A tribute to Carrie Fisher for Star Wars Day (May 4th)

‘I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.’

– Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking 

I wrote a post on my Facebook page when Carrie Fisher died about how much she meant to me, which I’ll copy down below (please excuse the grammar). When I watching The Last Jedi recently all those feelings came rushing back to me especially, since that film features some great women in Rey, Rose and Vice Admiral Holdo. Since today is Star Wars Day I wanted to reflect some more of those feelings on what the character of Princess Leia meant to me growing up.

‘I don’t usually comment on moments like this but this truly upset me. Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia was one of my role models growing up. As, I was a girl who loved Star Wars, when it was unusual where I lived for a girl to like Star Wars (which is weird to consider now considering that women are being put at the forefront of the Star Wars franchise).

It was through Star Wars I got my first glimpse of the elitism still inherent in geek culture though at a milder level. I remember sitting in assembly and a teacher of ours had dressed up as Princess Leia. But she was carrying a lightsaber. Almost immediately I heard one of my male friends comment on how she never had a lightsaber and so the costume was ‘wrong’. I laughed and agreed, wanting to fit in. I hadn’t got that far in my Star Wars journey yet, and didn’t want to be exposed for not knowing what he was talking about. I didn’t want to be called out as what would now be called a ‘fake’ geek girl.

Once I watched the films with Princess Leia in though I was hooked. Maybe, it was because she was featured in the only Star Wars merchandise that I could find that was particularly targeted to girls (I’m so happy though that toy market is beginning to get gender neutral). But I also loved the character of Princess Leia. She never backed down. She stood up for what she believed in. Much like Carrie Fisher. She may have been deemed as ‘outspoken’ at times, but she was always honest. Something I am trying more to be.

I will always remember the influence characters like Princess Leia had on me growing up and how she drove me to seek out other strong leading ladies. I honestly don’t think I would have gotten into shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer without characters like Princess Leia existing.

And while we still have a long way to go with women leading franchises (for one thing it would nice to see some diversity); I think Carrie Fisher will be proud that she is one the ladies who led the way.’

When I was younger I wanted Princess Leia to be in more of the fight scenes. But as I’ve got older I’ve got over this and think its great how the films highlighted that leading a war effort is something women can do too. Also, we now have other characters in the Star Wars film canon that more than hold their own fight scene wise.

The infamous gold bikini also was something with I struggled with growing up. On the one hand I thought there is nothing wrong with being a sex symbol or desiring someone you perceived to be one. On the other hand, was this something that was empowering for Leia (maybe when she used it to strangle Jabba maybe) or Carrie Fisher? Carrie Fisher herself as discussed her relationship with the bikini and I think the one thing that has always stuck out to me is how this was not something she particularly wanted to wear. But it seemed to be another case of the Star Wars franchise at times not allowing Fisher agency.

It’s not the bikini that sticks in my mind when I think of Leia however it’s her blaster in hand or her bravely attempting to rescue Han Solo. Or her strangling Jabba the Hut. And that is all Carrie Fisher.

 

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However, if I had to chose between meeting Princess Leia or Carrie Fisher; I would have chose Carrie Fisher all the way. I recently read Wishful Drinking and I literally could not put it down. She talks about mental health in a way that I have rarely seen people do. She doesn’t dress it up or put ribbons on it – it sucks that her brain works in that way so she’s going to laugh and write about it wittingly because thinking about it too much just starts that spiral all over again.

‘If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.’

-Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

Growing up as a child of Hollywood must have also been a surreal experience, she describes how as a child she thought the reality she saw on screen was real (in particular the TV show Father Knows Best) and her life was fake. Consequently, she struggled coping with reality her entire life.

‘I’m a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result.’

-Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking 

I think what I want to stress the most is that Carrie Fisher was an incredible writer that only now is starting to get the recognition she deserves. She’s been quite frankly treated awfully in her career – yes, I’m talking about the pounds she was told to shed for Star Wars to not having the rights to her cut of Star Wars merchandise.

