This week has been a strange one for me. Some of the news I’ll share with you later in another post. For now, I have to find the words to talk about Carrie Fisher. My princess. My hero. My inspiration. Someone I had always hoped to meet. Her death has shook me in a way I never expected.
I am just one of a generation of women who had their outlook on the universe, and what being a princess means, when a young woman (with a somewhat unfortunate choice in hairstyle) grabbed a gun of one of the guys there to rescue her and saved them instead. We saw a woman who was as tough as nails, who didn’t take crap from anyone, was snarky and amazing. She didn’t use her looks to get ahead. She was as smart, or smarter, than the men around her. And, maybe best of all, the men accepted her for who she was and what she brought to the table – no one questioned her ability to lead because she was female. Princess Leia was the very definition of a badass in the best possible ways.
Up until then all the princesses we knew were rescued by a prince in shinning armor. They were bright, but not as bright as the men around them. They were pretty and important for what they could bring to the world as a wife and mother. They weren’t warriors. They weren’t heroes. They didn’t do the rescuing and they weren’t they weren’t leaders.
Princess Leia instantly became my hero. I wanted to be her in the worst way possible. I insisted on a homemade Halloween costume of long white silk and a black wig. My brother and cousin decided to do our own version of Star Wars and took my role as the princess very seriously. Princess Leia was, and is, my example of one of the best female characters ever to grace the big screen.
But it wasn’t just Leia, it was the actress behind her that made all the difference. Many other actresses could have played the part, but none of them could have combined the snark, the layers and the strength that Carrie Fisher did.
For me, the admiration for Carrie Fisher didn’t stop with one character. She was a brilliant writer, and I studied her writing in both novel and scripts to try to gain some understanding of what made her writing so honest. Her dialogue was always so real, so funny, and so perfect it made me wish she could be in my head and feeding me smart and witty things to say.
I admired the way she talked about all the things she’d been through. She was so honest, and usually brutally so, about her addiction and her mental health. She did so much to help normalize the discussion of mental health care and overcoming addiction that it’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if she didn’t go there.
Most of us can’t imagine what her life was like from the very start. She was the daughter of America’s Sweethearts. She was watched and photographed from the day she was born. When her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor it made international news. She was only three years old and she in the media spot-light beside her mother. Her mother didn’t have the best eye for men and Carrie was there to help her get the family back up on their feet more than once. They fought, they didn’t speak, but they never really stopped loving each other. The difference between their story and most families was that they did it with the world watching.
When I heard that she was rushed to the hospital, my stomach dropped. When I heard she had passed I was stunned. She was a huge part of the world that captured my imagination in Star Wars. She changed the way I looked at writing. She wasn’t fearless, but she refused to let fear control her. I admired her in so many ways and it was a shock to the system to realize that one of my heroes was gone. I still want to be like her when I grow up.
Carrie Fisher, just like Princess Leia, was strong, she was brave, she was intelligent, she was witty, she was talented. Ms Fisher was a storyteller that made a difference on and off the screen. Something most of us could only hope to do.