Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. This week: let’s talk about Han/Leia.
Who Are Han/Leia?
Han/Leia refers to Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars. As far as I can tell there’s no quippy name for their pairing; feel free to chime in in the comments if you know of one!
Captain of the Millenium Falcon. Smuggler. Scoundrel. Scruffy nerf herder. Han Solo has been called many things in his life. Perhaps the one he least expected is a hero, but that’s exactly what he became in Star Wars.
Han was raised on Corellia by the crime lord Lady Proxima. He was treated as scum and disposable. It wasn’t all bad, though. Han had a love, Qi’ra, and a dream: to fly away. He manages to escape but loses Qi’ra. His only option for freedom is to sign himself away to the Empire as a pilot.
When things go predictably wrong, Han ends up working for the smuggler Tobias Beckett. They take a job to pay off some debts. He meets the Wookie Chewbacca, and they form an unlikely friendship. He also reunites with Qi’ra. Their job goes wrong in many different ways, but some things go right: Han now has a ship, the Millenium Falcon, and a lifelong co-pilot.
By A New Hope, Han has a reputation as a skilled smuggler with bad luck. He takes a job to pay off some debts but soon finds himself wrapped up in the Rebellion. He doesn’t want to be a hero — he learned early to look out for number one. But he finds himself captivated by the Rebel leader Princess Leia and reluctantly sticks around.
Over the next few movies, Han becomes a Rebel hero in his own right. He helps overturn the Empire and finds a family with Leia. Sadly, their son Ben turns to the dark side and brings death to the galaxy once more. He also strikes close to home, killing Han when he tried to reconcile with his son.
If Han Solo is a reluctant hero, Princess Leia Organa is his exact opposite. Leia was destined to be a hero; she is the daughter of an incredibly powerful Jedi and a famous politician. Although she does not know her legacy at first, she knows that she can make a difference in the galaxy, and never stops trying to do so.
Leia is the princess of Alderaan, an Imperial senator, and an important figure in the Rebellion. She is captured by the Empire after fleeing the site of an important battle with Imperial plans on board. Her quick thinking sends the plans to safety. Although Leia is captured, she has no fear.
That’s a theme that follows Leia throughout her appearances. She faces down Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, two of the most feared leaders in the Empire, with snark and a spine of steel. When Luke Skywalker and Han Solo rescue her, she takes charge and shows them a proper escape.
Leia continues to inspire the Rebellion throughout the original trilogy. Along the way, she begrudgingly falls in love with Han. The two are often at odds since they have such different perspectives on life. However, they truly love each other and make it work. Of course, they also save the galaxy at the same time.
Later in life, Leia remains a hero and all-around badass. When the Republic won’t fight back against the First Order, Leia returns to her roots and rebels. She becomes a general in the Resistance and spearheads the efforts to stop tyranny. Even knowing her son is part of the First Order won’t stop her; Leia advocates for justice, always.
Why is Han/Leia OTP?
Solo was an unexpected delight, to be sure. It was a well-written, enjoyable story that reminds us that Star Wars is supposed to be fun. But Solo noticeably doesn’t provide much in terms of romantic relationships. The real romance in that film is between Han and the Falcon, don’t @ me, I’m right.
The reason Solo couldn’t give us a compelling romance is that we already knew Qi’ra wasn’t endgame. Han has an amazing relationship later in life, so why would they waste our time showing him developing a good one with Qi’ra? The filmmakers knew what we’ve always known: the real endgame is Han/Leia.
I Love You. I Know.
First of all, the Han/Leia declarations of love are perhaps the most iconic in culture. Everyone knows the “I love you,” “I know” exchange. (And I love that they turn it around in Return of the Jedi, so it’s not just ~cool guy~ Han who says I know. Leia can pull that move too). Let’s be real, my romance goals are 100% finding someone to unironically say that to me.
But what really makes Han/Leia so compelling is the dynamic between the two characters. I have spoken many many times about how a relationship built on bickering and antagonism is not a foundation for true love. And I maintain that argument. However, Han/Leia deserves some of the blame for starting the trend, because they actually make it work.
