All I can think about is how thankful I am for Carrie Fisher.
As a kid, Carrie Fisher was the only woman I saw who would not tolerate society’s bullshit expectations – she had no time for that. No time either to hide her intelligence or bind her emotions.She wasn’t going to waste her time hiding her intelligence or zipping her mouth.
Pop culture back then was a different beast – women simpered in the background, occasionally dragged out as props for men. They were more notable for what they wore – spangled superhero corsets, cut off jeans and bikinis. Even if women characters were written as feisty, there was a brittleness to them, that underneath it all what they most desperately needed was the validation of a man to make them friendly or less of a threat.
While pundits ooze over Harrison Ford redefining the role of Han Solo, we should question how much Carrie Fisher changed the role of General Leia Organa. There’s no way George Lucas, who is 70% cardboard, could have conceived Leia – there’s no hints in Akira Kurosawa or Joseph Campbell he could have cribbed to create the the strong, principled, in-amongst-the-fight woman who would go chin to chin against any man. That was Carrie Fisher.
Growing up and watching her was more than three Star Wars movies – she was never just General Leia Organa. We grew up with her books and movies, saw her turn up on chat shows to mock the hosts vainly trying to keep up with her and wordlessly finding a dozen ways to try and kill John Belushi.
Part of Fisher’s power and privilege was that she never appeared over-awed by the industry. The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and a damn quick study, she grew up in Hollywood and heard the conversations, saw the deals made in the studios and on film sets. While other women could be quieted by a director telling them they were “lucky” to be there, it was powerless against a woman who always was there. That power and comfort comes across on screen and translated to her work as a script doctor.
I’m not alone in that. For most Gen X women, there is a direct line between Carrie Fisher and their feminism. Fisher took up public space and made no apologies for her complexity, intelligence or talent.
My entire personality is a childish attempt to emulate her strength: her smartarsery, how she used shock to disarm and delight, feeling lost in the world but laughing at it in defiance and knowing that vulnerability is nothing to feel vulnerable about. Everything about her was hard won and refined to absolute perfection.
I would try to emulate her wit, daydreaming different ways to answer back the way she did. They were complex little daydreams, of a girl sneering at men and their puffed up chests, of fighting back with wit and force no matter what the hell she was wearing so men would get the hell out of her way. Those daydreams change you; practice enough and your daydreams become reality.
Carrie Fisher was our direct line to feminism because she was open and strong. She created her own careers, owned her talent and looked at the world with a compassionate, weary eye and said “fuck it”. Sometimes you fight for others, sometimes you lead others by fighting for yourself. Fisher did both.
How fucking lucky are we to have grown up with that?