A Remembrance by Chris Lewis
My older brother was always yelling at me. Hurry up! Get out of my room! And, of course, Don’t tell Mom!
But this was a movie day. Mom didn’t mind and Dad never cared what we saw, as long as my brother took me along. Defying logic, two kids together equaled safety.
And Ed always got to pick the movie.
Star Wars was my introduction to a new type of princess. All the other princesses in the animated world of Disney were pretty maidens waiting for a prince to save them from the poison apple, prolonged sleep, or slave labor. The whole of their talents seemed to be singing and talking to animals. Their hair was always long, faces pretty, and dresses perfect for dancing.
Princess Leia was a warrior who led the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire. When captured, she planted a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi in R2-D2 to alert him of her fate. Throughout the original trilogy, she could pick up a weapon as easily as any of the men in the party; trade barbs with Han Solo; and coordinate the missions of evacuating the rebel base and attacking the newest version of the Death Star. Risking capture, she faced Jabba in an attempted rescue of Han Solo. And the best scene ever was Leia strangling Jabba the Hut with her own chains.
In those movies, no one suggested Princess Leia should be taken somewhere safe and away from the action. No one questioned her ability to make decisions or to take a leading role in the fight. I don’t remember her wardrobe being a topic of conversation among the characters. She seemed perfectly comfortable in her functional clothes and hairstyles.
While I opened Barbies for Christmas, Ed got plastic Lightsabers and action figures, never to be confused with dolls. While my Barbies had a bunch of different outfits and feet molded only for high heels, Ed’s toys could stage battles and fight the evil empire by using the Force. He would give me the ones from the Dark Side and would get annoyed if too many of my Stormtroopers were surviving the attack.
“But you have to lose,” Ed insisted.
“Why?” I would ask. “I want to be the Princess.”
Eventually, he would give me Princess Leia and I could be fearless and strong, too.
Back then, there were lots of battles to be fought. Everyone in the neighborhood had a water gun in summertime, the souped-up versions. Ed and his best friend Dave squared off, choosing teams. The rules were simple: Hit as many of the enemy as you can without getting hit. I ran after Ed with my own blaster, and he would yell back for me to catch up. “C’mon, Chris! Let’s go!”
We abandoned the lawns and newly planted trees for the back of the subdivision the developers had yet to reach. The muddy creek and scruffy trees made up a different planet with plenty of great hiding places. I ducked behind trees and crawled through the overgrown grass patches and fired at will. And the knees of my jeans would get soaked when I dunked the gun underwater to reload.
Eventually, the group would disband, usually without a clear winner and no one seemed to care. Ed and I would walk back into the house wet, muddy, and grass-stained. My mother’s disapproving stare was reserved for me.
But I was a warrior and a princess, just like Princess Leia.
Chris Lewis grew up playing Galaga and Pac Man, and can clearly remember watching Poltergeist on this new thing called “HBO”. She lives in Kansas City and spends most of her time writing fiction, ordering take-out, and corrupting her children with classic movies, TV shows and video games.