As an 80s baby, my introduction to Star Wars was a right of passage. It's one of the memories with my dad I treasure most, and the first time we watched Episode IV together I'm not actually sure who loved it more. I was captivated by the story, and he was excited to share it with me.
I lost my dad when I was 9, but when I became a mother with two daughters of my own, I got the chance to share a part of the grandfather they'd never known. And I got to feel the joy my dad felt with me as they whooped it up when the princess in the movie came to the rescue. They'd grown up with Ariel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but my bra caught fire the first time I introduced them to Princess Leia Organa.
I knew how I felt about Princess Leia as a kid, but I didn't know if they'd have the same appreciation. They're living in a time when women are shattering glass ceilings left and right, whereas I was told in 6th grade that "girls just aren't good at math." I wondered if Leia would be such a radical character for my girls.
After the first episode, my 7-year-old asked for Leia buns. She was hooked, and she begged to enroll in the Jedi Training Academy on our trip to Disney World that summer. One afternoon I peeked in her room to find her trying to move her stuffed cat across the bed using The Force. I came in and asked what she was doing and she said, "Mom, I think I'm a Jedi." I stifled my chuckles as we talked serious shop about the films, and I'll never forget hearing my daughter say, "I just love Princess Leia because she doesn't just sit there and wait for some boy to come rescue her. She just grabs a gun and has her own ideas."
Carrie Fisher portrayed one of the greatest heroines of the silver screen, and there's no doubt Star Wars fans around the world felt a great disturbance in The Force with her passing. Carrie was not Leia, but Leia would not have been the same without Carrie. Leia choked out her oppressor with the very chains he tried to bind her with, and Fisher basically told people to shove it up their a** when questioned about her weight while reprising her role as General Organa.
I know what her character meant to my generation, but I wondered if those sentiments were still the same for the new generation of Star Wars fans. We asked moms to ask their kids what Princess Leia meant to them, and here's what they had to say.
"She's super cool. I really like her because at the end she has a super cool hair style. She has really good ideas, and she's really awesome. But my favorite character is Chewbacca because he's super furry like Ninner (Betty's cat.)"
"I think she is nice and kind princess. I like how she actually fights and protects her people. Just like I sometimes I have to protect my brother. She is a great role model for girls because she is more real life than sitting around looking pretty. She means to me that girls can do anything they want to do with strength and kindness. She is also cool in her white dress when she knights Hans Solo."
Ben, 7 & Jonathan, 5
Jonathan (5): "I love she. She is really fun in the movies, and in the new one she is the General and she is in charge of everyone."
Ben (7): "She's one of my favorite Star Wars characters. I think she's different from everyone else because she tries to be helpful instead of always fighting. Like she helps Luke blow up the Death Star but doesn't do it herself. But he couldn't do it without her."
Ben and Jonathan are better known as Big and Little Arrow, respectively, on the popular travel mom blog Arrows Sent Forth.
"I like her because she's a princess and she's fights bad guys."
"She's from Star Wars, and she has two buns on the side of her head. And she has brown hair. She's strong because she goes on the Star Wars missions too. I like her because she's cool."
Brae'Lee said she loves Princess Leia because she is Darth Vader's daughter, and she has pretty twisties in her hair. She said her favorite scene is when Leia stood up to her father, Darth Vader, in A New Hope. Brae'Lee added that she loves all princesses no matter who they are because they are girls like her.
"She's hard to describe. I like that she’s a rebel because I kind of like rebels. And without Leia, no one would have collected the plans for the Death Star. It could be weird."
Grace, 7 & Danny, 4
What do you like most about Princess Leia?
Grace (7): "She fights for other people's lives."
Danny (4): "Her lightsaber and gun."
How does she compare to other princesses you've seen in movies?
Grace: "She is like Merida. She is strong and brave. She also makes important decisions that affect other people's lives."
Danny: "She doesn't have a big dress. She carries a gun. She doesn't sing songs."
Did you like her character?
Grace: "Yes. She is nice and cares for other people."
Danny: "Yes. Because she has a gun."
"I think of her white dress, and that she helps people. I like her as a princess because she is more assertive than other princesses, in that she handles problems better."
Laura, 16 & Ava, 9
Laura (16): I was really sad to hear about her death because she is such a big part of something that I love so much. I feel so bad for her family, but it also makes me curious about how the rest of the Star Wars movies will go because she is gone. In the originals she was a different type of princess because she was strong and independent, although she didn't have a huge role. But now I've heard that she was supposed to be more of a major character in the upcoming films. I'm really curious to see if her role will be cut out, re-casted or still the same using CGI. Because my parents are also big Star Wars fans I've been into it for as long as I can remember and I watch the movies all the time...seriously. It'll be sad now watching them and remembering that she's gone."
Ava (9): "I think Princess Leia was a strong lady, and she was awesome. I wish she could have lived longer to be in more movies."
Carrie Fisher may be gone, but her legacy will live on for generations of children who will remember the beautiful, strong, kind, brave princess who proved she was so much more than a hairstyle.