The First Princess That Mattered

Leia was the first princess who mattered to me.

Carrie Fisher — actress, feminist, author and truth-teller about living with mental illness — was not the “Star Wars” character she played. But to a girl growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, her portrayal of a brave, take-charge leader with a biting wit was unforgettable. I can’t imagine anyone else ripping Grand Moff Tarkin (“I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”), matching fast-talking Han Solo line for line (“Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.”), and choking Jabba the Hut dead with the very chain he used to keep Leia captive.

Luke got the lightsaber, but Princess Leia was the character I wanted to be.

carrie_fisher_princess_leia

Naturally, some viewers weren’t happy about having this no-nonsense woman in a space fantasy. As Fisher told Rolling Stone in a 1983 interview, “There are a lot of people who don’t like my character in these movies; they think I’m some kind of space bitch.”

Oh, well. Count me among the “Star Wars” lovers who proudly rocked a double bun hairdo in elementary school.

Fisher was honest about aspects of the role she didn’t like, such as the infamous metal bikini from “Return of the Jedi.” However, she brilliantly flipped the script when a father of two daughters expressed shock upon seeing a bikini-clad Leia action figure in Target, complete with a chain. Fisher advised him via the Wall Street Journal to give his kids this message:

“Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.”

Beyond “Star Wars,” she wrote and spoke openly about battling the double terrors of drug addiction and bipolar disorder. In world where people still stigmatize mental illness and treat it as a failure of will, Fisher’s candor and advocacy gave many some much-needed validation and hope. “If you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of,” she wrote in her memoir “Wishful Drinking.”

Age shaming? She wasn’t having it. “My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”

A lot of terrible shit that had nothing to do with celebrity deaths went down in 2016 and yeah, we have bigger things to worry about. But when an artist leaves an indelible mark during your formative years, the loss can feel intensely personal. For me and countless others, this one qualifies.

3 thoughts on “The First Princess That Mattered

  1. I will miss Carrie Fisher greatly and Princess Leia was way nifty, and Carrie brought her to life wonderfully with wit, verve, and panache, but I always hated that her abilities ( she was an excellent pilot, a good leader and she was Force Sensitive) were either ignored or downplayed in favour of Luke and Han and that she is only revered and remembered by Fanboys for her Jaba Slave outfit.
    I do love that in the Force Awakens that she now referred to as General Organa, I felt the gravitas when they showed her in her first scene in that film, I was HAPPY!
    For me Leia was not the first Princess that mattered for me, that would be Princess Diana of Themyscria. :) But she did matter.
    Nice post Erika. Carrie Fisher will be remembered fondly by me.

    Like

  2. This loss definitely felt personal, not just for her role as Princess Leia, but for everything else Carrie Fisher did.
    Like you said though, her role was important for many children, and not just little girls. She was always and is still my favourite character of the SW universe. Her portrayal of Leia was strong and inspiring. At a time when my heroes where super-heroes with awesome powers, she still stayed on top as an example to follow.
    May she rest in peace.
    Scratch that, may she raise hell wherever she is :D

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s