to help the Alliance, to found it and lead it, but there was so much more to her that was never called upon because she wasn’t supposed to be the hero, that wasn’t her destiny. But dammit, in my view there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been and wasn’t her, other than that the hero’s redemption is part of the male hero archetype. The dramatic irony of her story is that “there is another”—she is another chance, another hero’s journey story that we never get to see and that she never gets to live.
Brienne’s story is an adaptation of a traditionally male narrative, one that usually sidelines or victimises female characters. She swears fealty to a woman, as male knights swear to their liege lord, because she respects that woman’s strength, her bravery and her kindness. She goes on a quest to save the beautiful maiden, but not to marry her or benefit from the quest in any way, but to return her to her mother. Because she cares for Catelyn, and because it is the right thing to do. It is a story of a woman, rescuing a woman, for the sake of another woman. It is a rare story where the mother, the young girl and the shieldmaiden are all given equal weight and worth. Brienne, despite taking on many stereotypically male traits, is not “one of the boys” or in any way dismissive of her gender as a group. She does not fit into the role that society has assigned for her, but she does not disparage those who do. She uses her strength and her skill to respect and help other women in ways that most men in Westeros would never even think to attempt, because she understands, more than any other knight, that women are truly worth something as individuals.
In which I sob and cling to Brienne because I love her so mu-hu-hu-huch.