‘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.
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.
April (April is the Cruellest Month)
– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays-