While Leia is an early example of a science fiction cinema icon and remains among the most recognizable, she isn’t alone. The Star Wars franchise introduced Rey, a new and instantly popular heroine, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but there are other genre film franchises who have produced their own female stars as well.
Among them is the Harry Potter franchise and young witch Hermione Granger, who was played by Emma Watson through eight movies. In a cover story interview with Entertainment Weekly, Watson considered how her character measures up to Leia as a hero for young girls.
“Hermione was that perfect example of turning on its head this initial prejudice that she gets,” Watson says. “Hermione finds a way to wield her intelligence and becomes really the leader in this group of two other boys and that’s kind of the role that she assumes. Harry is much more intuitive. Ron is just along for the ride. Hermione is the one with the plan. She’s in control.”
That particular group dynamic isn't far off from the one shared by Leia and her male counterparts, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
“I think somehow that gave other women permission to feel that they were allowed to take up space,” Watson says.
“What is so fundamentally beautiful about Hermione is her loyalty to that group of friends,” Watson says. “She’s really the glue that keeps that trio together. It’s fundamental, and the boys knew it, and they really treat her as if they know that.”
Watson adds that Hermione isn’t a hero that girls alone should be able to look up to.
“If I asked a young boy what superhero they looked up to, I feel a lot fewer would say a female one than in reverse, which is a shame because I feel like we need to live in a culture that values and respects and looks up to and idolizes women as much as men,” Watson says. “I think that’s starting to slowly change, but it is something that does actively need to be addressed.”
Emma Watson is currently promoting her next film, Beauty and the Beast, which brings the Disney animated classic into live-action. Beauty and the Beast will open in theaters on March 17, 2017.