When I heard the news last year that Carrie Fisher had died I went up to my bedroom and wept. The feeling of loss took me entirely by surprise. Although I am the first to admit that I am a huge Star Wars fan, Carrie Fisher (or Princess Leia) was never a childhood hero of mine. Nevertheless her death stayed raw for several weeks, and even now if I think about it hard enough, the gap that she left in Hollywood threatens to engulf me.
How can it be that I feel the death of someone I never personally knew so keenly? I blame social media. In the run up to the release of The Force Awakens, and afterwards, newsfeeds were awash with interviews, quotes and gif sets of Carrie in all her magnificent glory. I read articles about her, learnt she lived with bipolar disorder, and clearly grew to appreciate her as the amazing woman she was.
Carrie Fisher was everything that Hollywood seems to dislike in women; she was vocal, unapologetic and refused to take any bullshit. More than this, she was incredibly human. To come across as a genuine human in Hollywood is rare. Others try, yet none seem to manage it in the way that Carrie did. One tweet that really sticks in my mind read “I take back like half the exclamation points…..they make me look….eager to please. Which I AM….but I don’t want anyone to KNOW that”
Who has never had that exact feeling before? Carrie was so willing to lay it all out for the public to see, her strength, her weakness, that it became impossible not to admire her and the way she lived her life.
After her death, the quote that made the rounds summed up what I knew of Carrie Fisher pretty well. “…no matter now I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” It’s a beautifully funny quip, that is indicative of Carrie’s humour. But the sentiment behind the statement is less amusing. She makes it in reference to George Lucas’s excuse as to why she couldn’t wear a bra with the iconic white Princess Leia dress. (There’s no underwear in space, he said. Your body would expand and you’d get strangled by your bra, he said.)
All her life, Carrie railed against the sexism in Hollywood, both behind the scenes and on screen. The image of her in the gold bikini is probably one of the most drooled over images in existence. Carrie countered remarks about how sexist it was by reminding people that Leia was put in that bikini against her will, and then used the chains of it to strangle her oppressor. In doing so she pointed out that there was nothing wrong with the outfit itself, but instead with our perception of it. This is how Carrie Fisher fought, with humorous quips and simple truths and I will forever admire her for it.
I am not the first person to say that the world lost a gem when we lost Carrie Fisher. I will not be the last. But no matter how many people say it, it won’t be any less true. Carrie Fisher showed me how a life can be lived outside the shadow of an iconic role, how to step away from the demons of the past and refuse to apologise for being anything other than yourself. She was royalty, not just because of who she played in Star Wars, but because of who she was in real life. We could all learn a thing or two from her.