Me: Carrie Fisher, the woman who played Princess Leia, died.
Zoë: No more Princess Leia?
Me: No more Princess Leia.
I’ve been reading posts and tributes to Carrie Fisher on social media, and I’ve noticed something that’s beginning to bother me.
There seem to be 3 types of posts:
1) Remembering her as Princess Leia
2) Remembering Carrie Fisher as a whole person, including her writing and battle with mental illness
3) Posts which imply that, if Princess Leia is the only reason Carrie Fisher is important to you, then you are a shallow fan who doesn’t really understand how important she was
Even when something this serious happens, it seems geeks feel the need to engage in one-upsmanship- to be the supreme, everlasting know-it-all. For those not in the know, it’s the way geeks establish social hierarchy and feel better about themselves after being put down and excluded from other social groups for so long. While Carrie hated being relegated to sex symbol status, she had no problem with fans loving her for being a badass space princess. In fact, I have a feeling that if Carrie were to witness the dumbfuckery people are engaging in on her behalf, she’d tell them to fuck off and go suck on a bag of dicks in a corner.
Look, I think the openness with which Carrie lived her life helped so many people. She made it okay to be honest and fucked up and mentally ill. She made it okay to laugh, both in spite of your pain and because of it. Anyone familiar with her work and life beyond Star Wars should absolutely share it and how it has been important to them, just so long as it is not at the expense of how Carrie Fisher was important to others. You don’t get to decide how someone impacts another person’s life. You also don’t get to assign value to that impact.
I don’t really remember the first time I saw Princess Leia Organa on screen and how her character affected me. I was around 8, and a lot of my memories are inaccessible to me because of repression. Thanks childhood abuse! But I do remember the first time I had an incredibly strong reaction to Leia. Return of the Jedi, rescuing Han, and Leia is all alone in that “Gee, I wonder which man made that creepy costume decision” bikini, with space slug mobster, Jabba. Once stuff started going down at the sarlacc pit, bitch didn’t wait around for someone to come get her. She jumped up and strangled that slug to death with the very chain that made her captive. I remember thinking, “Holy shit! That is so badass!”
For a long time, until rather recently, that’s who Carrie Fisher was to me. She was the actress who didn’t wait for anyone to come save her and was every bit as important as the boys. I also feel fortunate to have seen Wishful Drinking and to hear her speak candidly, with all the acerbic wit she could muster, about living with Bipolar disorder. And of course her service dog, Gary, is a gift to the world.
My girls, 5 and 8, still only know Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. At age 4, she was the first princess that Rachael really saw take matters into her own hands. She inspired for Rachael a love of independent, kickass women, which led to the radical notion that women are just as strong and valuable as men. Just the other night as I read the introduction from her new Women in Science book, and how horribly and unequally they were treated, Rachael declared that when she grows up, she wants to do something to make sure that everyone knows men and women are equal and that women are able to enjoy equal rights. If that’s what comes of only knowing Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, I’d say that’s pretty fucking valuable.