When I Met Princess Leia

The first time I met Princess Leia, I was in fourth grade. My little sister’s third-grade class was on a huge Star Wars kick, so she picked up A New Hope at the local video rental shop. On a Friday night, she popped the cassette into our VCR, expertly fast-forwarded through commercials, and hit the ‘play’ button right at the opening scroll.

I don’t know at what point I got hooked. It might have been John Williams’ opening fanfare. Maybe it was just the fact that A New Hope threw me right into the action. There was no need to explain who The Galactic Empire was, or The Rebel Alliance. They were fighting, and look, there goes a spaceship! The film was filled with strange creatures, intriguing characters, terrifying enemies, and awe-inspiring weapons. That first viewing launched an obsession that has stood the test of time.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I was already pretty jaded about gender roles. I didn’t play with any of the girls in my class, because acting out real-life scenarios, like cooking dinner or sweeping floors, felt a whole lot like work. The boys might let me re-enact the most recent episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but Catwoman usually took a backseat to the fights between The Dark Knight and The Joker, and within minutes I was a forgotten figure, practicing cartwheels in the grass.

The first sight of Princess Leia in A New Hope didn’t inspire me. Ah. A pretty girl in a white dress. Other than her earmuffs-on-steroids hairstyle, she could have stepped right out of the type of movie where the ladies break out into song about how great it would be to find a nice prince and settle down on a planet with a good education system and live happily ever after.

I probably should have noticed that she was sneaking around on a ship that was under attack by the fearsomely dressed Darth Vader, but hey, I was a fourth grader.

I started to reevaluate my opinion when she shot her first stormtrooper.

Then she went toe-to-toe with the baddest bad guy I’d ever seen. Held captive, diminutive compared to the armored man towering over her, she stood defiant. She responded to his booming voice with courage, and even sass. Didn’t she know that he’d just strangled one of those guys in the funny white helmets? I was scared of Darth Vader, and I was separated from him by a TV screen. Princess Leia, though, seemed more irritated than anything else.

Over the course of A New Hope, Leia kept defying expectations. When threatened with Alderaan’s destruction, her fear was palpable. She mourned her people, her culture – everything that had once been her life.

Han Solo’s reaction to her, as she takes charge of her own rescue mission and orders him to jump down a garbage chute, is perhaps most fascinating. The self-assured, universe-weary rogue stares in wonder. A damsel, yes. In distress, not so much.

I think it’s really easy to forget how revolutionary Princess Leia was, how revolutionary she still is. How many other characters, male or female, dare to rage across the screen as she did in anything other than a moody drama? A million copies have been tried, and a million copies have failed to capture the spirit of the original. Princess Leia stands alone, driven by an inner fury, a singular purpose.

I’ll admit that I didn’t appreciate Princess Leia throughout my Star Wars drenched youth. I wanted too much to identify with the Jedi. The idea of The Force was intoxicating, the buzz of a lightsaber like music. That was what I wanted, and so Princess Leia fell into the background. It was Luke Skywalker I followed most closely, and later, as I delved deeper into the canon, Mara Jade. Anyone who didn’t wield a lightsaber or connect to the power that bound together the fabric of the universe seemed far less interesting to me.

And yet, always Leia was there, and as I got older, I came to appreciate her more and more. Of all the primary characters in the Star Wars universe, she has by far the greatest leadership skills. She commands armies that fight incredible odds against the encroaching darkness of the Empire. She never backs down when she is called on to lead. And she’s never afraid to make bold choices or take risky shots.

She calls upon a friend of her father’s, whom she has never met, to help combat a weapon capable of destroying planets. She jumps down garbage chutes, refuses to abandon the base on Hoth until the last possible moment, disguises herself as a bounty hunter to rescue Han Solo from Jabba’s Palace. She does everything with admirable courage, as well as cunning reason. Maybe Luke Skywalker wasn’t the best choice to be trained as the last Jedi Knight after all, though I suspect Yoda would have found a much more infuriating student in Leia.

These days, as excited as I am to see Rey on the movie screens, as thrilled as I am to see a Jedi Knight of my gender wielding a lightsaber and The Force, I am equally excited to see General Organa Solo. Still commanding armies in the fight for galactic freedom, still dealing with the drama of being a Skywalker with her head held high. It is Leia who, of all the characters in Star Wars, seems the least escapist, the most grounded in a life that looks familiar to me. Yes, she is a high-level politician, but she is also a decision-maker, someone who must face reality as it is, and find the best way through. This can’t be said for many of the characters in the galaxy, who constantly retreat for training, or to recover from massive mis-steps.

