Twins in Media: Luke and Leia

Screenshot from “Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope” featuring Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Copyright of Lucasfilm Limited.

Hey! Hallie here!

We’re back around to our weekly “Twins in Media” posts and starting out with a really popular representation of twins. Luke and Leia are probably the most popular twins in media right now. What’s funny about them, though, is most people don’t really think about the fact that they’re twins other than to comment on how gross the kiss was. (Very.) There’s a debate on whether or not their status as twins was planned from the beginning, or thrown in later to prevent fans from liking Leia with Luke more than Leia with Han. I’ll weigh in on that in a second because it’s absolutely crucial to this analysis. Still, there’s no denying that Lucas has since doubled down on the twin label. So let’s start unpacking some of these tropes and see how well these two fare.

The Dark Side:

  • Separated at birth. Wow this trope comes up a lot. Luke and Leia are basically the definition of this trope. Leia lived as royalty on Alderaan while Luke lived as a farmer on Tatooine. Leia spent her teenage years serving as a diplomat for her planet while Luke went to Tosche Station to pick up power converters. There isn’t really any similarities between them. I’ve mentioned my love/hate relationship with this trope before. While it allows twin characters to be two very different people, it usually falls under one of two extremes. Either the twins have too much in common because “fate”, or the twins have absolutely nothing in common to demonstrate how different they are. Leia and Luke could do with having more in common than just the Force. Real siblings have some likes, dislikes, and traits in common while maintaining their individuality, and twins are no different.
  • Twin telepathy. Okay, this one is a bit complicated. When Leia and Luke discover that they’re related, their Force connection becomes way stronger than it was in the first two movies. This could be seen as twin telepathy, which is absolutely a harmful trope. It furthers the idea that twins are single minded and that they share the same thoughts and ideas. The amount of times I fight with my sister would prove otherwise. However, it should be noted that Leia could feel Luke’s presence at the end of “Empire Strikes Back”, before they were confirmed to be twins, and a lot of their abilities seem to be more of a demonstration of the Force rather than a commentary on twins. So this is absolutely a loose addition to this list.
  • Twincest. Let’s all take a moment to gag at the kiss that happens in “Empire Strikes Back”. It will come up again later, I assure you. Done? Ok. Let’s move on.

The Light Side:

  • Different lives. This is all of the good that comes from their separation. They have different adoptive families which they had very different relationships with. (Before they all died, that is.) They have the same friends but they have different relationships with them. It’s kind of nice to see these two trapped in a scenario where they’re devoting their lives for the same cause. It forces them to stick together, to go through many of the same experiences, and still demonstrate how different they are and their separate goals within the Rebel Alliance.
  • The separate actors. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher look nothing alike. That still makes them a more realistic representation of twins than Lindsay Lohan in “The Parent Trap”. Why? Because, even if it’s difficult to notice, all forms of twins differ in appearance. One actor playing two roles doesn’t allow for differences. Some twins do look nothing alike. Especially fraternal twins, which Luke and Leia most definitely are. The fact that they cast these roles as individuals rather than as twins makes me appreciate these very different actors in these roles. Even though it’s likely no one, including George Lucas, knew that Luke and Leia were going to be twins when they were casting.
  • The overall lack of preparation. Here we go. This is the conversation we really need to have about these two. I am of the opinion that Luke and Leia being twins was a late addition to the story. Given how they were portrayed, I don’t think it was planned from the beginning. There was not even slight hinting that the two were siblings during the first half of the original trilogy. Not to mention the kiss in “Empire Strikes Back”, which I would really like to believe was written without their status as siblings in mind. The first possible hint we get is at the end of “Empire Strikes Back”, when Leia senses Luke is in danger and is able to help Lando navigate the Millennium Falcon underneath him to rescue him. I think it could be argued that this scene was only meant to demonstrate her Force ability and nothing more. After all, we do get Yoda hinting that there is another potential Jedi they can count on if Luke fails, which is later revealed to be Leia. We can go back and forth on whether or not Leia having the Force in the first place shows that she’s related to Luke, but my point is there was no written preparation or hinting in the first half of their story that these two were related. So why did I put this total lack of preparation as a positive? Because the narrative built them up as individuals before the twin reveal. They were written as separate, fully-fleshed out characters, making them stronger as siblings. That’s why there are hardly any tropes to be spoken of here. A lack of stereotypes and tropes is always a good thing in my book.

So are they a good representation of twins?

I’d say so! They’re twins who are portrayed as normal siblings. They have separate likes and dislikes. They live different lives even though they have some similar goals and friends. However, I would like to point something major out. Twins should be written this way on purpose, not simply on accident. I want to see twins who are twins from the beginning and are still separate characters. Luke and Leia are great, but they almost don’t feel like twins at all. The Force is really all that connects them and it would be nice to see twins in media who are connected by much more and are still different. But I digress. Anyway, I’m a huge fan of these two and I hope some of the things they accomplish can help twin representation become even better in the future.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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