February 5, 2017

‘Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force’: Remembering Carrie Fisher

Sam Lurie ‘19


With the death of iconic actress Carrie Fisher on December 27, 2016, many have flooded the internet with tributes to the actress and her defining role, Princess Leia from the Star Wars franchise. Fisher and Leia are both undeniably iconic, but many gloss over how significant they were to the history of film, feminism and mental illness.   
Fisher first appeared as Princess Leia in 1977’s “Star Wars.”  Already being the child of famous singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, this role skyrocketed Fisher to superstardom. Princess Leia was the female lead, but was a very different character from the women that had been portrayed on film prior.  
“What appealed to me was that George Lucas, who wrote [“Star Wars”] and also directed it, didn’t want a damsel in distress, didn’t want your stereotypical princess...sort of a victim, frightened, incapable of dealing with a situation without the guys,” Fisher said of Leia’s role in a 1977 BBC interview. “He wanted a fighter, someone who was independent… and that’s what appealed to me about that part.”      
Yes, Princess Leia did need to be rescued by Luke Skywalker, but the minute she is let out of her cell, the audience can understand how different she is from the archetypal princess.
As she leaves her cell, Leia and her rescuers, Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca, are pinned in a narrow hallway, being shot at by stormtroopers. After some shooting, Leia grabs a blaster out of Luke’s hands and shoots stormtroopers herself before shooting a grate in the wall and confidently stating “Somebody has to save our skins.”
It was this taking action and sassiness that made Princess Leia a role model for so many young girls and a groundbreaking character in movies.
Carrie Fisher’s contributions to society did not only come from Star Wars, but also as a prominent figure in the worlds of mental health and addictions. Fisher had a tough life with mental illness, suffering from bipolar disorder as well as an addiction to cocaine and prescription drugs. However, instead of keeping silent about her mental state, she was an open book, never shying away from talking about it to the media.
Fisher also wrote books on these matters, including the autobiographical comedy “Wishful Drinking” and the semi-autobiographical novel “Postcards from the Edge.” These books were very popular and well-received. The former was converted into a one-woman play starring Fisher and the latter a film, written by Fisher.
The film was critically acclaimed and starred Meryl Streep, who was nominated for an Academy Award. This furthered Fisher’s message of being open about mental illness and addiction and helped many others to cope with their similar issues.
When remembering the life of Carrie Fisher, it is important to not just remember a movie star, but someone who legitimately bettered the world. May the force be with her.

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