Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.
With the new push to have more female inspiration in media, there has also been an accompanying blow back as well for improving past female heroes. Taking inspirations from years ago and revamping them to be a more modern badass than they were in their prime.
This is the case with Princess Leia from the Star Wars franchise. Although she already was a tough and independent woman before that became a trope, there has been as of late a re-imagining of the daughter of Darth Vader as a jedi knight, like her brother Luke. This was already the case in the Expanded Universe before it was replaced by Disney. In that timeline, Leia had quit being a politician and embraced her family heritage.
Though the recent movies have not fully capitalized on that, there have been new comics and novelizations presenting the idea that if Leia had been trained by Yoda instead of Luke, she would have been better suited. So just for fun, I thought I’d examine that claim.
For context, lets take a step back and look at it from a family dynamic. Starting with her parents, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, much has already been made (and complained about) of the twins’ inherited strength in the force. Power is only part of the story though.
Anakin was head-strong and overly confident, relying on his abilities to carry him through to the end. He was also quick-tempered. He always believed his motivations to be just and that it justified his actions, rarely ever questioning his resolve. When he was open to console, it was only from a small number of people and even then, those he was close to. Breaking that trust or offending it in anyway was a severe offense that was not forgotten or forgiven. Many of his peers interpreted these qualities as arrogance.
However, these same aggressive traits also made the jedi prodigy a great leader. He was capable of taking charge when the situation called for it, inspiring others under him to follow him to hell and back: sometimes literally. Where he did not rely on his force powers, Anakin instead resorted to his charisma and force of will which were also considerable.
Padme in contrast was less aggressive though just as firm of mind in most cases (similar to the Silmarillion’s Feanor and Nerdanel). Padme’s confidence was passive as part of both her political training and personality. Rarely did she feel the need to impress upon others her abilities or need their affirmation,as when she tried to convince Qui Gon Jinn that he was making a mistake. Over time, these occurrences became less. When she was decisive, then like Anakin, her mind was impossible to change. However for all her single-minded moments, she still had much more fore-thought than her husband, who was more reliant on instinct and the force.
So how do these traits affect Leia and her potential as a jedi knight?
Hard and Soft Power
Early in the original trilogy, Leia quickly establishes more of her father’s personality than her mother's, minus her size and appearance. She is quick-witted in the face of danger, even when her life is under threat such as her direct confrontations with her father as Darth Vader. She openly insults a Wookie who could easily tear her to shreds and shows open disdain with those whom she despises like Tarkin and Jabba the Hutt, the latter whom she killed.
She also is quick to take charge when she feels that the leadership is failing. She doesn’t suffer fools lightly, such as during the almost, ill-fated rescue from the Death Star, deciding to kill Jabba during the sail barge battle, and decades later, immediately quelling the mutiny on the Raddus by shooting and stunning Poe Dameron. Leia’s stubbornness was also rather infamous. The harder you pushed against her when she was trying to tell you to do something, the harder she pushed back. This was the foundation of her relationship with Han Solo, who shared similar traits.
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She was also just as charismatic as Anakin, inspiring others to follow her orders by hope in spite of overwhelming odds, or sheer force of will. And she acted on this as well, being on the fore front of the battlefield when the situation called for it.
Padme’s influence slowly comes out more over time. Leia was capable of masking her confidence and power. Her inherited small frame helped her out in this capacity a great deal. Though she could be boastful, she normally didn’t demand attention unless it was as a distraction, when she lost her tempter, or in extreme cases, when she was actually trying to kill you. She barely concealed her distrust of Lando on Cloud City while still remaining civil. And controlled her rage until the right time when she gave Lando the death stare after Han was frozen and later almost had Chewie kill him for it.
Leia also had a sense of greater situational awareness than her brother and father. She often had a plan for her actions and rarely haphazardly jumped into action cold. Like both parents, she was fiercely loyal, often going to great lengths for them even when it would have been more prudent to leave them behind. By the time of The Last Jedi, she is far more aware of the consequences of her actions than she was on the Death Star.
"Leia would have provided definite advantages in training, but taken longer for it to take hold and just would have given Yoda a different set of problems."
The Would-Be Jedi
Leia is often seen as being the better jedi trainee because she was more composed than Luke and complained less. She was also more of a leader and had the experience and training to boot, even by the time of Episode Four. However, these very traits would also have been hindrances to her training into a mystical form that she only heard stories of and no known experience with.
According to George Lucas, Leia represents the more practical aspect of life where as Luke represented the spiritual side. Luke also clearly had issues with this when trying to raise the X-wing from the swamp. He believed in the Force, but only as an agent bound to the laws of the physical plain. Leia would have been even more prone to this perspective given that she had to have a plan for just about everything from an early age. To just rely on instinct and believe didn’t track well with her, like what happened on the Death Star. There is a saying in some martial arts circles about training students who already think they know everything they need to know: a cup that is already full. It would be fair to say that seeing the force as tool rather than a mystical, semi-sentient agent is also Skywalker trait.
Then there is the fact that she also shares the Skywalker temper. She may not be as whiny as her brother and father, but she is just as quick to explode. Anger is probably the strongest family trait other than the strength in the force. And given that part of Yoda’s training is to push his students hard, harder given the galactic circumstances at the time, Leia would have probably lost her temper at some point just like Luke did. She has to be forced into a situation in order to believe something. She only believed in the Force and that Vader was her father when Luke forced on her the knowledge when he was leaving. She couldn’t run from it or have the time to go into denial. Luke had to be called out many times, but when he was, he was a quick-study afterwards.
Same Power, Different Usage
I don’t think Leia would have been as quick to fall into Vader’s trap either on Cloud City. She probably still would have confronted the Sith Lord, but on her terms rather than being led along by the nose. And speaking of Vader, yea she definitely would have killed him.
Leia had her entire planet destroyed and Vader was a party to that. Plus he had also tortured her on the Death Star and Han on Cloud City. Given her temperament she would have gone along with Yoda’s and Kenobi’s plan to kill Darth Vader because her own experiences would have prevented her from seeing any good in him.
As far as show of force goes (pardon the pun), she more than likely would have been more subtle with it and not as open Anakin and Luke was. Her political training called for playing down her hand when it could gain the most advantage, and Leia could accomplish more with her own force of will than force-choking someone. Her power I believe is equal to Luke’s because of being twins, but how it was used would be different. She may not be as good of a swordsmen as Luke because of the focus on diplomacy and subtlety, though inherit skill could carry her over as it often did Anakin. A more aggressive show would come into play when she lost her temper. In the Disney canon, Leia is said to have used the Dark Side to muster the strength to choke Jabba to death.
So to sum it all up, Leia would have been a powerful jedi, as powerful as Luke, but she would have used it differently and come into her own with it differently as well. It would take longer to train her because of the training she already had. She may still lose her temper, even if less so than Luke, and she probably would not have surpassed Kenobi and Yoda by sparing Vader because of her own past trauma hindering the larger, more mystical picture. Leia would have provided definite advantages in training, but taken longer for it to take hold and just would have given Yoda a different set of problems. These don’t make her lesser than Luke, just different.
© 2018 Jamal Smith
Seth Tomko from Macon, GA on March 27, 2018:
An interesting and thoughtful examination.