Princess Leia: Prophet of Advent

by Erik Lenhart

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December 18, 2015, is Friday of the Third Week of Advent. On that day, however, many will shout Gaudete and rejoice that the long period of waiting for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has ended. The new films are exciting for those who saw the Episodes IV-VI, because the original cast, including Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, will be reunited. In popular imagination Princess Leia conjures up two images: her sidebuns hairstyle and her slave-girl costume (a.k.a. golden bikini). While both styles are frozen as iconic images as if in carbonite, Leia's hairstyle and slave costume are really just distractions from what Leia really represents as a symbol of emancipation from chains.

In "Return of the Jedi," Leia is captured again and forced into slavery by Jabba the Hutt. Despite being stripped of her dignity and clothing, Leia kills her captor and helps the other rebels escape. While Luke gets the glory for destroying the Death Star in Episode IV, he has photon torpedoes and the Force (a powerful ally) at his disposal. With only her pluck and moxie in Episode VI, Leia uses the very means of her enslavement -- her chains -- to slay Jabba. She accomplishes this all while scantily clad.

The theme of woman-liberator is also present in the Old Testament. The scene of Leia slaying Jabba echoes Judith beheading Holofernes with his own sword (Judith 13), and Jael driving a tent-peg through the temple of Sisera (Judges 5:23-27). Some interpreters include Mary on the list of liberating warrior women. The antiphon for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception reads, "The Lord God said to the serpent: I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring; she will crush your head, alleluia."

All of these women subvert stereotypes by freeing themselves and their people from oppression. When Disney acquired the rights to "Star Wars," Leia joined the likes of Merida ("Brave") and Mulan as warrior Disney princesses. Besides breaking chains, these princesses also break the stereotypes of damsels in distress. I am optimistic that the upcoming "Star Wars" films will focus more on Leia's heroism than her fashion.

Advent is the season that proclaims freedom for captives and liberation for those in chains. Advent invites us to examine the areas of our lives that are still awaiting liberty. We all acquire our chains in various ways, but the Lord is born into our lives to invite us into the Paschal Mystery, the process by which through our participation our chains are broken and our freedom restored. Advent is a time of waiting for the light which illumines our culture, literature, and even science-fiction movies. This is the light of the Lord's coming in history (A long time ago…) and visiting us today to break our chains and invite us into a peaceful future union with God now and forever. Cue John Williams' "Star Wars" theme music.

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