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Rise of Skywalker: An Ode to Leia

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Star Wars has always been an integral part of my life – to the point that I have a tattoo of Leia/Carrie Fisher proudly displayed on my forearm. I’m far from alone in this love  and I’m far from alone in my love for Carrie Fisher. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a not so gentle reminder that women have always been at the heart of the Star Wars universe and no one more so than Leia Organa.

It is impossible to talk about Leia without talking about Carrie Fisher because, I mean, has there has never been an actor who has given their fans more than she has? A woman who has created a sense of family with the millions that adore Leia, her writing and her work as a whole. When she passed away, it was the first time I cried over the death of a celebrity. I was devastated. I went into Last Jedi prepared (or so I thought) to say goodbye and then both cried and cheered when I won all the arguments I’d ever had about whether or not Leia was force sensitive. 

Leia’s send off is done with complete respect and that’s partly because of Abrams, of course but mainly because of Billie Lourd. The understanding of the impact Leia and Fisher made on the world runs deep and we are so lucky to have the opportunity to say goodbye. The respect shown to the impact Fisher has had on the world is felt throughout Last Jedi and in particular through her impact on Rey.

As Rey forges through the confusion of becoming a Jedi, her real teacher was never Luke, it was Leia, even saying “it’s what you would do” as the reasoning behind her actions. Why wouldn’t she? Leia was force sensitive, a diplomat, an army general and a woman who had fought her whole life against men who wanted to use her and beat her down. Leia is the true hero of the Star Wars Universe and Rey makes for an inspiring successor. 

One of the few things that all three films got right was the way they had us farewell the original trio. It was painful but also necessary to birth the new trio of Rey, Poe and Finn. It isn’t until the new film that we really get the payoff though, with all three finally united and going on an adventure together. It’s what we’ve been waiting so long for the dynamic between the three does not disappoint.

The only real disappointment is that it didn’t happen sooner. There is so much of the first half of The Rise of Skywalker that could have easily been its own film and made far more sense than The Last Jedi. Instead, we have to deal with JJ Abrams constant backpedalling, Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full support of the backpedalling, I was not a fan of Last Jedi but it is frustrating that we did not get a coherent storyline through all three films of the latest trilogy. To the point that I think you could skip The Last Jedi and not really notice. 

The only real loss is Rose Tico, the brilliant character and highlight of Last Jedi is hardly featured at all. Her relationships with the characters and the integral part she played in the Rebel Alliance’s escape from the First Order and battle on Crait. Rose was a special character that added a new type of hero to the universe, one who is strong even though she cries, one whose interests lie in STEM and most important one who is not a white woman.

To write her down to little more than a featured extra is disrespectful to Rose, Kelly Marie Tran and her many fans who got to see themselves in Star Wars for the first time. The universe that Star Wars creates is infinite and I love that the stories are expanding but what is the point if we are not expanding the people it is representing? Everyone deserves someone like Leia to inspire them. 

There’s so much room for growth in the Star Wars universe and I’m excited to see all the new stories and experiences. However, I hope that moving forward we can see storylines that are well thought out and not constructed by two male directors and lead writers battling it out over a series. What we need are more Leias.

– Lucy Noonan

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