It’s interesting to watch the Republican candidates on the field of battle. The sniping and potshots can be fun for someone on the other side. It’s decidedly less fun to watch the Democrats in the media doing the same thing. Not the candidates, the media. And the voters. The candidates have, so far, been fairly civilized and focused on the issues. Recently Sanders told interviewers that he would not run as a third party candidate if he didn’t get the nomination, for fear of splitting the vote and allowing one of the Republicans to win the White House. This is refreshing and positive, and I wish the voters and watchers of politicians would take a cue from them.
So far, the best analogy I’ve seen said it was like Star Trek fans arguing over whether Picard of Kirk is the better captain. But recently, I came up with a better one. My mother shared an article about Hillary Clinton’s “cute-and-little” problem: the fact that young women go through a stage where they are viewed as “cute-and-little” by their male (and female) peers, bosses and managers, and are therefore encouraged by these men because they are not yet threatening. And this is insightful: I remember this time in my own life and it’s easy to believe that it will last forever, that feminism is no longer needed, because a woman can succeed on her merits. And there is a character near and dear to my heart that demonstrates how this works, perfectly. You all know her too. It’s Princess Leia.
Now I’m not exactly saying that Hillary Clinton = Princess Leia, but there are some similarities that illustrate the “cute-and-little” problem. For starters, you can compare the character Leia from A New Hope to Leia from The Force Awakens. ANH Leia is bad ass. As the film opens, she gets caught because she was just so balls out that she was still acting as a diplomat to spy on Sith lords. Even knowing she’s liable to be executed, her mission is crucial and she risks everything to get the Death Star plans to the rebellion. She’s handy with a blaster, fearless and she doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Not even the guys who show up to rescue her.
This sums up her interactions with Luke and Han pretty well.
She’s young and idealistic and she hates Han Solo for trying to leave before the Battle of Yavin.
Things are not much friendlier at the beginning of Empire:
But then, she discovers she has feelings for that lovable rogue...
Even though he’s kind of a dick.
And maybe he’s not the most savory guy ever and she winds up having to bail him out. And her maybe her
feminist I mean rebel cred suffers a little bit.
Wait, maybe it’s her progressive cred...
But that’s just how you get things done, in the real world. Sometimes you have to have drinks with an odious larval creature. And these are just the calculations you have to make if you want to find solutions to problems that are complicated.
And so it goes, through the years. You make mistakes but your positions evolve and you never loose sight of the greater good you know is possible. And maybe you spend 20 years ushering positive change into a system that is deeply flawed, but functional. But then, when it comes time for another movie to be made, none of that is good enough for the screen. Instead of a firebrand, you have to be matronly, because that no-good cad* you married would rather fall into his old habits instead of sticking around through the hard, lean years while you’re responsible for defeating an empire. And he gets to have adventures and chase wild aliens with the kids, while your screen time is spent like this:
That’s a far cry from “scruffy looking nerf herder.” And remember, this is after he ditched her with at least one troubled teen. This is the face you have to have to keep the rebellion together though, because you’re not allowed to be wild and passionate once you’re past the “cute-and-little” years. And even though ANH was made in 1977, the Leia we see in TFA is burdened by having to act her age, in a movie featuring old men flying space ships.
This is what I wish Gloria Steinem would have said, instead of her nonsense about young women supporting Sanders to meet boys. Young women should support whatever candidate they believe in. It is great to be idealistic and uncompromising in your opinions. And personally, there is a lot I like about Sanders. I am going to be happy to vote for him if he wins the primary. But you’re getting an object lesson in what happens when a woman has to handle real power. You’re not allowed to show up with wild hair and the same glasses you’ve had for 40 years. And even 50 years after real women burned their bras, it’s still not a story that we see depicted in detail. It dribbles out in bits and pieces as narratives take place with powerful, competent women relegated to the background. To act out roles that would seem foreign to their younger selves.
*I actually like Bill a lot