I’m including Leia in my run down of Disney Heroines because since Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise rumours have been swirling about Princess Leia’s place within the Disney Princess pantheon. No official statement has been made about Leia’s inclusion nor exclusion. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to explore whether or not George Lucas’ famous intergalactic princess should or should not be included.
I’ve met people on both side of the spectrum – some feel that Leia shouldn’t be included because that would be to trivialise her character, whilst others think that she’s would be a valuable inclusion. To be fair to the purists, her inclusion would indeed be a little dodgy. She’s not a cemented animated Disney nor Pixar property, and she hasn’t helmed her own film nor appeared significantly in animated form (the picture above comes from Issue #1 of her limited series Marvel comic, which I am enjoying immensely). Furthermore, her character and backstory has been far more fleshed than the other Disney Princesses or Heroines, which understandably makes people feel that she’s either better than the franchise, or deserves her own series of character merchandise and promotion outside of the rainbows-and-puppies style series. As someone who wonders which heroines should or should not be included in the franchise all the time, I understand this way of thinking completely and in another world, I’d probably be firmly on that side.
However, whilst I agree with all these points, I think it would be good – no, great – for DIsney and the little girls who get involved with Disney Princess that Leia is included. Hear me out, now. Leia’s a well loved female character in the sci-fi world for a reason. She helped set the bar for sexy, cool women who were willing to wield a gun, fight for what they believed in whilst still not being afraid to fall for the guy. Her character is fleshed out and I know I’d rather be Leia than many of the other princesses in the Disney franchise. She looks fab in a gown but you also get a sense she wears what she wears because she damn well wants to, not because she wants to get a guy into bed. Almost every single sci-fi or fantasy woman that has come since has possessed a bit of Leia in them and given that the Star Wars franchise is one of the greatest of all time, her role in popular culture makes her one of the most visible women that almost everyone knows. Mention Princess Leia and almost everyone knows who you are referring to, even if they haven’t seen the Star Wars films.
So sure, her character is far more complex and interesting that those of the other Disney Princesses, but I’d argue that that’s what the Disney Princess franchise needs now. They’d be introducing Leia to a bunch of little girls: and what that says is “Hey, you should grow up feeling you can be cool, kick ass and be happy with who you are. Sure you can go to space – Leia did and so can you.” Of course her inclusion would lead to playsets, over simplified dolls and the like, but so it would go for little boys toys. How Disney handles her inclusion would demonstrate whether or not hardcore Leia fans would feel Disney is making an effort to still honour the character. But handled correctly I feel it would be a big boon to the franchise, and a massive demonstration that they’re looking to give all the many different types of little girls out there a wide selection of role models which can help them feel included and excited.
There was a recent news story where a little girl wrote in because she was put out that there were no Star Wars Princess Leia dolls in the Disney Store. Like it or not, folks, this one girl who spoke up amongst many shows that there is a market for Princess Leia merchandise, and outside of creating relevant merchandise with Star Wars releases, her inclusion in the Disney Princess franchise would ensure that Leia would always be available to be on little girls’ backpacks or lunchboxes. I’d be more than happy to give my future child a plushie Princess Leia to play with.
So I get all the reasons why Leia should not be included, I really do. As a big Star Wars fan, I quake a little at the idea one of my favourite female characters being reduced to a pretty exhibit. But for children everywhere, I believe that Leia’s inclusion is important and one that I would wholeheartedly support. Your move, Disney. Don’t mess this up.
(photo credit: dailydot.com via Marvel comics)