By Laura Nunez
“I’m not as cooperative as you might want a woman to be,” – Carrie Fisher.
Beloved actress, writer, and producer Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016, from complications suffered due to a heart attack. Princess of Alderaan, leader in health advocacy, and queen of social justice, Fisher left a groundbreaking imprint on our lucky galaxy.
The daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie was no novice to the spotlight. Through her spunk, feisty attitude, and no-nonsense demeanor, she rose to fame as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. She performed alongside Hollywood giants in her numerous features, which included Hannah and Her Sisters, The Blues Brothers, The Burbs, and When Harry Met Sally. In the 90s, she put her whit and creativity to good use as a script doctor for movies like Sister Act and The Wedding Singer. And, she cultivated a successful career as an author, penning best sellers including Postcards from the Edge and Wishful Drinking, in which she discusses her struggles with addiction.
On screen, Fisher became the type of heroine that young girls could idolize. Her name might have been Princess, but she was far from the dependent and docile Disney princess. She was an intelligent political leader, a fearsome rebel fighter, and a resourceful army general.
“I got to play the only girl in an all boy fantasy, and it’s a great role for women. She’s a very proactive character and she gets the job done. So if you’re going to get typecast as something, that might as well be it for me.” – Carrie Fisher.
When we are first introduced to Leia’s character in Episode IV: A New Hope, we see her fearlessly confront Darth Vader, shrug off Han and Luke’s rescue as ill-planned, and shoot her way through Stormtroopers to escape the Death Star. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, flips the “damsel in distress” architype on its head, having Leia be the one to save Han from his frozen prison. In the same movie, Leia transforms her infamous gold bikini from a symbol of male fantasy into fuel for her defiance by strangling the guy who forced her into the outfit. Most importantly, Leia’s independence set the stage for future female leads, including Rey and Jyn.
“It’s hard to separate the character from the actress,” said Naomi McDougall Jones, filmmaker and advocate for women and film.
Fisher’s courage and boldness didn’t vanish with the end credits. She was as much a hero for young women off-screen as she was on-screen. Famous for her unapologetic authenticity, she publicly spoke out against sexism in media and politics.
Over the span of her career, Fisher balked at the public’s fixation with her physical appearance on the big screen, especially when male counterparts received little-to-no scrutiny. “I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up,” Fisher said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
During promotion for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Fisher faced body shaming for her weight on social media. She shut down the hate in her traditional matter-of-fact way, tweeting that “youth and beauty are not accomplishments.”
In a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine, Fisher even instructed her Force Awakens co-star Daisy Ridley to “keep fighting against that slave outfit.”
Similarly, Fisher was a vocal advocate for the mental health community. The frank way in which she discussed her experience with Bipolar disorder was inspiring to fans, and she managed to thrust a normally taboo topic into public conversation.
Fisher revolutionized the science fiction genre, knocked down barriers for female actresses, discarded taboos, and threw out propriety with biting humor and an unstoppable vigor. She left behind a sixty-year legacy of outstanding work, compassion, and human decency that taught us to be loud, proud, and embrace our individuality. We’ll miss you, Carrie Fisher.