Actually, I find the genre's obsession with princesses rather strange. Not on the fantasy end, mind you, as that genre draws heavily on European fairy tales and dynastic history, and will always find room for royal courts. But you'd think those galaxies far, far away would steer clear of European titles and class systems, and invent new systems of government. But let's face it, few labels evoke such a specific and exotic image as that of "princess," and slapping it onto your heroine does half your screenwriting for you. All you have to decide is if she carries a weapon or prefers a tiara, or if she's comfortable enough to coolly wield both in the name of duty. Luckily, the sci-fi / fantasy genre is rife with examples of all three. So drop a curtsy, and check out the list of my favorite genre princesses. And bow to Erik Davis for hatching the idea while you're at it.
1. Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars)
Princess Leia may not have been science fiction's first princess, but she's the one they all have to measure up to. Every girl since 1977 has thrilled to the fact that the head of the Rebel Alliance was a woman, and that no one (not even the cocky Han Solo, who needed her more than she needed him) raised an eyebrow at the fact. As if being fearless, diplomatic, intelligent, and one hell of a shot wasn't enough, she was also a Jedi like her father before her. No wonder Yoda seemed so calm when Luke flew off to his possible doom. Leia was the ace in the hole.
2. Princess Sorsha (Willow)
Once upon a time, George Lucas really had a thing for kickass warrior chicks. Sorsha is the medieval counterpart to Leia, albeit one who starts off on the dark and nasty path. (Check out their contrasting wardrobes -- the good girl floats around in white, Sorsha prefers black leather and chainmail.) When we first meet her, she's happily butchering peasants and babies in the name of her mother, Queen Bavmorda, but she's soon set right. I'd like to think it was because she really wasn't happy in her work, and not merely because a shirtless MadMartigan showed up in her tent.
3. Dejah Thoris (Princess of Mars)
In comparison to Princess Leia, Dejah Thoris didn't have nearly as much fun. She's constantly kidnapped and abused by her fellow Martians, but she's no simpering Edwardian. She manages to hold her own, and gets to have a bit of a smackdown when she rescues John Carter during a duel. Given the time period, it practically makes her Wonder Woman.
4. Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)
I'm not exactly sure why Xena is a warrior princess since she's not a daughter of royalty, but of prominent merchants. (Though she was possibly the daughter of Ares.) But if someone like Xena wants to be called "Warrior Princess," then you damn well let her. She fought centaurs, slept with Julius Caesar, did a stint as a valkyrie, and tricked Lucifer, and met Beowulf. Even Red Sonja would be impressed.
5. Princess Buttercup (The Princess Bride)
Sometimes, being a princess is all about finding true love with a farmhand named Wesley, wearing really pretty dresses, and being dragged around the kingdom by unsavory characters. That's Buttercup.
6. Arwen and Eowyn (Lord of the Rings)
In the interests of space, I'm asking Arwen and Eowyn to share their ranking. After all, they're not so very different -- neither likes obeying orders from their male guardian, both can swing a sword, and are both in love with a handsome Ranger. They have faith in victory and Middle Earth even when the men around them crumble, and are willing to sacrifice everything they have in the battle for good.
7. Princess Aura (Flash Gordon)
It's tough being the daughter of Ming the Merciless. You're expected to go along with all of his evil plans, and no one respects you. Then this cute guy named Flash Gordon comes along, and you think he'll like you if you help overthrow your father. But he's already got his one true love in Dale Arden. What's a girl to do, other than train your elite female warriors, and make sure you have your best gold bikini on for when Prince Barin comes calling.
8. Princess Nuala (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army)
Just about every princess on here has it rough, but Nuala might just win the prize for having been dealt a really lousy hand of fate. She makes it her mission to protect humanity, even if she has to sacrifice her brother and herself, and many a rare magical creature to do it.
9. Princess Vespa (Spaceballs)
Then again, life is really really tough when you're forced to leave your giant hairdryer behind, and have to travel with a Virgin Alarm. Even if she did end up with Lone Starr at the end, Vespa might tell you Nuala had a better time of it.
10. Wonder Woman
Have you forgotten that Wonder Woman is also Diana, Princess of the Amazons? Sculpted out of clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, she's visited by every good goddess while still in the cradle and given every power a girl could want. And only a princess could get away with flying an invisible plane.