Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for setting the stage for strong women throughout 'Star Wars'

Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Shortly after we first meet Princess Leia in 1977's "Star Wars," we find her getting rescued by two men (and a Wookiee). While this seems to fit the narrative of a typical princess -- a damsel in distress who needs saving from peril to preserve her femininity -- this isn't exactly the case for Leia.

When she and her rescuers (Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca) are trapped by oncoming stormtroopers after they break her out of her cell, Leia quips, "This is some rescue," grabs a blaster, blows a hole in a vent to the garbage shoot and declares: "Somebody has to save our skins!"

Carrie Fisher, who portrayed Leia in the "Star Wars" films and set a new standard for princess characters, died Tuesday at the age of 60.

Leia was never simply a sidekick in a man's quest to save the galaxy. Rather, she was integral to the battle against the Empire in both the original trilogy and in "The Force Awakens," the saga's seventh installment that was released last year. Without her, there wouldn't have been a successful revolution -- and for that reason, her character was revolutionary.

Leia is bossy, loud and talks fast. She's also adept with a weapon and actively contributes to missions over the course of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, which was filmed during a time when such roles rarely existed for women. In "The Force Awakens," Leia is a general and the leader of the resistance. Put simply, she is a badass princess.

Leia laid the foundation for similarly complex and strong female characters throughout the "Star Wars" franchise, as evidenced by the powerful female lineage in Padme in Episodes I, II and III, Rey in "The Force Awakens," and, most recently, Jyn in "Rogue One."

It's hard to imagine the evolution of Hollywood princesses without Leia. Rather than simply having stories of romance, we now have tales of self-love, of sisterly love and of friendship. The modern princesses of Mulan, Merida, Anna, Elsa, Tiana, etc., are built on the shoulders of Leia's legacy. Without her, we might still be watching men do all the work.

That's not to say that her character is without controversy. In "Star Wars Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi" Princess Leia was forced to don a now-infamous gold bikini after being captured by Jabba the Hutt. Critics often point to the nearly naked Leia -- an image which is now ingrained in the mind of popular culture -- as reasoning for why she isn't a feminist hero. But that denunciation misses the point.

Fisher herself pointed out the irony best in a 2015 interview with the Daily Beast: "What, that my character was forced to put on that outfit against my will, and I took it off as soon as I could kill the guy who picked out the outfit?" she asked of the reasoning for so much outrage.

Fisher is right. Leia shed her literal chains and any notions of womanizing, sex-symbol stereotypes when she chokes her captor to death and escapes.

Fisher rose to fame by becoming a resilient, iconic character in one of the most famed and notable stories ever told -- one that has spanned generations. Throughout her life, Fisher was a feminist and an advocate for mental health. She truly broke barriers. Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for giving the world Princess Leia. Thank you for inspiring women to dare to be free.

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