In defense of little Leia, the believable and naughty child in “Obi-Wan Kenobi”

I started acting young, landing the first role in the community theater I auditioned for at age 9: Amaryllis in “The Music Man”, which had lines and a singing solo, much to my horror. At the first rehearsal, I was warned by the adult actors: Beware, the director doesn’t like children.

Was it WC Fields who said, “Never work with children or animals”? It makes sense. Children steal the scenes, chew the scenery. In the case of dogs, they can eat it. Later, in my illustrious career in community theater, I did a production of “The Wizard of Oz,” where the dog, Toto, simply walked offstage to be petted by the audience. The animal actor was replaced by the director’s daughter, who played . . . a dog. Community theater in rural Ohio in the 1990s was wild.

But having a child in your production, especially a young one, can spell a lot of trouble, especially if the story is based on their success, as in the Disney+ show “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” The Baby Yoda of this “Star Wars” ship is a little princess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair), whose appearance was the surprise in the series premiere.

RELATED: “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Reminds Us That The Force Isn’t Always With Us—And That’s OK!

Social media was quick to judge the little princess. She is very chatty. She’s very smart. “Too precocious, too smart for her age,” writes Forbes. I’m feeling a lot too much here for a female character. She doesn’t behave like a “real” child, critics say. As a parent, let me tell you: the only thing no The real thing about this kid is that her hair stays in place and she’s not totally filthy. She is also the classic Leia. This child is a child and it is canon.

Leia is cute, probably essential to most kids on screen, and looks small for her age (perhaps Blair was younger than her character’s 10 years during filming). When Leia puts her hand in Obi-Wan’s, my own nearly 10-year-old daughter gasped at the smallness. But her half-liter size makes Leia more vulnerable, which is probably a good thing for the character. Otherwise, she is so capable that she may not appear to be in danger, even when kidnapped.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Princess Leia Organa (Official Music Video) Obi-Wan Kenobi – Princess Leia Organa (Official Music Video) (Lucasfilm/Disney+)“Obi-Wan” finds our titular hero in “retirement” on the planet Tatooine, in hiding and trying to keep an eye on Luke, the young son of his former protégé Anakin Skywalker, who, as we know, has gone to the dark side. (This might make you doubt yourself as a teacher.) The series takes place a decade after 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” which saw the Jedi destroyed and Anakin, who lost all his limbs thanks to to Obi-Wan, ascending to the Sith Lord Darth Vader. Obi-Wan is undercover on the dusty planet, working in a fish cannery of sorts in scenes reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s 1999 film “eXistenZ”.

Obi wan KenobiPrincess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) and Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Disney+/Lucasfilm)Meanwhile, on one of our favorite doomed and lush planets, Luke’s twin Leia, the adopted daughter of Senator Organa (Jimmy Smits, who appears not to have aged – or is a time traveler) is kidnapped by Inquisitors, who hunt Jedi. like New England witch hunters. Organa asks Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) for help.

Read does not hear. She’s not extremely grateful to have been rescued.

As the show’s writer and executive producer Joby Harold told SYFY WIRE, young Leia in distress was “the call to action for Obi-Wan… His presence was one of the few things – if not the only thing – that could pull Obi-Wan away from Luke.” It’s quite disturbing and unnoticed that Obi-Wan would be more concerned with his former student’s male child rather than the girl, which seems to speak less to Organa’s capable parents and incapable guards and more to sexism. But either way, out of his cave, away from his cannery and back to Jedi business, Obi-Wan goes.

Obi wan KenobiObi-Wan Kenobi – Princess Leia Organa (Official Music Video) Obi-Wan Kenobi – Princess Leia Organa (Official Music Video) (Disney+/Lucasfilm)As a Jedi, Obi-Wan cannot walk away from an innocent life in need. Especially not this life. But this child is, as they say, more than he bargains for. Read does not hear. She is not extremely grateful to have been rescued (remembering Leia later in life during other kidnapping, when she tells Luke in disguise, determined to save her, he’s “a little short for a stormtrooper”). One gets the impression that she could have rescued herself (she certainly tries). She is willful, sassy and chatty. She responds to everyone from her bully older cousin to her kidnappers and Obi-Wan (“It’s just that you look kind of old and beaten up”).

Would the famously fierce Fisher like a meek, characterless and unintelligent character – some people’s apparent idea of ​​a child – playing her?

Leia is not just a princess. She’s a “nice princess” and as the “nice girl” trope goes, she’s an adorable tomboy. She doesn’t conform to her role, which she says consists mainly of waving. She runs off into the woods to play, avoiding her official duties and her annoying fancy clothes. Like her mother before her, Leia has a waiting lady as a kind of bait.

Princess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Lucasfilm/Disney+)Something the “Star Wars” universe is so good at is always introducing some new adorable droid (I’m still not over the DO). So Leia has Lola (L0-LA59), a pocket-sized, ladybug-like toy droid that she is terribly attached to, perhaps in part due to the isolation of being a princess, as many children cling to a critter. plush or favorite toy. Lola also gives Leia a chance to show the extraordinary empathy inherent in her character. She is as kind and gracious to droids as she is to people. Remember adult Leia and the Ewoks? She shares her lunch.

Obi wan KenobiPrincess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) holding L0-LA59 (Lola) in “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Disney+/Lucasfilm)In the series, Obi-Wan is rusty in the Force, to the point of uncharacteristic incompetence, according to some critics. Not so Leia, who, being Force-sensitive, might be evading the bad guys this way. Or maybe it’s bad editing or less-than-magical direction that doesn’t find any adult capable of catching the little girl.

But Leia’s realistic abilities include lying when she and Obi-Wan run away, somewhat reminiscent of Drew Barrymore as Charlie in “Firestarter” (which Blair looks like, most than a little, in confident demeanor and acting skills). She remembers their disguise even when Obi-Wan doesn’t. Try to make a child forget about a dessert you promised.

It’s past time for Leia’s story, for fiction to give the feminist leader the epic story she deserves.

Children are not always sweet. They lie, manipulate, deceive. They also adapt. Leia is resilient, as the toughest kids are often. And your frankness is good for children. She also makes the character – and Carrie Fisher, who immortalizes Leia as an adult – proud. Would the famously fierce Fisher like a meek, characterless and unintelligent character – some people’s apparent idea of ​​a child – playing her? She wouldn’t. The sparks of the powerful leader that Leia will become are here: independent, nonconformist, defiant, but loyal.

So are the sparks of the bond between Obi-Wan and Leia. After all, Leia and Han, adults, call their son Ben. Maybe it’s because of that.

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Little Leia marks an important change to the story. When Obi-Wan looks at a young Luke from afar, checking out how the boy plays on his aunt and uncle’s moisture farm, you might think the show will focus on the boy. Fortunately and importantly, no. It’s past time for Leia’s story, for fiction to give the feminist leader the epic story she deserves.

And for those who say this little Leia doesn’t act like a child, let me introduce you my son, outspoken and so precocious that one of his nannies used to keep huge lists of his dictations. A common response from parents, particularly women on the internet, who tell stories about their own children is that it didn’t. (To what I would say: tell me you have no experience with children without telling me you have no experience with children.) “Obi-Wan” and the able Blair get it right: right for kids and right for this character in the start of your journey.

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