Having just learned of Carrie Fisher’s passing a few minutes ago I am still trying to gather my thoughts from the shock and find something appropriate to say. The loss of Kenny Baker earlier this year and the death of Carrie are both hard pills to swallow. I grew up with Star Wars and every character from the films were like old friends to me that I would revisit from time to time.
Having been born in the early 90’s I never got to see the Original Trilogy when it first came out, but Star Wars was in my consciousness from the very beginning. I do not remember the day when I was first introduced to the Saga because for me it was always there. Star Wars was something that seemed to have always existed for me growing up and so naturally the characters felt equally omnipresent.
To my mind Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher form The Big Three; an iconic triad who represent the series. This morning we lost one of them and the world will not be the same.
Princess Leia was arguably my first crush on a fictional character as a young boy and she was probably the first fictional princess I ever saw on film. I am quite certain Star Wars was already firmly in my consciousness before I was introduced to Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and the other Disney princesses who have been sadly marketed to death lately.
Star Wars represented a lot of “firsts” for me and Carrie Fisher played her role in more than a few of them. As I said she was the first princess I saw on film. And she was my first crush. I was very young and I doubt I fully comprehended the feelings she evoked in my prepubescent mind when I first saw her in that slave outfit, but probably the less I speak of the indelible impact that left on me the better. But there were other firsts she represented too. And not just for me, but for others.
Hollywood was already well on its way toward being open to representing women as more independent than just winnable “dames” and quasi-romantic objects to be rescued and/or tamed; but Star Wars really thrust a strong female character into the mainstream spotlight for the first time for a lot of younger audiences. Star Wars was aimed at children as well as adults and this means that impressionable young minds were being exposed to progressive concepts that would shape them into better people as adults. Now young girls didn’t just have pathetic role models like Snow White and Fay Wray whose only skills were screaming in a nightgown or fancy dress for the big strong male protagonist to come rescue them. They now had Princess Leia, an idealistic hero who is just as skilled with a blaster as she is with her words and resolve. She isn’t needy, but her emotions are appropriately balanced so that she is still capable of love and warmth and charm. She could be comforted and comforting, but she could not be used and abused.
And it is not just young girls who can learn from Leia either. I firmly believe that a young man or boy who is exposed to stronger women in his youth is much less likely to grow up into an abusive, misogynistic neanderthal than the boys who have only seen weak, obedient, submissive “females” all his life. The young man who has a crush on Princess Leia is seeing a woman who is capable of free choice and surviving on her own.
When Luke Skywalker came to “rescue” Princess Leia one of the first things she does is snag his blaster from him, take out several Stormtroopers, and calmly find an escape route that Luke and Han were too distracted to find themselves. In essence she isn’t a big baby like Snow White screaming at trees or an airhead like Cinderella singing “So This is Love” at a man she just met and whose name she doesn’t even know.
And for many children Princess Leia was the one who first showed this more progressive side to femininity. And Carrie Fisher performed the role well.
After Star Wars Carrie’s roles tended to be a bit more obscure and I have to confess that I have seen very few of them. I am acquainted with her voice work on animated shows like Family Guy, but Star Wars is truly where I know her. She was my first Princess and my first crush. And as years went by as I kept watching Star Wars the depth of her character and every other character in Star Wars became clearer and garnered new insight. A true testament to how much Star Wars is as much for children as adults is how we find new things in its characters and story as we get older. Leia impresses me more and more as a grown man than as a boy and I hope my own daughter is similarly impressed by her growing up. I would rather see my little girl grow up to be like Princess Leia than a mewling damsel in distress.
I probably won’t see Carrie Fisher again until Episode VIII which will be nearly a full year since her passing. It will be a bittersweet moment for all of us.
Today we lost a talented, intelligent, funny (just watch her interviews), and beautiful individual who lives on in memory. All those wonderful people who have become one with the Force in recent years like Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, Drewe Henley, Richard LaParmentier, and Michael Leader should not be taken as a sore reminder of the mortality of life, but rather bittersweet and peaceful passings that prove that memory is a stronger giver of life than the temporal health of the body. None of these people are truly going anywhere. Memory and joy in that memory immortalises us all. May the Force be with them. Always.
R.I.P. Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016)