By now you’ve heard the news. Carrie Fisher has passed away. I’ve been getting text messages and emails for the past few minutes. AP and CNN alerts on my phone. My wonderful writer and assistant editor Christina Janke has posted the story. Friends of friends were on the flight, right in front of her when she had a heart attack. Carrie Fisher is gone.
It feels weird to be texted when someone I’ve only met briefly has died, and yet, it makes sense. My role model, who played the character that has shaped my life is has died. I could go over all the accomplishments of her career, but everyone will be doing that. No part of her interesting and varied life will be left from view. I’m not a news reporter. I cover the geek world. I started a Legion of Leia because of what this character did for me. I guess this is just a way to tell the world what she meant.
Carrie’s humor, her willingness to make fun of herself and what playing Princess Leia did to her career was legendary. What little girls from the ’70s know is that we didn’t have many women to look up to. Those of us who didn’t like to play with dolls and wanted to have adventures like the boys knew that Leia was our only hope. She ran part of the Rebellion. She stood up to Darth Vader. She didn’t flinch, even after the loss of her entire planet. She tried to rescue Han Solo, and baring that success, she strangled Jabba the Hutt with her own slave chain. She won over the Ewoks (that dress came from somewhere and it was likely from their last meal) and became a General.
When I was a girl, the women on TV and in film were largely ornaments. They were prizes. They were decoration. I couldn’t understand, even from a young age, why that was. Couldn’t we save the day? Why not? I could hold a blaster toy or a lightsaber made of a large stick as well as any boy on my block. Princess Leia evened the playing field for us. She took no shit from anyone. She was lounging on that prison cell bed, after torture, and joking with her rescuer when she first met Luke.
Carrie was so much more than Princess Leia. Please know that I know that. It’s just that, as a little girl, born in 1973, her portrayal of Leia was something that I felt in my bones. Leia was a fire that forged who I am. Leia’s face in Rogue One made me cry. Leia’s heart bolstered mine when it was failing. I thought about her when I was at my lowest. Her snarky tone got me through many a moment when a man thought I couldn’t do whatever it was that was asked of me. I dressed as Leia for Halloween as a little girl. I fight the good fight, regardless of the backlash because of my early exposure to Star Wars. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. Rest in great peace, Carrie. Your work has inspired so many women. May the Force be with you.