It may seem like a strange measure to judge how much I am influenced by someone but I know that Carrie Fisher was high up there because she was someone I wanted to meet one day more than any other celebrity. In fact, I’ve never really had the desire to meet someone famous unless its on level playing field (i.e. if I was the director of a film they were starring in) because I don’t want to ruin the image I have of them in my head otherwise. But Carrie Fisher was always that exception.

So on Star Wars day I will always think of Princess Leia, the rebel General who stole my heart as I child and gave me hope I could be a leader too. And I’ll always remember Carrie Fisher, who was outspoken in a beautiful way I aspire to be and who I one day hope to be as quotable as.

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April (April is the Cruellest Month)

– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

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Feminist Reading Journey: Carrie Fisher ‘The Princess Diarist’

Image: Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope/ 20th Century Fox 

This year I set myself the challenge to start reading for pleasure again. After doing a degree in English Literature with Film, I kind of lost the time to simply read books for myself, rather than for a particular module. In fact, I’d lost a lot of the enjoyment that reading had previously brought me and since I am at my core a book worm this was unacceptable for me.

I decided to set myself the challenge of reading a book a week because I’m totally crazy and it seemed like a good idea at the time. The first few books I read had no particular theme to them, but then I started seeing more and more books I wanted to read that had a particular theme to them: equality and feminism. So I thought why not make that my theme? Especially since I already wanted to do some more reading around feminism because I consider myself a novice at best, and I feel like reading is the best education.

Also, I know I have a lot to learn, and there are still so many women that have remained hidden to me for me to discover. I don’t want to just rely on my own very limited experience of being a woman, as everyone’s experience is different depending on where you are from, and unfortunately in the world we live in, what colour your skin is, along with your sexual orientation and a lot of other factors.

I know, for example that I as a white woman have had privilege that I did not even realise I had until I started talking to other women in my Masters class about how they have been treated on holiday, or in the airport compared to the way in which I have been treated (of course the different ways I have/ will be treated is not just limited to this example!).

My sexuality is also important here, as I am heterosexual, so have never faced the prejudice that people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have (I do consider myself an ally of the community, but it would be wrong to say I have had to deal with the same experiences that people who identify as a lesbian have for example), so I need to read about women from this community too. As well as read about the experiences of trans women as well. I want this community to be accepting, and for all of us to fight for equality together, and how can we do this if we aren’t inclusive?

Now, I know a lot of people are ready to attack me for not mentioning men yet, but of course I do not think they are exempt from the discussion. Men are affected by the patriarchy too, of course they are. It makes them think that have to be a real ‘man’ and confirm to the twisted system that is toxic masculinity, and not be able to express their emotions, their sexuality or truly be themselves. Feminism is about equality not women hating men (that is misandry), so men need to be a part of this dialogue as well.

So I want to learn, and for me reading is for me one of the ways I can learn. I started with Carrie Fisher’s novel ‘Princess Diarist’ not out of any preconceived sort of plan but because I realised when Carrie Fisher died that I never had read any of her books, and that was an injustice that she deserved better than.

Carrie Fisher The Princess DiaristImage: April Wilson 

For each book I read I am also excited to announce that I have teamed up with the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective who will be providing me with lovely illustrations of the authors I am reading along with my favourite quotation from the book (inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post!).

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

Kawaii Kollective Carrie FisherImage: The Kawaii Kollective

Since I am a bit behind in posting about this here is a list of the books I’ve read so far:

  • Carrie Fisher, ‘The Princess Diarist’
  • Sady Doyle, ‘Trainwreck’
  • Helena Kelly, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’

Also, I probably shouldn’t be announcing it yet but I’ll announce it a day early just this once, this week’s book I will be reading is Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’. If you have any suggestions for what I should read next please comment below. At the moment I was thinking of reading ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur next week!

If you are interesting in collaborating with me on this project as well please let me know. My inbox is always open!