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Original photo by Courtney Wells

Light, Loss, and Leia: My Love Letter to Star Wars

The booming orchestral sounds of John Williams’s score holds a vivid spot in the realm of my childhood memory bank. There are some experiences that you simply can’t forget and, for me, hearing that opening fanfare for the first time is one of them. While I could say that this memory began years ago when I was around nine-years-old, I guess you could say that it all truly began a long time ago… in a galaxy… far, far away. (You see where I’m going with this, right?) During this pivotal weekend, my dad decided that we were going to finally watch Star Wars together. It was just the two of us and we had six lengthy space operas to get through, so a lot of caffeine and popcorn was utilized in the process. It’s genuinely funny to think about how naive I was back then. At the time, I was just a kid watching some space movies with her dad. I couldn’t have possibly fathomed how much I would be able to watch this series grow, nor did I realize how much this series would cause me to grow, too.

[bf_image id="97jrn83xqwqzrnc8fpfjhbjv"] From epic chase sequences to a monologue about an intense disliking for sand, my love for every aspect of this series continued to develop after that one fateful weekend. My dad passed away before the latest trilogy of films was released and it saddens me to know that he’ll never be able to experience all of the new wonders that this franchise continues to bestow to the world. There are so many parts of the series that he’ll never get to experience (a new trilogy, spin-off films, spin-off TV shows, and an entire section of Disneyland). However, I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that he introduced me to this series because it’s made such a lasting impact on who I am as a person.

This franchise gave me strong womxn role models to look up to throughout my childhood, in my time as a teenager, and even now as a young adult. I admired Princess Leia and I wanted to be her when I grew up. I wanted to be a commanding force who took charge and felt no shame in doing so. I wanted to be a princess and a warrior. I wanted to wrap myself in my femininity and use it as a suit of armor because Leia showed me that femininity is not an adversity to be hidden — it’s a resilient fortitude that should be embraced. I idolized her relentlessly because it felt as if she reflected who I was whilst also showing me everything that I could be. This admiration quickly expanded and grew as I found myself seeking refuge in the many powerful womxn characters that flourish within the Star Wars universe. Leia, Rey, Rose, Padmé, Jyn, Ahsoka. They each depict the personality traits that I want to recognize in myself and they convey characteristics of bravery, compassion, strength, and endurance that I yearn for in the moments where I feel like there’s an entire galaxy resting on my shoulders. They’re fictional characters with fictional stories, but the vigorous power that they helped me find and recognize within myself is entirely real.

[bf_image id="q7202m-eo7k6o-f4dgag"] Moreover, this series also taught me what it means to truly fight for what you believe in. Each Star Wars story communicates a tale of perseverance and the struggle for justice. Growing up and hearing these mantras about rebellions and hope molded me into the activist that I am today. I passionately care about a countless number of issues, so watching these characters resist darkness and persist toward light is what shaped my confidence and my willingness to use my voice. There’s always been a spark in me to speak up and to argue for what’s right; Star Wars was simply the match that finally lit that fire.

To say that this franchise has changed my life is an understatement. As I pave my path into adulthood, having Star Wars as this constant comfort is something that I’m truly grateful for. There will always be days when I’m overwhelmed and stressed and tired and I just want to scream into oblivion, but I know I’ll always have my favorite characters with their cheesy dialogue and dramatic lightsaber-wielding duels to turn to if I’m in desperate need of a temporary escape into another world.

[bf_image id="q55hak-a7ln9k-5lt3u1"] Above all, Star Wars is a reminder of a time with my dad that I cherished. Grief can be my biggest enemy sometimes, but these types of fond memories are my saving grace. I don’t get sad when I watch these movies and think of him; instead, I think about the bond that we forged when we watched them together and I feel thankful to have shared that with him. I don’t just see myself in Star Wars. I see my dad, too, which truly captures the most important lesson that Star Wars has ever taught me: “No one’s ever really gone.”

Courtney Wells

UC Riverside '22

Courtney is an undergrad at UC Riverside with a major in Sociology and a minor in Feminist Studies. She is passionate about social justice, intersectional feminism, and political activism. She is a lover of reading, iced tea, dad jokes, scary movies, cheese fries, and Taylor Swift. She can usually be found rewatching Pride and Prejudice (2005) with her cats.
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