In a year that had already taken Gordon Henley (Garven Dreis), Ian Liston (Wes Janson) and even Kenny Baker (R2-D2) from us, 2016 then left the biggest kick in the gut until the very end- Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia. After suffering a cardiac arrest while on a flight to Los Angeles, she was rushed to intensive care, and unfortunately passed away yesterday afternoon.
As one of only three women with speaking roles in the original trilogy (the others being little more than cameos), Leia was often the sole female presence in a cast dominated by men. Furthermore, unlike Luke’s iconic green lightsaber or Han’s hairy sidekick, Leia had no instantly recognisable “gimmick” to fall back on. Despite this, Leia stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her male co-stars, proving an inspiration to a generation of fans, and providing a role model to millions of young girls across the world. Leia managed to subvert many clichés throughout the original trilogy; she may have held the title of Princess, but she never once acted as a damsel in distress- as much as Han Solo would have liked to believe otherwise. In the Death Star she resisted torture and the destruction of her home planet, and on Tatooine, in spite of her now infamous attire, it was Leia who killed the crime-lord Jabba. Finally, years later, it was Leia who led the Resistance against the First Order.
In real life, Carrie Fisher had her demons. Her addictions and afflictions are well-documented, and so I feel little need to dwell on that again. Instead, what is more important is despite all of these problems, she never gave up, and dragged herself out from her own personal hell. She never shied away from the truth, often speaking candidly about her problems, culminating in her being awarded an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award for Cultural Humanism by Harvard earlier this year. Her own struggles helped her understand those of others- including the PTSD of musician and former soldier James Blunt. Instead of letting her demons engulf her, Carrie decided to use them to better the lives of others- and that is what I believe her legacy will really be.
In more recent times, Fisher had moved into a role similar to that of Leia in the Force Awakens. Using her unique life experiences, she mentored the aforementioned Blunt, as well as taking Star Wars’ new star Daisy Ridley under her wing. Even in the brief glimpses of their relationship from interviews, it is obvious that Carrie used her wisdom to try and prevent the new star from making the same mistakes that she herself had, advising Daisy on fame and fighting for the right to her own wardrobe, among others.
Carrie Fisher lived a remarkable life. Her roles as Leia Organa and the “Mystery Woman” in the Blues Brothers make her the equal of Hollywood royalty. Her struggles with addiction, and her subsequent recovery, with all the infamy that surrounded it, made her a tragic figure. Her self-reinvention as a role model, using those experiences to make the lives of luckier people better, made her a caring, empathetic person. All of these things make her passing all the more poignant, the timing being just the icing on a very bitter cake.
In the end, whether you choose to remember Carrie Fisher as a feminist icon, a troubled actor, or simply as the person who played a badass character on a film you like, it is undoubtable that the world is a worse place for her loss. Moreover, at only 60 years of age, it is one that has been felt far too soon. Though, if I had to choose a way to go, drowning in moonlight while being strangled by my own bra would probably be up there.
RIP Carrie Fisher