(Note - the following contains NO SPOILERS for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Unless, of course, you count the fact that Carrie Fisher's Leia Organa will feature in it to be a SPOILER, in which case reading this sentence was probably a bad idea. Sorry about that.)
Now, there are a whole lot of reasons to be excited about the imminent arrival of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on the big screen. It is, after all, pretty much the most eagerly awaited movie since...well, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, back in 1999, and between the talented young cast, the series of gloriously teasing trailers and the genuine enthusiasm of director J.J. Abrams, there's little reason to be anything other than overexcited. The biggest reason for many, though, remains the return of the original cast.
With frantic murmurings about Luke Skywalker's potential role in the movie having taken center stage in recent weeks, however, and Han Solo's before that, there's been relatively little discussion of the third part of the original trilogy's holy trinity: Princess Leia Organa.
Which is a shame, since...
Princess Leia's Role in Episode VII Looks Set to Be a Really Big Deal
Well, as Mary Elizabeth Williams recently pointed out on Salon.com:
Episode VII's Leia is Set to Be a Strong Female Lead (Who's Actually Been Allowed to Age)
Which might not seem like too big a deal, until you think about just how few members there are of that particular club. Where male characters - especially in the kind of action franchises that actually last long enough to make aging a relevant issue - tend to be allowed to age within a franchise (see Jones, Indiana and Hard, Die, for two prime examples), female leads tend to either be written out as the actresses who play them age, or be sidelined into supporting roles.
Now, it's entirely possible that Leia will, in fact play a largely supporting role - especially in Episode VII, which seems set to be very much Han-focused - yet it seems deeply unlikely that, over the course of the upcoming trilogy, she'll play anything less than a central and integral part in the events we see unfold. After all, she's Leia goddamn Organa, for crying out loud.
Of course, as Williams points out, there's another side to Leia's presence - and in particular the conditions with which Carrie Fisher was given the chance to return to the role that made her an icon. Not only was Fisher required to lose a substantial amount of weight, but Hollywood's inexplicable and deeply problematic double standards when it comes to "age appropriateness" haven't gone away over the past 30 years - Harrison Ford remains 15 years her senior.
That, though, is a grey lining to an otherwise very bright cloud. As Williams puts it:
"In a business — and God knows, in particular a genre — in which women are all but invisible and women who are over thirty are practically unheard of, the sight of an older, softer Leia is cause for cheering. Gone are the cinnamon buns over her ears. Gone is the gold bikini. And yet she’s still here, still a character worth rooting for. Who needs special effects when you’ve got her?"
What do you reckon, though?