Writer, Teacher, Researcher
A year ago a wrote a review on The Force Awakens where I talked about how much I wanted to be Princess Leia and how I appreciated how she grew old with grace and elegance. Now, I am struggling to find the words to fully express my thoughts on Carrie Fisher’s passing.
I always wanted to be Princess Leia. What little girl wouldn’t? I have a sign hanging on my office door with a picture of Princess Leia that reads “51% Rebel, 49% Princess.” This is exactly how it should be and how I want to take over the world. A little more rebel than princess.
I have loved Leia for as long as I can remember, dreaming of being able to take my thin hair and put it into Leia buns, when the best I could hope for was Laura Ingalls pigtail braids. Yet, it is the adult Carrie Fisher and the feminist that she was throughout her life that I will miss the most.
I found a different Fisher in high school when I first read Postcards From the Edge. I was excited to see what Princess Leia wrote about and fell in love with Fisher’s humor, her multi-genre approach and use of the epistolary form through journals and postcards. It was beautiful and timeless and so before it’s time. The novel still haunts me
She wanted so to be tranquil, to be someone who took walks in the late-afternoon sun, listening to the birds and crickets and feeling the whole world breathe. Instead, she lived in her head like a madwoman locked in a tower, hearing the wind howling through her hair and waiting for someone to come and rescue her from feeling things so deeply that her bones burned. She had plenty of evidence that she had a good life. She just couldn’t feel the life she had. It was as though she had cancer of the perspective.
Fisher was able to capture a world that, although as a 16-year-old I was not part of, I still was able to relate to as I read.
She continued to write books that I wanted to read, including Surrender the Pink and Delusions of Grandma, both of which made me laugh the whole way through. Then there was the first memoir/one-act play, Wishful Drinking, “which wasn’t all sweetness and light sabers.” In total, she wrote seven books (the last of which is in my TBR pile). She is the kind of writer I want to be. Honest, capable, witty, and one that can capture what it means to be.
Fisher’s advocacy for mental health and her openness about her own mental illness was also admirable. She was vocal about her addiction and mental illness. “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that. I am still surviving it, but bring it on.” She gave others Advice from the Dark Side at The Guardian as people asked about dealing with being bipolar and mental illness. She was not afraid to speak up and share very personal aspects of herself in very public ways.
She continued to be a strong, feminist role model throughout her career. When people started to criticize her appearance and aging in The Force Awakens, Fisher had words for the body shamers. She advocated for herself and other women aging and surviving in this world. Following her on Twitter was always a treat and she always knew what to say.
When people who are famous die it’s sometimes difficult to decide how to feel. As I grow older, I watch many of the people who I admired and found connections to in popular culture die. Recently, I have thought more about what it means when someone who was a part of my childhood and adolescence but was not someone I met in person, passes. I have realized that these connections are important. That the lives the individuals I connect with through art, film, literature, music, and pop culture are important aspects of my life. They are part of who I am and have been influential in defining who I have become.
Carrie Fisher helped define what it meant for me to be a young woman. She gave me something to look up to as I navigated what it means to love the geeky side of myself. And, as I grew older, and watched Fisher grow older, I continued to watch her redefine herself and her life, and in all of it be authentic. Her determination and the way in which she lived on and off-screen, helped me to see how to navigate being me. “I haven’t ever changed who I am. I’ve just gotten more accepting of it. Being happy isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have.”
For me, Carrie Fisher will always be my first, and one of my most influential, feminist role models. It started as a love affair with Star Wars and Leia, but as I became more aware of how I want to exist in the world, it also became an admiration for the woman she was. And, for Carrie Fisher, I will always I truly believe that she drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.