“I bet all the nerds loved Princess Leia” – K
For a Sci-Fi fan, there is nothing more pleasurable than sharing one of your favorite series with a youngling that hasn’t seen it. Introducing her to the world of Star Wars, Aliens, and Terminator is just as rewarding as experiencing them for the first time again.
One weekend, before Rey was even a thought, and the Star Wars prequels were all the rage, I sat down with my then 16yr old Padawan to do an all-day marathon of the original Star Wars trilogy. My thoughts were to get her indoctrinated fully before ruining Darth Vader forever for her by showing him whining to Padme on Naboo. What I didn’t expect, however, was for her to open my eyes to something as important as representation and its importance. Being a black man, I know that slight, especially a black man who loves Epic Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The latter is inclusive, the former, not-so-much, and as a child of the eighties, I was accustomed to that, but K is a millennial, born to push back against the status quo.
The following were my observations (trimmed to make this short and concise) of the three original movies, and her thoughts and questions as we powered through them. This article was originally written for an older blog, back before Disney bought the IP for Star Wars. Though K (that is what I will call her throughout this writing) was a gifted, honor student, that was more mature than the average, I expected her to nerd-out, the same way I did when I first saw Star Wars. Let’s just say that I was taken by surprise.
Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope
When A New Hope started I found myself checking a lot to see if she was paying attention. It was hard for her to hide the cynicism being that Star wars is old, no matter how many renditions and fixes George Lucas does, the movie looks its age.
This kid, with no appreciation for my old, pixelated video games, was not taking to the costumes and puppetry very well. One of her comments was, “Why does everyone look so funny?” A valid question I suppose, which I chalked up to the 70’s styling, and Luke’s rustic Tattooine fashion.
WTF Comment: “I like Jabba!”
Who the hell likes Jabba the Hutt? Apparently 16 yr. old science nerds appreciate the slug. There was an extra scene added to the version that we watched, where Han runs into the serpentine gangster and pleads his case over the money that he owes. Somehow Jabbas charm comes across in this scene because K’ took a liking to him, instantly.
In the infamous scene where Greedo faces off against Han and “shoots first” only to miss, K looked at me like with some confusion due to that ugly, edited-in “fix”. This prompted me to explain that the scene was edited to make Han react instead of firing first—like it was meant to be. Why else would a seasoned Bounty Hunter miss a dead-to-rights shot on a seated mark?
Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Since K is all about girl-power, I thought that Leia Organa would become her favorite character in this series. I was right, but she her explanation made me realize why in an interesting way.
- K: “I bet all the nerds love Princess Leia.”
- Me: “Well, hmm, actually you’re right, but what makes you say so?”
- K: “Well, she is the only woman that I have seen. Wait, no there was Aunt Beru, but Leia is super, super, pretty, and she’s a badass.”
I have never thought about the fact that Leia was the sole woman in the original series. For some reason I always thought there were some female X-wing pilots, but the prequels fixing this slight, had me misremembering the original.
When the infamous “I Am Your Father”, came, I expected shock but K laughed. That was disappointing. The most famous scene from the original Star Wars had absolutely no impact on her. A part of me died. First her love for the gangster, Jabba, and now she laughs at Luke in his moment of pain. I realized that K is an agent of the Dark Side, a potential Sith in training.
Star Wars Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi
Surprisingly Yoda’s obvious puppet animation did not bring out K’s cynicism like I expected. By the time we were onto this movie, she had grown accustomed to the look, and was fully immersed in the Rebel versus Imperial conflict.
She did perk-up at the scene with Mon Mothma (many Bothans died to bring us this information), being that she was the 3rd “strong” woman of note. This made me sad.
I did make it a point to bring to her attention Yoda’s comment on, “there is another”. I then checked to see if she noticed that Luke could mentally connect with Leia in the same way that he could with Darth Vader.
K loved the Ewoks but commented on their babies being ugly, and she couldn’t get over the Storm Troopers and their terrible aim. Jabba lost her love when we saw him in his element, enslaving Leia, licking her face, and being an all-around bastard on his dais. She was lukewarm to Boba Fett, probably because of the carbonite scene at the end of Empire. Still, she enjoyed the trilogy in the end, and I was happy.
The great thing about watching the original series with a young girl is that her perspective gave me a different lens from which to judge the newer sequels. If Leia won her over so fast I knew that characters like Padme, Shmi, and Shaak Ti would solidify her as a Star Wars fan.
Representation matters, and sometimes we forget this in our need to defend our precious childhood gems. For this I’m happy to see Star Wars showcasing heroes like Ahsoka, and Rey. Leia was important, but she was all there was for women of my age, and regardless of what I think as an old man, K can now imagine herself as a Jedi, the same way that we all did.