Or: Leia shot first!

It can be quite annoying to observe the use of stereotypes in movies, over and over again. However, there are storytellers who manage to use these stereotypes to their advantage and to their viewers’ pleasure. Creating clichés first and crushing them later can be very relieving.

The Princess

So what comes into our mind, when hearing (or reading) the word princess? A common image is that of the helpless, beautiful woman in a long gown, a diadem on her head, sitting at the top of the tower screaming for help and waiting for a prince on a white horse to rescue her from the dragon. Not so Princess Leia – she is in fact, a ‘stereotype breaker’. She dares talking back to Grandmoff Tarkin, she has ideals and she takes the risk of her home planet being destroyed to save those ideals. When the heroes arrive and try to rescue her, she springs into action and she breaks into Jabba’s palace, threatening one of the most dangerous criminals of the galaxy.

On the surface she may seem to be a posh princess, but on the inside she’s a rebel. And that’s exactly what she represents in Episodes IV, V and VI: the Rebellion.

The Prince on the White Horse

Han Solo takes the role of Leia’s prince on the white horse and there couldn’t be a better match than those two. He is a lawless smuggler, cowboy-like survivor, shaped by the harsh society of a rotten galaxy.
He represents the rebellious personality, where Leia stands for the Rebellion as an institution. Being inspired by Leia and her ideals, Han evolves from an unprincipled outlaw into a general of the Rebels, fighting for a cause instead of profit.

Who Shot First?

Screenshot: Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope. [1977]. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness. Lucasfilm Ltd. 00:47:52. So far so good. Then the whole mess started, when the confrontation of Han Solo and Greedo in A New Hope, was altered for the Special Edition. A discussion erupted about “Who shot first? Greedo or Han?”. The stereotype of the smuggler-outlaw-cowboy seemed to be destroyed, Han Solo’s character development was betrayed.

If this alteration of the scene was due to a moral confusion of George Lucas, or if Han always shot first and we just didn’t see it because of the montage, we will never know. Within that discussion it’s difficult to distinguish statements from excuses. Nevertheless, what should be pointed out here is that Han Solo, meanwhile representing his own stereotype, felt ruined. The feeling of relief, when stereotypes are crushed, didn’t emerge.

Leia shot first!

In Episode VI there is a scene, in which Leia shoots two Stormtroopers in front of the bunker on Endor. And she definitely shoots first. The stereotype princess is broken by such actions, making Leia who she is.
The stereotype prince on the white horse is broken by Han Solo’s outlaw image, making him who he is.
Therefore it’s no surprise that Leia and Han work so well as a couple. They have contrasts within themselves and share the rebellious aspects. Actions like the mentioned “shoot first” situations connect them and depict that Han and Leia have something in common.

Leia shot first! Let’s hold on to the belief that Han did too.

Tom is an Austrian actor and director, working in theaters since 2001. He studied acting in Salzburg and currently lives in Germany. He loves being creative, putting the crazy thoughts in his head out into the world and dreaming of being a Star Wars character. In addition he is also studying Media-Management, but only if his thoughts don´t drift to galaxies far, far away.
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