WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Most of the heroes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were new to us, but in some ways, their story was not. Rogue One followed a band of rebels against hopeless odds, whose mission to obtain the plans for the Death Star and dismantle the treacherous, all-powerful Galactic Empire's greatest weapon was impossible at best. And yes, they succeeded. They transmitted the plans to the Alliance, and achieved their goal, but not without a price: they may have won the battle, but they would not live to see themselves win the war.
Here in reality, we stand at the end of what has been, for many of us, a terrible year — the end of a terrible year that is about to give way to four years under the presidency of Donald Trump, whose appointed cabinet members thus far seem about as ominous and foreboding as Sith Lords. For those of us who fought the good fight during this election season and did everything we could to prevent this demonstrably sexist, racist, xenophobic, entirely inexperienced man from taking office and representing our country, it is hard not to draw parallels between our own lives and the events of Rogue One. Just like them, we are now subjected to the leadership of someone who does not represent our beliefs or morals; just like them, we are standing on our own figurative beach, watching as the America we thought we knew crumbles around us.
But then, at the end of the movie, there is a reminder that their tragic end, the rebels didn't die for nothing. The plans to the Death Star are collected, and put into the hands of one young woman. A rebel asks what he's just given her, and our hero Princess Leia turns to face the camera, beaming, and utters one word: "Hope."
For Star Wars fans, it wasn't just a cool moment that bridged the gap between this prequel and the first film; it was a poignant reminder that, despite everything that has happened this year, we still have hope, too. Many of us left the theater stirred by that feeling, by that small but powerful glimmer at the end of a year that can only be described as hellish; and just as Princess Leia did in every moment, we were all the more determined to harness her unyielding, determined nature, and continue to press on for what we believed in — whether that meant advocating for causes and groups threatened by Trump's presidency, lobbying to our representatives to prevent or change things, or working toward a future where we ran for office and changed them ourselves. It was a reminder that the future may look bleak, but it is still within our power to make it a better one.
The moment was made all the more powerful knowing that Carrie Fisher herself was outspoken in her disapproval of the president-elect, and inspired us to forge this path separately from her roles as Princess and General Leia Organa. Her death at the age of 60 was not just an unexpected blow to the fans she has inspired through her role as Princess Leia, her writing, or her tireless efforts advocating for mental health; the timing of it, at the end of this year when we have needed her voices like hers most, makes it all the more devastating.
When we were young, we watched her as Princess Leia defeat a great evil over the course of those three original films. Now we are facing what, for many of us, is our own personal version of that evil — and the champion who first taught us of our power to fight against it is gone.
Of course, as tough as it will be to face that cameo of Princess Leia in Rogue One knowing that, with her death, we all just lost a bit of that hope that she offered, the message is still the same: no, we did not win this battle; and no, some of us, even our heroes, may not see the end of this fight. But those of us who are still here and can still advocate, and defend, and educate need to keep doing it for as long as it takes, with as much strength as they can. Just as Princess Leia did, Carrie Fisher used her platform to devote her life to try to make this world a better one; so rather than feel hopeless in a time like this, we should lead by her example, and keep fighting to do the same.