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Strange things about Princess Leia and Han Solo's relationship

Fans tend to look back on Han and Leia's relationship with fond nostalgia. Yet when you pull back the curtains on these two, a weirder, darker story emerges. This is, after all, a relationship that features Han Solo in competition with Leia's brother for the prize of her affections. The age gap between the two is significant, the timing of their coupling is often awkward, and Han's relationship to the Empire is, well, shady. War complicates everything, of course, even romance. Moreover, Star Wars is very much a product of its time, as is everything more than a decade or so in the past. But taking changing cultural mores into account doesn't excuse everything that happens between the highfalutin princess and the rakish smuggler.

Between the substantial age gap, repeated harassment, and mild incest at play in their relationship, Han and Leia's love story is a weird one indeed. These are the strangest things about Star Wars' most prominent couple. 

Their age gap is pretty shady

When Han and Leia meet during her botched rescue in Star Wars: A New Hope, the fierce princess is only 19 and the jaded smuggler is 29. Respectively, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were 19 and 33 at the time. In the fourth draft of the original New Hope script, Leia was actually supposed to be an even younger 16.

An age gap that significant has dicey implications. The fact that Han often treats her like a misbehaving brat doesn't help either. Moreover, as fans later discover, Leia and Luke are precisely the same age. The fact that Han refers to Luke with names like "kid" and "junior" only further highlights the age difference between him and Leia.

Interestingly, he never calls Leia similarly child-like terms — Leia is, of course, miles beyond Luke in maturity. Still, this doesn't erase the power dynamic between the dashing, scruffy 29-year-old smuggler and the teenage princess. In her 19 years, Leia has had to deal with more hardship and responsibility than most people four times her senior. At the end of the day, however, she's still young and a little naive, and Han can be interpreted as taking advantage of her lack of worldly experience. 

Han should be a frequent visitor to the Resistance HR Department

Han Solo, smuggler extraordinaire, needs to learn the meaning of the word "stop." Regardless of whether or not he thinks Leia is into him, he frequently ignores her objections to his come-ons. Most of their "romantic" scenes in Empire take place when he corners her in dark, secluded areas.

When Han mistakes a space slug for an asteroid, he uses the turbulence as an opportunity to shove Leia onto his lap. She pleads, "Let go, please." But instead of honoring her request, he tells her not to get excited. When she assures him that being held by Han isn't "quite enough to get her excited," he finally releases her. But not before he gets the last quip, saying, "Sorry, sweetheart, I haven't got time for anything else." The smug look on his face doesn't help his case, either.

Their first kiss happens right after she tells him to stop rubbing her hands. Twice. When she tells him her hands are dirty, he says, "My hands are dirty, too. What are you afraid of?" Sorry, Han, but you don't get to decide the validity of someone's reason for telling you no. After accusing her of trembling, he goes in for a kiss 20 seconds after she told him to stop touching her. The forceful nature of their first kiss overshadows the romantic ballad that accompanies the scene.

Han frequently grabs Leia against her will

Leia may be small in stature, but she's huge in personality, and capable of holding her own on the battlefield. Despite this, Han constantly picks her up and drags her away at the merest whisper of danger. In Empire, he hauls her away while she's in the middle of giving orders during an attack on the Hoth base. He's obviously worried about the ceiling caving in on her, but as a leader, she deserves to decide whether she stays and fights or flees. That's not Han's call. There are plenty of women in the galaxy who wouldn't mind an overprotective guy like Han taking charge, but Leia Organa is not one of them. She makes this repeatedly clear.

Eventually, Han does come to see Leia as his equal. If he hadn't, their relationship would've been doomed before it began — there's no way Princess Leia would put up with that kind of treatment in the long term. Leia's successful release of Han from Jabba the Hutt marks the moment his behavior towards her changes. And despite capture, Leia's performance is still better than his attempt to rescue her from the Death Star.

He rarely calls Leia by name

Cutely combative nicknames are fine when they don't wholly replace someone's identity. The riffing between Han and Leia is undoubtedly a part of their flirty dynamic, but it sometimes goes too far. The disdain in Han's voice rings clear as a bell when he calls Leia names like "Princess," "Your Worship," and "Sweetheart." Han's constant referral to Leia's royal status implies that he sees her as a snooty, trumped-up brat rather than the dynamic, incredible person she is. He doesn't even cut it out after the Empire blows up her entire planet. At that point, her title is nothing but a reminder of everything and everyone she lost.

The name-calling comes to a head in The Empire Strikes Back when halfway through the film, she tells him to cut it out. He says, "Hey, Your Worship. I'm only trying to help." She responds with, "Would you please stop calling me that?" To his credit, he takes the request seriously, and even looks a little guilty when he softly says, "Sure, Leia." So, way over a year after they met, and halfway into the second film, Han finally calls her by her actual name. The scene is actually pretty sweet, and he does realize he's been acting like a jerk, but by the Force, it shouldn't have taken that long.

They have an uncomfortable love triangle ... with her brother

Love triangles are awkward enough when they don't contain two siblings. While it's pretty clear that Leia never reciprocated Luke's early attraction toward her, his crush on her is still made unforgettably creepy when, during Yoda's deathbed confession, we learn that there's another Skywalker. Leia is caught between Han and Luke's respective interests in her right up to the end of Return of the Jedi.

When Han decides to follow the patented "If you love someone, set them free" shtick in Return of the Jedi, Leia fills him in on the truth of her relationship with Luke. His face morphs quickly from relief to horror, no doubt remembering her awkward kiss with her brother. To make matters worse, Leia admitted earlier that somehow, she'd always known. Girl, then why were you making out with your brother? Don't think about it too hard — God knows Han's going to try not to.

