Princess Leia Earned A Ph.D. At 19

A quote from George Lucas’s audio commentary for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope claims Princess Leia earned a Ph.D. at the age of 19.

General Princess Leia Organa, Ph.D.

Audio commentaries are wonderful tools for those looking to learn more about the film making process. They grant a candid peek behind the curtain of our favorite films. This is especially true for massive films like Star Wars. Hearing George Lucas’s creative process, Ben Burtt’s insane methods of sound recording and Carrie Fisher’s stories of drug fueled parties is wonderful. Recently, The University of Glasgow’s Dr. Becca Harrison tweeted a quote from the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope audio commentary. The quote is in the book Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation and features a massive revelation about everyone’s favorite Alderranian princess. Namely, she earned a Ph.D. at the age of 19.

Since Dr. Harrison’s tweet, the internet exploded into excitement over Princess Leia’s newest honorific. And for good reason. After all, this makes Leia a brilliant military mind, a leader of the people willing to sacrifice anything for their well-being, and a whip-smart academic. Of course, Princess Leia’s college years also demands a Netflix series in the vein of Freaks and Geeks. But this begs the question – if this information has been in the ether since 2004, why is it just coming to light now?

The Matter of Interpretation

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes BackWell, there are a few possible explanations. First, audio commentaries aren’t ubiquitous. Many people never listen to them. And, if they do, they listen to them in the background while doing something else. Second, while Star Wars has never been unpopular, a lot of folks cooled down on their love of the series following the prequels. As such, the information was merely an odd little blip on the radar of die hard Star Wars fans. But, Star Wars is in a renaissance period right now. So, fans are “uncovering” all sorts of new information about the franchise. Finally, there’s a bit of controversy surrounding the quote.

See, there are some folks who don’t take the above quote literally. Some view it as Lucas describing the type of actress he was looking for to fill Leia’s shoes. Obviously, Carrie Fisher was a firebrand, so the choice paid off. Also, there’s an interesting bit here about how we treat George Lucas. People cherry pick what they like out of his creative decisions. So, they reject a whiny Darth Vader, but welcome Dr. Organa with open arms. They build a head canon around what elements of Lucas’s creation make them happiest. It’s a strange thing.

Furthermore, Star Wars’ wonky canon comes into play. When Disney took over Star Wars, they through the extended universe books out of canon. But, they are currently publishing newly extended universe novels. As it happens, a new book about Leia’s days on Alderaan is just around the corner. Presumably, the book is canon, and there is no mention of Leia’s doctorate. Leia author Claudia Gray addressed the issue in a single tweet the same day as Dr. Harrison’s tweet.

Fictional characters are malleable. Comics add and remove elements to a character depending on the author. So, the issue of Leia’s education may never be resolved. But, that can change in the blink of an eye or the stroke of the pen. Either way, Princess Leia is one of the all-time great female characters and nothing can change that.

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About the author

MJ Smith

MJ Smith makes his home in California, and when not listening to Hamilton, podcasts and writes about pop culture on the internet. He loves board games, Swamp Thing, and The Wachowski's SPEED RACER.