Carrie Fisher - The Ultimate Princess
Of all the losses we’ve had to endure throughout 2016 - I never thought anything could be worse than losing Leonard Nimoy until we lost Carrie Fisher.
To a generation of women my age who grew up at a time where female role models were scarce, Princess Leia of Alderaan was an inspiration to young girls everywhere. From the moment she appeared on screen in Star Wars, she captured our imaginations at her willingness to sacrifice herself to ensure the safety of the galaxy. With Rogue One’s tragic story now known to us, that sacrifice may seem even more poignant but back in 1977, it wasn’t the way things were supposed to go for a princess.
The princesses that came before Star Wars changed our worldview forever, were Disney princesses. These were beautiful yet helpless young women, who were always at the mercy of the evil and destined to be the booty of the prince who rescued them. Princess Leia’s arrival smashed these tropes. Leia was no leggy beauty. She lacked superstar looks and forced to wear the worst hair style known to humanity but to us she was extraordinary.
Instead of being tall and willowy, she was short and spunky. At the beginning of Star War, she gets the plot going by her heroic decision to send R2D2 to find Ben Kenobi, remaining behind to give the little droid a fighting chance. Even before she’s taken, she puts down the stormtroopers hunting her. When captured, Leia never behaves like a prisoner, jousting verbally with Tarkin and Vader, using her skills as a diplomat - remember Leia is not just a princess but also senator.
When she is rescued by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, it’s Leia who has to save them all when their half-assed plan at a rescue threatens capture. At the loss of Ben Kenobi, Leia is there offering Luke comfort even though she herself is mourning an entire planet along with all the family she’d ever known. Leia doesn’t have time for mourning with a Death Star nipping at her heels. The stakes are simply too high.
Her disgust at Han’s self-interest when the lives of billions are at risk inspired not only the young girls who watched her but the smuggler who ultimately falls for her. Right there, Leia taught us that handsome and charming men aren’t always princes and one should never surrender their self-worth for one. When she and Han do get together, it’s because he showed he was good enough for her love.
Indeed, throughout Star Wars, Leia is never anyone’s prize. She’s a leader and fighter, unafraid to roll up her long sleeves and get her hands dirty. In The Empire Strikes Back, she bravely stays until all the rebels are evacuated and safely away from Hoth before thinking of her own escape. When she and Han finally admit their feelings to each other, she’s not afraid to ask him the hard questions and is unequivocal about where she stands even if he leaves. She may love him but the cause comes first.
I would be remiss without mentioning how much Princess Leia owes to her portrayer, Carrie Fisher. To us, both are synonymous but Carrie Fisher was as much an inspiration as the princess she played. After Star Wars, she embarked on a career as a writer of books, a script doctor and the occasional acting role. True, she suffered with substance abuse and mental illness but it is a testament to her, at how well she was able to overcome this and remain a beloved feminine role model.
Her books, which included Postcards from the Edge, Wishful Drinking and more recently The Princess Diarist revealed a sharp, humorous view of growing up in Hollywood from someone uniquely qualified to make the judgement. In some instances, she was merciless on herself and her excesses, but intertwined in the no-holds-barred view of herself was her determination to overcome these difficulties.
Aside from her books, Carrie was also one of Hollywood’s top script doctors, working on such projects as The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Lethal Weapon 3, Made in America, Milk Money, Scream 3 and many others. More recently, her scribbles can be seen to the script of The Empire Strikes Back, where she fixed the dialogue for not only Leia but also Han. She was a talented writer who made scripts better and the movies we loved would be so much worse without her.
For the fans, Princess Leia will live on in the films and the books written about Star Wars but Carrie Fisher is gone forever. Passing at the age of 60, we’ve lost someone who had so much more to give and that feels even worse.