Carrie Fisher was still a teenager when she was cast as Princess Leia, and George Lucas gets a lot of mileage, especially early in the trilogy, out of the contrast between Leia’s youthful, sweet appearance and her sharp tongue and forceful manner. Leia is a post-feminist sort of princess, equally comfortable firing a blaster or piloting a ship as she is conducting a medal ceremony. Toward the end of the trilogy, we also learn that Leia has the potential to become a Jedi, just like Luke. Leia is a Senator, a princess, and a leader of the Rebel Alliance, and her devotion to duty and to the cause of freedom is one of her defining characteristics. This devotion prevents Leia from acknowledging to Han her growing love for him, and it even prevents her from admitting it to herself. Leia tells Han that he is needed as a leader and a pilot, but never that she needs him herself. Han, of course, tries to goad an admission out of her, but his efforts only cause her to bottle up her feelings even more, though she does make some efforts to inspire jealousy in Han by kissing Luke (before she learns that they are brother and sister). Leia finally tells Han that she loves him, just when it is almost too late and he is about to be frozen alive.

Leia takes part in the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, freeing him from the carbon freeze, only to be taken captive herself by Jabba. Up to this point in the trilogy, Leia has dressed modestly, favoring practical, functional clothing over anything fancy. Now, however, she is forced by Jabba to don a revealing harem outfit, complete with gold bikini, and to wear a chain around her neck. Leia’s reaction to the situation is thoroughly in character and reveals the way her character smashes the adventure-fantasy stereotypes about sexy princesses. In the confusion caused by Luke’s surprise attack, Leia hops behind Jabba, loops the chain around his massive neck, and strangles him to death. Leia then helps Luke destroy Jabba’s barge before escaping with the others. The scene is a perfect summation of the kind of reversal of expectations typical of Leia throughout the trilogy.