“6 Reasons Princess Leia is Actually Sylvia Plath,” by Charles Ramsay McCrory

Jan 29th, 2014 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

1. Electra is strong with this one.

Much like the speaker in Plath’s poem “Daddy,” Leia must be sorting through some daddy issues  of her own. Just look at Vader’s hand clutching her shoulder as they watch Alderaan being disintegrated; and what exactly went on between Leia, Vader and that interrogation probe behind the closed blast door of her cell? Discovering that your hated captor and torturer was your father all along is the stuff confessional poetry was made for. Here’s what that might look like:

“and the Ewoks never liked you.
They are roasting weenies on you.
You always knew I spoke true.

Daddy, daddy, you womp rat, go screw.”

2. Her politics are personal.

With “Daddy,” Plath framed her narrative of filial angst in political terms, casting the speaker as a Jew and her father a Nazi. Leia doesn’t even need to take these poetic liberties: as the Rebel daughter of a high-ranking Imperial officer, she has enough politics in her family situation. The lines “Every woman adores a fascist,/The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of a brute like you” are practically written for her and Vader’s dynamic.

3. Her sense of place is damaged.

Leia copes admirably well with the total annihilation of her planet–home, family, photo albums, wardrobe, all atomized in the blink of an eye. Of course, there is work to be done, and the Rebellion can’t pause for her grieving process. Still, she must be reeling from this event, because it represents the destruction of her personal history. No record now remains of her life prior to leaving Alderaan. To make things more confusing, Leia never gets to confront her father the way Luke does. One minute she learns the truth about her parentage; the next, Dad’s on a funeral pyre surrounded by dancing Ewoks. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to hug things out. One can imagine Leia combing the rubble of Alderaan or the sands of Vader’s native Tatooine the way “Daddy”’s speaker visits Poland in her fruitless search for her father’s memory–

“So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.”

–or simply saying, of any future reconciliation with Vader, “You died before I had time.”

4. She’s not all about getting rescued.

During her stay as a political prisoner on the Death Star, Leia acts pretty blasé about the whole damsel-in-distress experience. As if unaware that she could be “terminated” at any moment, she pauses in her barrage of caustic one-liners only to watch the Death Star do to Alderaan what she’s been doing to every male ego onboard. Even when she gets rescued, her gratitude isn’t readily apparent. She bullies Han, emasculates Luke (“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”–owch! right in the pituitary gland) and throws some racist shade Chewie’s way (more on that later). Her “oh-goody” outlook on her own plight sounds a lot like the speaker in Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” who seriously could not be happier that she’s been saved from a suicide attempt. Ms. Lazarus’ thank-you note to her doctors:

“Do not think I underestimate your grave concern.”

Thanks for saving me, guys. Really.

5. Her racial attitudes have come into question.

I don’t know how racially diverse Alderaan was–probably no more so than 1950’s Cambridge, given Leia’s strange intolerance of Wookiees. Not only does she refer to Chewie as a “walking carpet,” but she also somehow neglects to give him a medal at the Death Star Pwners Appreciation Ceremony. The Empire has stricken back (along with the Galactic Civil Liberties Union, presumably) by the time Leia starts acknowledging Chewie as a sentient being, and by then she’s using him as muscle to strangle the one black person in the entire galaxy. Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, doesn’t handle meeting her first person of color very well, either. Her description of a black employee on her psych ward is cringe-worthy. “The Negro kept grinning and chuckling in a silly way,” she recounts, and “gawped at us with big, rolling eyes.” Badass as they can be, Leia and Sylvia often remind us that they’re still privileged white girls at heart.

6. So has her place in the patriarchy.

Opinion on Leia’s role as a woman remains split. Is she merely The Girl, only as independent as the male-driven storyline needs her to be, doomed to be rescued in increasingly ridiculous outfits? Or does she subvert her gender expectations by taking a commanding role in the Rebel Alliance (not to mention strangling Jabba the Hutt–in a fan-serving metal bikini, but still)? Plath’s role is just as controversial. It would be easy to cast her as a victim who took her own life in order to escape both her oppressive domestic role and her abandonment by womanizing scumbag Ted Hughes. However, her writing took a sharp look at patriarchal oppression and inspired a generation of women poets. Lines such as “Out of the ash/I rise with my red hair/And I eat men like air” have the same biting, bruising quality that Leia’s chain had on Jabba’s trachea.

Bonus: Plath published The Bell Jar under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Other potential names included Emily Skywalker and Abbie-Wan Kenobi.


Plath, Sylvia, and Ted Hughes. The Collected Poems. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Print.


Defenestration-Charles Ramsay McCroryCharles Ramsay McCrory is a sophomore English major at The University of Mississippi. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Coachella Review, plain china, Gargoyle Magazine, Thought Catalog and SOFTBLOW, among others. He reads fiction submissions for The Adroit Journal. Follow him here.

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