Princess Leia is no longer a princess by the time we meet her in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; she's General Leia Organa, thank you very much. But that hasn't stopped fans from asking Disney to make Princess Leia an official Disney Princess. A Change.org petition is asking Disney, who bought the rights to Star Wars in 2012, to make Leia a "full-fledged princess" as a way of honoring the late Carrie Fisher. "We feel that it is only fitting for Disney to do away with the rule that an official Disney princess must be animated," the petition, created by Cody Christensen, states. Clearly, he isn't the only one who would like to see Leia stand side-by-side with Disney's 11 other princesses; the petition only needs a little over 55,000 signatures to hit its goal of 150,000 supporters. But bestowing Leia with this new title doesn't just go against Disney's rules; it goes against type — in a good way. Making Leia an official Disney Princess would change the way young girls forever define the term "princess."
For too long, princess has been shorthand for a beautiful girl who needs saving. Think of the original three Disney princess: Cinderella, Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty herself, Aurora. While Disney princesses have become increasingly more independent since 1989 when Ariel hit the scene, giving way to Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida, it seems the term hasn't fully been upgraded in public consciousness. But adding Princess Leia to this list seems like the logical step forward.
From the first moment Leia appeared onscreen 40 years ago in A New Hope, blaster in hand to take down a stormtrooper, it was clear she was not your average princess. Despite being captured, she mocks Luke Skywalker when he shows up to help her: "Aren't you a little short to be a stormtrooper?" It was as if Leia wanted to make it clear that she's more than capable of handling herself.
Leia was always the brains of the operation, who also had the ability to toss out a sarcastic one-liner to lighten the mood. It's her smarts that eventually earn her a much deserved title upgrade. This is also what sets her apart from the more traditional Disney princesses that came before her. Leia has never been defined by her purity or goodness, but by her brain. She was a rebel who was filled with conviction and passion for something more.
Her greatest gift was not beauty; it was her ability to lead, which set her apart from Cinderella, Snow White, or Aurora. Leia defied the princess trope by being her own person. She was never defined by anyone else. Even her love story is as modern as she was: Han Solo was her partner, not her prince charming. Leia never played by anyone else's rules, but made her own. She taught young women that they don't have to follow the crowd, but that they can lead it.
In 2017, it's easy to take for granted how revolutionary Leia as princess was. By now, we've become accustomed to strong-willed Disney princesses like Mulan — a warrior who uses her brain to defeat the Huns, added to the official princess line-up despite not being a princess — and Merida, who fought to live life on her own terms. But, 40 years ago before Lucasfilm was owned by Disney, Leia paved the way for princesses to be more than damsels in distress.
It's why Leia fits the bill for what a Disney princess should be as well as any animated princess. The official guide to turning yourself into a Disney princess states that one must be "open to new experiences" and "know her worth." She goes after what she wants and never gives up. Sound familiar?
What this guide also shows is that princesses can be many things, and naming Leia a Disney princess doesn't take away from those who came before her. However, it does set a precedent for those who come after. Young girls should have many options when it comes to their princess role models, and Leia gives them a kick ass alternative.
It's the reason Christensen started his petition in the first place. In an interview with GeekExchange, he explained:
For generations Leia has been showing little girls that there isn't just one way to be a princess. She'll continue to do this whether she is officially named a Disney princess or not. But, if Disney was to give Leia the title, it would help redefine the way a new generation of little girls will forever think about princesses. The image won't have to be a crown and a castle, but two buns and a blaster.