Wednesday, June 28, 2017

From Princess to General

Because I am perpetually behind the times, I have not yet seen Wonder Woman, the first big-screen adaptation of Diana Prince's story. However, the Internet has been awash with discussions of the film and its constituents, from forebears to alternate screenplays, and I've seen enough at this point that I want to highlight one recurring meme in particular:

This is honestly one of my favorite things I've ever seen online. Up top, you have Robin Wright, who first came to prominence as Princess Buttercup in the film adaptation of The Princess Bride and has most recently portrayed Diana's mother Hippolyta in Wonder Woman. Below, of course, we see the late Carrie Fisher, first as the young Princess Leia in A New Hope and then--almost 40 years later--as General Organa in The Force Awakens.

The reason I love it so much is because it encapsulates a mighty shift in our culture. Have we had badass women on screen in the past? Absolutely! From Buffy to Xena to Sydney Bristow to The Bride, and even Leia herself, there are plenty of worthy examples, and I'm happy to give credit where it's due. The difference, in this case, largely revolves around one word: princess.

Having grown up during the Disney Renaissance, and being the aunt of a little girl, I am perhaps alarmingly well-versed in the language of fictional princesses. Don't get me wrong: I was, and remain, a huge fan of Disney, but as an adult, I do recognize the indoctrination I endured. (As a side note, Disney now owns the Star Wars properties, which--in a very technical sense--means that Leia has joined the ranks of Ariel, Aurora, and Anna, as many others have pointed out in the past.)

The dilemma is that we females have spent large swaths of our lives being told that girls are "sugar, spice, and everything nice," that we should be "ladylike," that we need to find our lives searching for our own personal Prince Charming. It's pretty problematic when you consider it, because we live in a society that has ostensibly progressed but often seems to backslide badly.

So when I see images of Hippolyta in action and General Organa working hard to ensure the safety of those around her, I get a little giddy. As I said in a Facebook post just after Fisher's death last December: yes, I love the princess who sasses Darth Vader, keeps herself together even after watching her planet destroyed, infiltrates Jabba's palace, and all that. But I love General Organa more, because she is the end product of all those things followed by 30 more years of hard work and dedication. In other words, General Organa is what daring girls all over the world have the capacity to become if they persevere.

The problem is, our society tends to squash those sparks of personality and ambition, so it is extremely important that we continue to give girls (and boys) good, strong female role models in our media. It lets girls know that the line they're fed about having the capacity to be whatever they want when they grow up isn't just bullshit--even though it feels like that some days, given the typical images with which we are all bombarded on a daily basis.

And I hope, also, that the women out there who think they "don't need feminism" are waking up a little through this journey with two lovely princesses turned generals. It would be fantastic to know that children aren't the only ones affected by more positive portrayals of strong women whose power doesn't stem from their royalty but through the battles they wage to keep others safe and equal (equal being the operative word).


Images via here, here, here, and here.

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