Han puts a whole new spin on breaking the "bro code"

Not going after your best friend's girl is a pretty universal concept, no matter what part of the galaxy you hail from. But that doesn't stop Han from making a move on Luke's illicit crush. 

Initially, the smuggler's motivation for rescuing Leia is purely monetary, and he doesn't try to hide it. In contrast, Luke makes it pretty clear to Han from the jump that he's interested in Leia — even before he meets her. Han, being the button-pusher he is, still continually hits on Leia in front of Luke, commenting on their chemistry. Towards the end of New Hope, Han asks, "Do you think a princess and a guy like me could..." Luke cuts him off with a curt, "No."

Just minutes before that exchange, Leia tells Han that their fight against the Empire isn't over yet. Han says, "It is for me, sister." Some keen viewers might call that foreshadowing. Others might call it awkward. Regardless, it's a jerk-y move — if you're not planning on sticking around, Han, stop torturing Luke by flirting with his crush! Though it all begs the question: Is it still breaking the bro code when you're stealing a girl away from her actual brother?

Leia kisses her twin to prove she's not into Han

Leia is just as bad as Han when it comes to using Luke as a pawn in their will they/won't they dance. It's one thing to use a rando at the cantina to make your crush jealous, but using your brother is a whole new level of yikes.

Luke's desire for Leia is clear to anyone with a pair of eyes, human or otherwise. Luke knows it, Leia knows it, and Han knows it. Yet Leia still exploits Luke's feelings for her to get the last word in with Han, saying, "Well, I guess you don't know everything about women yet." Then, she kisses Luke. Did she know "even then" that they were related? Who knows. Even if both of them were totally ignorant, it's still a mean thing to do.

Following the release of The Rise of Skywalker, Mark Hamill cheekily addressed the sketchy kiss. He said, "Since Luke & Leia were totally unaware that they were related in any way whatsoever-what they did was actually #Innocestuous." Leave it to Mark Hamill to make fans laugh about a scene that continues to haunt them 40 years after it debuted.

Han was once a member of the Empire

Han and Leia have always been better at insults than proper communication, so it's not surprising that they never delve deeply into their past on-screen. But when you have a secret as big as Han's, transparency is usually the best way to go. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han's history as a member of the Empire unfolds. Sure, he wasn't exactly a true believer, and he does eventually jump ship. But for a time, he was fighting for the very group of oppressors who would come to blow up Leia's entire planet

Given their respective reputations, it wouldn't be surprising if someone spilled the beans during a mission. Han definitely wouldn't want to be in the vicinity of Leia's wrath when the truth came out — especially if it came from someone other than himself. As Han tells Finn in The Force Awakens, "Women always figure out the truth. Always." Maybe he's referencing his Empire-related bombshell when he encourages Finn to be straight with Rey about his past.

She senses his death the moment it happens

Han and Leia have very different approaches to life. Han doesn't even verbalize his feelings for Leia when he is about to die on Bespin. Instead of saying, "I love you" back to Leia, in what could have been his final words to her, he replies, "I know." Harrison Ford ignored the script, which called for him to say, "I love you, too." He and director Irvin Kershner felt that his version of the line was much more Han's vibe. Admittedly, it is. But it's still kind of savage. 

On George Lucas' reaction to the switch, Ford said to Vanity Fair, "I think it's fair enough to say he went apesh*t. He thought it was horrible and that it would get a bad laugh." It did get a laugh, but it was a good one — so the line stayed to become one of the most iconic romance scenes in film history.

A whole 32 years went by between the conclusion of Return of the Jedi and Han and Leia's reunion in The Force Awakens, where they reveal that they broke up when their son went Dark Side. After reconnecting through a candid conversation about the split, Leia feels the exact moment her son kills the love of her life. The look on her face the moment it happens is enough to make a Sith weep. 

Leia has no time to grieve Han

When Han dies, Leia doesn't shed a single tear. In war, there's no time to grieve. If she gave herself the space to cry, she would never stop. Few people have faced the level of tragedy Leia is saddled with in her life: Between watching the Empire blow up her entire planet, her son going Dark Side (and ultimately killing his father, her great love), and losing her brother, Leia has every reason to lose hope completely. But she never does.

Each time General Leia Organa faces a substantial loss, she spends what little energy she has left comforting others. Just minutes after the Empire destroys Alderaan, for example, Leia finds herself comforting Luke after Vader kills Obi-Wan — even though the young Jedi only knew his master for a short time. That's who Leia is, at her core — the most compassionate woman in the galaxy. 

After losing Han, she repeats the process with Rey, hugging the young girl who only knew her husband for a short time. This is a touching way of expressing her own sorrow, but it's also deeply tragic. Leia never quite learns how to give herself the attention she gives others, an essential skill for anyone to master, let alone one who has endured such hardship.

Leia likely projects Han's memory to their son

There's much fan debate on who or what shows up to Kylo Ren when he ditches his Dark Side persona in The Rise of Skywalker. It's unlikely that Han appears as a Force ghost, as his body doesn't radiate blue energy, and he had no known relationship with the Force. Given that Leia dies using her last bit of energy to turn Ben, she is most likely responsible for bringing Han's memory back one last time — for herself and her son.

Leia spends her entire life in service of others, usually at her own expense. It's poignant that she would use her final moments to save her son and honor her husband's memory, all in one Force-filled breath. It's also intensely sad.

While Han and Leia had their fair share of yikes-y moments, Leia assures her husband in their last moments together that it wasn't all bad — and that "some" of their life together was "pretty good." Of course, they still tease and drive each other wild up until the end, but with adventure-seekers like Han and Leia, they wouldn't have it any other way. It's sad, it's weird, it's messy ... and ultimately, for good and for ill, that's why they like each other.