Princess Leia taught me to be tough 

A New Hope

On April 16, my world changed. I saw the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. In the trailer I heard Luke's voice and saw glimpses of him and his sister Leia. I saw Darth Vader's skull and R2D2. And then, I saw the Millennium Falcon as it flew through the air. As I watched the trailer, I started to feel tingly, wondering about what all of that meant, and being afraid of wondering. And then Han Solo showed up, and I nearly, how do I put this, had an orgasm.

The point isn't just that I've long had a crush on Han — I do — but that Star Wars has truly affected my life. Actually, I'm obsessed. I watch Star Wars (later A New Hope), Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi (a far inferior film to the other two) at least once a year. The Star Wars series has been a crucial part of my life. As a regularly teased nerd in junior high, I often sought out this galaxy far, far away. It gave me a way to imagine something different than the world around me and to have a team which had my back.

As I got older, my love of the movies opened up in a different way. What would it mean, I wondered, if your group stood up for what you believed in, and it actually changed your world? In some ways these films helped to nurture my growing activism.

And then there's Princess Leia. I want to be her.

When Star Wars first came out, the character of Leia challenged the common sexism that was prevalent in movies at the time. She was a great example of a tough-talking, competent leader who just happened to be a woman. She didn't shriek in horror anytime a fight broke out. Instead, she could fire a blaster like the best of them. She remained competent even in the face of fear. Heck, not only was she tough enough to call Han Solo a "half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder," she threatened to blow up Jabba the Hutt with a thermal detonator.

In both my professional and personal life, I aspire to be more like her. My coffee cup is Leia, and I drink out of it every single morning. I've even worn a Leia Halloween costume.

Of course, Leia is one thing, and Han is an entirely another.

He used to be my official movie boyfriend. An ace pilot, Han always had a few sharp words of criticism for both the Rebel Alliance and the Jedis. But all of that scorn was hiding his soft heart.

Han was also, um, attractive. God, he was sexy. So let's be honest: even though Harrison Ford is 72, Han Solo is still my movie boyfriend. And hearing his voice on the trailer for The Force Awakens and seeing him next to Chewie, that was the moment that sent me into an emotional whirlwind. And that whirlwind hasn't stopped. However, I am afraid. The three prequel films sucked. And although I own them on DVD, I don't watch them.

But I'll be the first to admit that judging by this trailer alone, director J.J. Abrams looks like he has made a film that might be worth watching, that won't break my heart or make me nauseated. Will you, J.J. Abrams, offer me actual sand on the ground? Will you show real people — not CGI creations — who are struggling with a meaningful plot, a plot that offers challenges and hope? Characters who will live with me? Is it possible that this will be a movie I'll add to my yearly screenings?

You owe it to Leia, Han, Luke, Obi Wan, Chewie, and me. You're our only hope.

Alison Piepmeier is director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston. You can read more from Alison at her blog, alisonpiepmeier.blogspot.com.


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