Carrie Fisher: Drowned in Moonlight, Strangled by Her Own Bra
My story isn’t unique: like many people, Carrie Fisher was my first real crush. I didn’t know why, but as a young boy watching Star Wars, she was different from all the other girls I knew. She wasn’t just cute and funny, she was strong and sassy, someone who could stand toe-to-toe with Darth Vader and not bat an eyelid. She was everything.
At school we would play Star Wars on our lunch breaks. Unlike other schoolyard games, the role of princess wasn’t a passive one: Leia wasn’t some damsel in distress, she was an active part of the story. I always had to be Han Solo and, considering how the story turned out, it was a much better choice than Luke, at least if you were a fan of Leia.
Fast forward a few years and I saw her again in The Empire Strikes Back. Then, soon after, I saw the film that cemented things for me: The Blues Brothers. I still remember my Dad taking me to see that at a midnight screening in the old Metro Cinema on George Street in Sydney. Once again she was strong and sassy, tenacious — the kind of woman only “Joliet” Jake could walk away from. She was amazing.
As I child, I didn’t know about the demons she fought off-screen, but as I grew up I heard more about them. It wasn’t gossip or rumour – no – Carrie faced them head-on, writing about them in semi-autobiographical tomes like Postcards From The Edge and Delusions of Grandma. My friend Chad bought me a copy of Delusions for my birthday and it was a revelation. Her ability to express things so articulately matched everything else I’d ever loved about her. She was brilliant. It’s no surprise she became a script-doctor on so many successful films; she was already re-writing her lines as Leia back in the day.
One of my favourite memories was from my trip to San Diego Comic-Con back in 2011. I decided to stop in Toronto on my way to the con, and it was magical. I made some wonderful new friends like George Zotti and Nicole Rodrigues, tasted poutine for the first time, and managed to see Carrie Fisher performing her one woman show Wishful Drinking at the appropriately named Princess Theatre. Okay, it was actually the Princess of Wales Theatre, but that’s neither here nor there. I was lucky to pick up a good seat on the day, and the show was astounding. She may not have been exactly the way I remembered her, but she was no less stunning or brilliant to me – she was just Carrie.
I read a great post by @ElusiveJ on Twitter who said, “Thinking about how we mourn artists we never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves,” and I think that sums it up for me. I didn’t know Carrie, but her influence on me was profound and formative. More than that, in sharing her experiences, she actually did allow me, allowed us all, to know her a little bit. To relate and to understand her struggles — not because she wanted sympathy, but because she didn’t want us to feel alone.
In thinking about Star Wars, The Blues Brothers, Shampoo, or any other part she played, the greatest role she ever had was role model. She addressed issues of addiction and mental health in a way few others could. She destigmatized and normalised them, so that people could better accept them, and hopefully, in the end, better accept themselves. Her return as General Organa in The Force Awakens was more than just an acknowledgement of her role or the passage of time, it was an acknowledgement that a woman could lead the Rebellion and do it well.
Her rebellion continued off-screen. She was an advocate to the very end, living openly with all her quirks and eccentricities in plain sight, and she left us with a legacy that will ensure her work continues. Once upon a time I would have said “O Princess, my Princess” but now I say “O General, my General.” You shall be missed.Continued below
Postscript: Having finished this memoriam, I’ve just heard the sad news that Carrie’s mother, the legendary Debbie Reynolds, has died following a stroke at the age of 84. It seems her pain and grief was too great, and once more a shining star is snuffed out. 2016 has been cruel and difficult, taking many heroes and icons from us. It’s easy to be disheartened (I know I have been), but these people were heroes for a reason, and it’s that example which endures long beyond their passing. If you really want to honour their legacy, then learn their lessons – and make yourself someone more inspirational as we enter 2017 — we could all use a bit of that, especially in the days that lie ahead.