Leia & Holdo’s Friendship In ‘The Last Jedi’ Marks An Important First For An Iconic Feminist Character
Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead.
In the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, there are enough huge moments and controversial choices to keep fans busy with discussion until the next installment comes around. But one particular quiet moment shouldn't be lost to the other chatter. General Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo's friendship in The Last Jedi is as groundbreaking as Kylo's inability to be redeemed and Luke's transformation. In the five Star Wars movies the now deceased Carrie Fisher has been a part of, The Last Jedi marked the first time that fans saw her character share a significant moment with a female friend.
For some of the movie, there was reason to fear that it wouldn't happen. Leia is incapacitated after her miraculous, Force-fueled survival of the bridge explosion, which is why Laura Dern's Amilyn Holdo takes over. The former princess recovers while Holdo tries to pacify Poe Dameron's ego (no easy feat). And I can't be the only fan who believes that Leia wakes up from her coma just because she could sense that her favorite (but recently demoted) pilot is causing some trouble and her help is needed to get him back into line.
So, yes, Poe may have spearheaded some light mutiny. But these two women who are his superiors don't blame him for it as much as they feel sorry for his inability to see the larger picture. As the ship's crew is evacuated into escape pods, Holdo and Leia have their moment, which goes a long way towards explaining why they're cutting the hothead some slack. Basically, they're both well aware that they know more than he does.
In the original trilogy, Fisher's screentime is mostly shared with Harrison Ford's Han and Mark Hamill's Luke, plus a couple of droids, a wookiee, and one seriously deadbeat dad. She and Luke form a supportive friendship before they learn of their family ties (and, uh, hopefully forget about that kiss); of course, she and Han have their sexual tension. But without her mother or any other significant women characters representing in the Rebel Alliance, Leia is deprived entirely of female friendship. To be honest, the closest thing she had to a lady friend before Holdo was Mon Mothma. And that's not even a thing.
So I loved not only that Holdo and Leia appear to be quite close, but that they also have a history. In their brief but moving conversation, you get the sense that Leia has been a mentor for the younger woman for quite some time, in a multitude of ways. (And in fact, their early days together are explored in a prequel novel, Leia, Princess Of Alderaan.) It's not news to anyone by this point that Leia is a leader and terribly well-respected in the Resistance. But there's something special about her using her influence to impact and inspire a woman, not to mention one who seems very much like herself, and probably has dealt with many of the same challenges. (And she's not even royalty.)
Holdo holds strong when Poe questions her authority and her judgment, and I can't help but think that her poise and resolve is at least partially due to Leia's example. And Holdo is confident enough in herself and her general's resilience to tell Leia that she will be making the sacrifice for her fellow rebels, because it's what they deserve from their leadership. Holdo has Leia's blessing to do what has to be done, and Leia has Holdo's blessing to move on. Women have to stick up for each other, no matter what galaxy they're in.
The Star Wars cinematic universe is generally weak in the area of female friendship, so it's unfortunate that one brief exchange has to represent so much. But I can't think of a better way to honor a character who's meant so much to so many women who love these movies than to allow her to experience that gratitude on screen.