A lot of this comes down to the feelings beneath the bickering. Many people argue that bickering is a sign of sexual tension because it really comes across that way in the Han/Leia relationship. But if a relationship is solely based on sexual tension it’s not going to be good for much. Han/Leia? There’s so much more there.
Han and Leia truly love each other. You can see it in the way they are constantly trying to save each other. Sure, their relationship starts off rocky with a hilarious rescue attempt. But they keep saving each other’s lives because they can’t imagine living without the other. Leia even sneaks into Jabba’s palace because she loves Han and needs to save him.
But their relationship isn’t built solely on need, either. They just simply like each other. Once they stop denying their feelings, a lot of the bickering fades. They still throw sparks; theirs is a fiery relationship. But it’s one built on mutual affection, not frustration or anger.
A Princess and a Guy Like Me?
Another potentially problematic trope that plays into Han/Leia is “opposites attract.” I’m not against opposites attract, because I feel like a balance can be a good thing. But sometimes it’s done poorly. When given proper character development and realistic backgrounds, it works.
Han/Leia really pulls this off. Han is a smuggler, a no-name kid from a grungy planet who has no loyalty. Leia is a princess, a politician, and an icon of hope and inspiration across the galaxy. When Han wonders at the changes of “a princess and a guy like me,” he’s really being honest. What are the odds that they could ever be happy together?
Well, they manage to make it work because their differences balance each other out. Han and Leia are both loyal, just in different ways. Leia is loyal to the cause. Han is loyal to Leia. The reason he is willing to stick around is not because of any lofty ideals, but because the person he loves is his lofty ideal.
Conversely, Leia is utterly self-sacrificing, while Han is selfish. That’s not a bad thing. He reminds Leia to take care of herself, too, not just the cause. She needs him to remind her that she is a real person, not just an icon of resistance. And she needs someone who loves her for Leia, not for the Princess.
Opposites attract in Han/Leia because they really are opposites. They’re not just people who disagree on something. Han is literally an orphan living in the gutter in Solo. Leia is the princess of an entire (well-off) planet. They are different people because they come from entirely different backgrounds, but still, respect each other and make it work.
What’s Next for Han/Leia?
Well, the timeline in Star Wars is a bit screwy at the moment, but there’s not much next for Han/Leia. Han died in The Force Awakens, leaving Leia to mourn him. Although Leia survived The Last Jedi, Carrie Fisher was tragically taken from us too soon, so it’s not likely Leia will have a large part in Episode IX.
Of course, there’s a lot of Han/Leia potential in other areas. Solo may yet get a sequel, so it’s possible that Leia pops up somehow. I don’t think it’s likely; I can see people in an uproar over casting a young Leia. But it is possible, I suppose. Plus, with non-film materials like comics, books, and the television shows, we may see some more background Han/Leia.
But in terms of next, it’s over, sadly. Han and Leia, at this point, can only be reunited in death. It’s not the worst ending, to be sure. But it is over for them.
Is Han/Leia Canon?
Yes! Han/Leia is one of those glorious ships that has been canon almost from the start. Although there were some iffy hints toward Luke and Leia coming together, that was kicked to the side by Empire Strikes Back and thoroughly debunked by Return of the Jedi’s surprise twist. But Han/Leia has been canon since 1980… not often I get to say that.
If you want some delightful Han/Leia stories, the now no-longer-canon Expanded Universe shows a full life for Han and Leia. The books present a pretty compelling future for these two, which starts off delightfully in The Courtship of Princess Leia. Yes, I know these aren’t canon anymore… but they’re a whole lot of fun.
Even discarding the EU, canonically Han and Leia get together and more or less stay together. Although Ben drives them apart, they still love each other and come back together (just in time for misery, of course). Han/Leia was never not a thing. It just is. In the world of Star Wars, Han/Leia is probably the most canon relationship there is — and it’s so much fun to enjoy.