I’m looking at you, Luke Skywalker.

 

I think it’s the rage, honestly. When I was younger, I was an idealist. Among my friends, I was the most likely to bewail, “But why can’t we all just get along?” I was most likely to quietly explain my Zen point of view when everyone else raged about the difficulty of one of our teacher’s quizzes.

Somewhere in the midst of my young adulthood, I lost my grip on that Zen, and when I did, I found a well of something hot and, to me, terrifying and uncomfortable. I found myself angry at the fact that things hadn’t worked out the way I’d thought they would. The universe, it seemed, had turned on me.

But I shoved that anger down, because it makes people uncomfortable. It didn’t take me long to recognize that. Yelling was not appropriate, was not cute, was a little bit scary. So, as much as I could, I swallowed it. I learned to work through it, to look at things differently, to adjust my expectations.

Now I wonder – would Princess Leia have done all that, or would she have fed her rage and used it to power through, until she set things back on the course she wanted? Probably a little bit of both.

Leia rises up above the title of Princess, and becomes something else. A woman willing to lead, willing to take risks, a woman who refuses to run or back down. More than perhaps anyone else in Star Wars, she fights, unceasingly, for what she believes in. And these days, it is Leia whom I admire most.

Anticipation: Things on the Horizon

Anticipation: Things on the Horizon

Happy Friday! I know this is a day most people look forward to, so in that spirit I’m going to talk about some things things that I’m excited about.

Friday is not one of those things. When you’re a stay-at-home-parent, Friday actually doesn’t mean much. I am not going out tonight, you will find me home cooking dinner and bathing children. There will be no sleeping late in the days to come, no reduction in responsibilities. If anything, I’ll probably pile on some extra projects.

My special treat on the weekends is the chance to go on an extra-long walk while The Hubs stays home with Little Dude and Little Miss. There might be a Starbucks run and a trip to the bookstore. This weekend in particular, I’m going to get soil to fill my garden beds, so I guess that is something to be excited about, even if I won’t be sleeping in.

So here they are, some other things I’m looking forward to, and why.

 

Rogue One

The whole world conspired against me getting to the movie theatre to see this. There was an ice-storm, travelling for Christmas, and then a nasty stomach bug, followed by a string of colds that kept me tied up at home for weeks. Before I knew it, Rogue One was out of theatres, and spoilers flooded Pinterest.

So for months now I’ve been just about the only die-hard Star Wars fan who hasn’t seen this film. I’ve been over here losing nerd-creds on a daily basis. I think I might be in the negative now, and that’s pretty bad for someone who would willingly participate in a lightsaber duel to make Mara Jade canon again.

Seriously, Mara Jade is my hero, and I will always be in denial that she’s not flying around the universe, regularly calling Luke Skywalker to tease him about being a farm boy.

I was sold on Rogue One as soon as I saw that clip of AT-ATs stomping down palm trees. Jyn Erso and friends all look like a classic Star Wars crew of improbably heroes. So yes, I’m getting this movie today, and I’m finally going to settle in and watch it. I will probably squeal when I hear that classic TIE fighter scream.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

The TV show, or the book? It turns out, both.

So, I might have mentioned before that I went this really long stretch of time without reading any science fiction. I had Margaret Atwood on my to-read list, but never touched any of her books. I have no good reason for this, I was just very comfortably making my way through every single Terry Pratchett book.

Yesterday, I finally bought A Handmaid’s Tale, and I’ve already started.

Handmaid's Tale and Jonathan Strange
Also in my bookstore haul is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

By the way – it took me forever to find this book in the store, because it was in the fiction section. I know it’s dystopian science-fiction, just from the little bits I’ve gleaned of the plot, but like a lot of really excellent science-fiction it’s not hanging out with the robots and space ships. I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing, which maybe I’ll discuss later.

I’m a couple of chapters in, and I’m already hooked. As I’m sure the entire universe already knows, Margaret Atwood’s writing is amazing. She’s one of those writers who has that way of hinting at things, who can build a feeling of oppression and fear without direct images of violence. I know the kind of world her character is living in from just a few, carefully-crafted images.

Then, the advertisements for the show, coming out April 26 on Hulu, have me intrigued. Elisabeth Moss will be playing Offred, and I love her acting. We will see if I make it very far into the show, because it looks intense, and I’m known to cover my face during fraught scenes in shows and movies. I have skipped more than one episode of Game of Thrones entirely.

