Carrie Fisher Was A Sci-Fi Trailblazer And So Much More


When news of Carrie Fisher‘s heart attack broke on Friday night, there was hope that if anyone could flip a middle finger at the creeping death of 2016, it was her. After the loss of vital figures like David Bowie and Prince, it was almost unbearable to think of losing Fisher as well. Unfortunately for us all, we are now facing a future that is a little less bright, as Fisher “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra”. Now Star Wars fans are mourning the loss of their Princess and General.

Fisher took the trope of a cheesy, sighing maiden waiting for her prince to come and threw it out the airlock. I, like many, fell in love with Star Wars at a young age, my family’s weathered VHS tapes getting a steady workout for most of my childhood. Seeing Leia go toe-to-toe with Darth Vader right off the bat was a formative moment. Seeing a girl who could lead her people, kick ass just like the boys, and go on adventures just like them was huge. As my love of Star Wars continued, something different came around in 2015. When The Force Awakens hit screens, many called it a rehash of A New Hope, but one thing was certain: Leia had changed.

No longer the girl that we knew, here was a woman who had been put through the ringer and was still fighting for her cause. She was older, wiser, and something completely new. It shouldn’t be revolutionary to see a woman in her late fifties at the center of a massive sci-fi franchise, but it was.

As it so often goes, many people were unable to wrap their heads around the fact that Fisher was no longer 23 and in a metal bikini, and consequently, neither was Leia. However, Fisher’s take no bullsh*t attitude received another chance to shine through, and her response was perfect: “Please stop debating about whether OR not I aged well. Unfortunately, it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasnt aged as well as I have. Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA.”

In a similar vein, when asked how parents should explain “Slave Leia” and her metal bikini all over Star Wars merch, she responded in that sharp yet funny way that became her trademark. “The father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ 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.”

As rich as the world of Star Wars is and as essential as Fisher’s place in it was, her work off screen was even more remarkable. Inspired by a line in Star Wars that she hated with the heat of Tatooine’s twin suns, Fisher put most of her energy into writing. While her extensive work as a script doctor went largely unnoticed, her candid and ferocious writing added a previously unknown dimension to a person who we thought we knew. Fiercely feminist and completely unapologetic, Fisher wrote about addiction, mental illness, and how she refused to let the Hollywood machine chew her up and spit her out. Her first memoir, Wishful Drinking, which she would later turn into an acclaimed one-woman show, showed us a Carrie Fisher that was rougher around the edges than we expected, and she was all the better for it.

Despite its prevalence, there is still a stigma around mental illness, the proper way to treat it, and how it can affect someone’s day-to-day existence. Fisher, who was diagnosed as bipolar, refused to be silent about her illness, speaking and writing powerfully about its influence on her life. She told ABC, “I outlasted my problems. I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”

While many have been told that their mental illness was a source of shame, Fisher was always quick to advocate that it was just like any other illness: treat it with proper care and learn how to live with it. In Wishful Drinking, she said what many were too afraid to admit, that sometimes living as a manic depressive was an often herculean feat.

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Her role as a candid revolutionary was even more inspirational than her role as Princess. While her illness and addiction had put her through hell, Fisher was an advocate for living. Whether it was a chemical imbalance or some sort of undue criticism, she was never one to just lie down and take it. Carrie Fisher was even better than any fiction that George Lucas could come up with.

Her final book, The Princess Diarist, was a look at her journals from when she was 19, in love with Harrison Ford, and still in the dark about how Star Wars was going to change her life. In its pages, we get a first glimpse of the woman who was already on her way to becoming a force of nature. Smart, inquisitive, and emotional, Fisher was already fighting against the constraints placed on women, especially in the public eye, and the idea that people are lesser if they feel deeply.

While Fisher was an advocate for all, she spoke especially for the girls who were too loud, too “crazy,” and too much. Fisher was the princess who slaughtered the monster who put her in chains and never apologized for taking up space. In a world that constantly tells us to quiet down, to conform, a voice like Fisher’s was invaluable. Few people have such a clear-eyed view of reality and an overwhelming desire to keep talking even when everything is trying to silence you. If this world was a fair one, we would have had decades more of Fisher’s caustic wit and insight. Sadly, that was not to be. As we look forward to an uncertain future, our only hope is that we can make her proud.