I FINALLY got to see "The Force Awakens" (movie theaters give me migraines so had to wait for DVD release) and it's time to write about it. (Spoilers to come.)
When I was a little girl, there were two love stories I really fell for, hard. #1 was Robin Hood and Maid Marian. #2 was Han Solo and Princess Leia.
7 year old me was obsessed with Han and Leia. I had the action figures (man, it was SO hard to find them!) and loved making up post-movie adventures for them. I didn't read much of the EU stuff because the one I did read didn't do them justice, but I loved knowing that they eventually got married and had kids together.
(When I grew up I read "The Courtship of Princess Leia" which was one of the most horribly written pieces of ridiculousness I've ever encountered. So glad I never ran across that in my childhood.)
As I grew older and encountered other couples, I was definitely drawn towards the bicking couple stereotype - from Elizabeth and Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice", to Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing." (And, come to think of it, Robin and Marian in the Errol Flynn version have a quarreling couple vibe too!). There's just something about the chemistry in those couples that is electric to watch.
The problem is that, in real life the quarreling couple does not succeed unless they grow, mature, and learn to pull together rather than apart. Elizabeth and Darcy's whole story is not about being a quarreling couple, but about overcoming that which makes them quarrel. I fully expect Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage to last because it is rooted in character growth, not chemistry.
But Han and Leia?
Since I couldn't see Episode VII in theaters, my husband and I decided to read all the spoilers right away. We felt it would be better to have control over spoiling ourselves, rather than let one secret after another leak in over the next four months. This was absolutely the right move - the characters were so funny and fresh and solid that the film was charming and wonderful even though I knew all the plot twists.
This also gave me four months to adjust to two big facts:
#1 - Han and Leia are living apart.
#2 - Han dies.
To deal with the second issue first - this I fully expected. My RPG group can verify that I was strongly predicting before the movie aired that Han Solo would get killed off at some point in the trilogy. It was Harrison Ford's 3 decade long wish for the character, and although his death was extremely sad, when I actually watched it I mostly just felt "Ford finally got his wish." And I have peace with that.
I was more nervous about Han and Leia. How could this couple I had loved so dearly for so long be BROKEN UP??? What would their scenes be like? How could it possibly not sour my love of the original trilogy?
But, you know, when I actually watched it... it felt right. They love each other, that much is very very clear. But they are pulling two different carts in different directions. Leia's first passion always is the Rebellion. It's a cause her adopted family died for, it's a cause she is good at and integral to. Han's greatest passion is winning - the higher the odds the greater the high for him. He loves Leia, but he's never going to be first in her life.
I think he was first for awhile. Obviously they married and they had at least one child - and that ended in tragedy. Even good marriages are shaken by tragedy, and the death of a child is a significant risk factor for parental divorce. Ben didn't die (yet), but in some ways his turn to the dark side could be seen as worse than death, and it makes tremendous sense that, already wrestling with different (and sometimes competing priorities) this would cause Han and Leia to separate.
Just as their marriage was never clearly stated in the film, neither was their divorce (let me know if I missed a key word somehow). This too I felt was realistic, and honoring of the original relationship.
I mourn how it ended, but in many ways it makes a great deal of sense to me, and I appreciate the sense of realism despite the high romance elements of the story. It's not that Han and Leia couldn't have worked through their issues, is that with all of those elements in play (and a story to tell!) it makes a great deal of sense that they never got over the hump, particularly after Ben's defection.
I will always love Han and Leia, and in the end I appreciate that they gave us a 'true' story, rather than a rosy one.
(For the record, my husband and I have always been the exact opposite of a bickering couple. Funny how those things work out. But we're still going to cosplay Han and Leia someday.)