 

My Garden

I’ve tried to grow food in the past. One year, I even had a little four-foot square raised bed, with carrots and radishes planted, when all of a sudden we moved and I had to leave it all behind. The next summer, we had just moved into a different house, and I didn’t have time to plant anything in the middle of the kitchen renovation. This summer, though, it is on.

Bright Ink Gardens
Grow, my little plants, grow!

Every day, I go down into the basement to water my seedlings. There are Johnny-Jump-Ups, lettuce, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and flowers sprouting under a long grow light. As soon as I have my soil, I’ll be planting carrots, radishes, beets, peas, and beans. I’m so looking forward to summer sun warming my garden, crunching peas right off the vine with Little Dude and Little Miss, and having home-grown heirloom tomatoes.

As long as the squirrels don’t steal everything I grow. That has happened. But even one tomato from my own garden will be worth it.

 

Wonder Woman

So, I’ve been a geek for a long time. When I was in the first grade, Batman: The Animated Series was by far my favorite show. In fourth grade I picked up all things Star Wars. In Junior High I discovered The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

And everywhere I looked in the things that I loved, I found women and girls in short supply. I had Catwoman, and the aforementioned Mara Jade. And even though they stood toe-to-toe with the men in their universes, they were still mostly love-interests and side-kicks. They certainly weren’t the leads in the books or shows in which they appeared.

To say the very least, I’m grateful that Little Miss is growing up in a world where a woman can be a superhero, and get her own movie, too. I have high hopes for Wonder Woman, even though DC so far hasn’t blown me away with their last few superhero movies. Come on, people, make this one worth my time, please!

Wonder Woman Funko
You can’t get Wonder Woman wrong, because she will get you with that Lasso of Truth.

Other geeky places where females are finally getting a chance to lead: Star Wars, Supergirl now on CW, and the upcoming Captain Marvel. It’s happening in more books than I can name. In fiction, these are good times to be a woman.

Hopefully, the real world catches up eventually.

 

Applesauce Granola

Earlier this week, I was just chilling at the doctor’s office, waiting for Little Miss’s five-year checkup. I picked up a Better Homes & Gardens to flip through, and I just happened to find, between a recipe for Thanksgiving turkey and an article about what to do with leftovers, a photo of some amazing-looking granola.

If you know me, you will know that I have a thing for homemade granola. I make a batch almost weekly.

And this granola looked magical. I scribbled the recipe down into my bullet journal, because I’m not the kind of person who tears pages out of waiting room magazines. That’s just cruel. Especially when you can take a picture with your phone.

I wrote it down, though, because it looks that good.

When I have my next grocery-store run, I’m picking up the ingredients, and I’m making a batch. It might become as coveted as that ginger-peach granola recipe. I have no idea. That’s the exciting thing about new recipes. It could be a dud, or it could be your new favorite.

 

A New Book

I started on a new project this week. It began, as it usually does for me, with the characters. Stephen King says this is wrong, but his advice that writers should start with a compelling idea, and then build the characters in later, is one that I ignore. If I’m not interested in the people I’m following around over the course of the story, then I won’t get very far. My interest will dry up about two chapters in, and then I’m left with this beautiful skeleton that has no flesh.

So, the characters come first. In this case, it was two people with a complicated and interesting relationship. I wrote the first two pages, and then stopped to find the core conflict of the book. I think I landed on a pretty compelling idea – I’ll only know a few months from now when I finish the first draft what it’s really about, though. I do know for sure that I’m excited to spend a few years with the characters I’m following. And the setting leans further into science-fiction than anything I’ve written in a while, so I’m getting to invent about five things a page, which is equal parts fun and terrifying.

I definitely plan things a little bit more than I used to. Once upon a time, I started into a novel with no idea what the end would look like. I spent years wandering in the wilderness of the narrative trying to find the central conflict, the thing that was happening beyond the character relationships. It was a mess. I’m still a pantser, but now I pick a goal before I begin my journey.

It’s good to know where you want to go, even if you don’t know how you’re going to get there.

 

So there you have it, my list of random things I’m excited about, in lieu of Fridays. Do you have any projects you’re working on that are especially compelling? Movies coming up that you can’t wait to see? I’d love to hear more about it – especially if it’s something geeky that’s not on my radar yet!

Or food. I will always get excited about food.

I hope you have a great weekend, and thanks for reading Bright Ink.