So I decided to indulge my love/hate relationship with John Scalzi's opinion pieces this morning by reading a column he did for Film Critic on how Ripley's status as the preeminent female character is as much due to the dearth of genuinely well-written female characters as it is due to Ripley being awesome, well-written, and well-acted. (I also decided to indulge my love of starting a blog post with "So I...", which I try not to do so much anymore.)
And what do I find? Apart from an actually extremely well-written essay about the way that even the "strong female characters" in sci-fi and fantasy are really just male fantasy figures, only nowadays they can kick people's ass, that is. I find this quote: "Some distance behind Sarah Connor is Princess Leia, who looks great on paper (a senator at 19! Leader of the rebellion! Feisty with Han Solo!) but who is woefully underwritten in every film she's in except The Empire Strikes Back and who isn't the focus of the series in any event."
So let me get this straight. When Princess Leia was risking her life by covertly spying for the Rebel Alliance, when she withstood brutal interrogation and truth drugs, when she cunningly stalled for time by "confessing" false information under duress, when she single-handedly took charge of her own rescue and shot her way out using someone else's blaster, then planned her own escape route, then deduced that the rescue was too easy and that they needed to act as though they were on a timetable...that was the "woefully underwritten" Leia.
When she got dragged around like a sack of potatoes by Big Strong Man Han Solo, when she carped and whined about every decision Han made only to be proven wrong at every turn because Han knows better about such things than a silly little girl, when she got forcibly kissed by Han only to swoon into his arms because all a woman really needs is a take-charge man who knows what he wants in the bedroom, when she hung out in her room changing her outfits and doing her hair and leaves Han and Chewie to make sure the Falcon gets repaired and C-3P0 gets found, when her primary contribution of the entire movie was to have a sudden "female intuition" that Luke is in danger...that's the strong female character who almost competes with Ripley.
This is how badly fan opinion has ossified in regards to the Star Wars trilogy. Even on a level where one movie is blatantly, demonstrably, provably superior to the other, even when a respected and devastatingly brilliant sci-fi writer like Jeanne Cavelos has already published a scathing essay pointing out how obvious it is that Leia becomes less and less feminist as the series progresses (my comments above owe a great debt to said essay, BTW)...we still get a token, "Empire is the best movie" thrown in there. Because it's just the Truth now, and facts only get in the way.
And since there are no comments on that column, I have to rant about it here and hope he sees it. Hey, it worked once before...