I haven’t blogged in a year (exactly) but I heard today that Carrie Fisher had died. I am heart-broken. It seems 2016 wasn’t necessarily done being an awful dumpster fire of unexpected hardships and utter bullshit. It still had some awful left to expunge.
Star Wars came out in 1976, when I was 11 years old, and Carrie Fisher was 21. Even though she had smaller roles in lesser films, Star Wars was her break out. I first saw it in Madison, when my sister (also 21) worked at a multi-plex. I was able to see it twice that day, as Mary worked a longer shift than she had planned. I was in heaven. I saw it later with my dad, who loved it almost as much as I did, but he described it as a dog-fight movie. I described it as a Princess movie. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy other aspects of the film; I loved the adventure, the folk lore, and of course, I had the obligatory crush on Luke Skywalker (Han was too dangerous for 11 year old Liz) but it was Princess Leia my eyes were glued to. She was everything I wanted to be.
As a kid, I was usually too loud, too assertive, too snarky and was usually too open with my opinions. I was reminded frequently (if not daily) to rein in my all too loud, brassy behavior. This was usually met with failure, but not for lack of trying. It just wasn’t in me. I tried so hard to be a quiet and good Cinderella or Princess Aurora, but I just couldn’t get a handle on it. Then came Leia. She was opinionated, smart, strong, always gave her opinion, and better yet, she was listened to. She never had to rein it in, she just reigned. In a world of Barbies, I needed a Leia. I adored her and everything she stood for. Princess Leia, (later General Organa) got me through middle school, and then some. If I ever felt overwhelmed with life or school, I would pop on a little bit of John Williams’ soundtrack, specifically Leia’s Theme, and be transported to a place where a woman could fight for what was right. It gave me an odd kind of strength. She made me want to be leader.
Later in college, I stumbled across Fisher’s novel Postcards from the Edge. It was transformative, not so much the plot but the writing style. It was funny and dark and real and harsh and then even more funny. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. (And watching the movie doesn’t count, even though she wrote the screen play…read the book.) For a student taking Creative Writing, and patting herself on the back with a few passable short stories, it was a slap of wonderful writing smack across my face. I loved reading it and loved rereading it even more. There were lines on every page that I wished I would have written. I coveted her style and her effortless snark. She made me want to be a writer.
Many don’t know this, but there were countless scripts of favorite movies that she quietly “doctored” and ultimately saved with her wit and her sense of story and plot; she worked on Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapons 3, Wedding Singer Outbreak, and she also quietly contributed dialogue to the Star Wars movies she appeared in. I am confident my favorite jokes from the Oscars were hers as well. She was quietly, a very prolific writer for films and TV.
Later, I loved watching her on chat shows, especially Graham Norton. She was so incredibly brave, funny and honest about her struggles with sobriety and with mental health; I can’t imagine how many people she helped or saved with her candor and honesty. I know she helped me, a loud and strong-minded girl who never seemed to fit in. I think she helped my kid too, as I have indoctrinated her (strongly) into the ways of the force, and all the amazing female characters that are currently coming out of the Star Wars universe. In fact, we saw Rogue One last night and that ending couldn’t be more poignant today…”hope”.
Her death is another blow after a tough year of losing artistic vanguards, but this one hit me harder than I expected. I never met her, I never knew her, she wasn’t my friend, but damn, she felt like one to me.