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With only five days left in its miserable life, 2016 has struck again. Still in the midst of grief-bingeing George Michael’s Freedom 90, we learned that Carrie Fisher passed away after having a massive heart attack. Or, as Carrie would have preferred it reported: She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.
This one felt personal to us here at That’s Normal. As a badass woman both on and off screen, her work and life touched all of us in some way.
In 1983 I turned 8. That year a movie came out that I was so excited to see. Back then, movies stayed in theaters a really long time so even though it was released the beginning of May, by the time my August birthday rolled around, me and my best friend Julie went with my dad to see it. Her five brothers had all the action figures and we took turns “playing” Princess Leia. The boys obviously wanted to be Han or Luke. But we knew even then that Leia was the way to go. Not a damsel that needed rescuing because I recall we were in there fighting right along side the boys. Often commenting on their antics: You call this a rescue? While I never dressed up as Leia for Halloween, not sure why, I do know, she’s the only princess I ever wanted to be. I liked Disney movies like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but I wanted to be where the action was. I was all about being a princess who was smart, never was tempted by the dark side and carried a gun.
When Star Wars came out, I was 4. My dad took me anyway, to the Astro Theater across town, right next to the Astro Bowl. For Christmas that year, I got a Princess Leia doll. Her hair buns were perfection. My brother once pulled them down, and I could never get them quite right after that. I remember trying to stab out the bionic eye of his Steve Austin doll in revenge.
But for me, the role that will always stick with me was her turn as Marie in When Harry Met Sally. Maybe it’s because my favorite person Norah Ephron wrote the words or maybe it’s because Carrie Fisher uttered them perfectly, but there is one line I quote more than any other in my life: “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.”
Summer 1977. My only cinematic experiences to date were old-school Disney films in which Walt couldn’t bear to see any significant female characters survive past the 5-minute mark. My single mother was in the midst of having to bear the multiple indignities of having to raise me on $100 a month of child support, dating a string of douchey-chauvinistic 70s boyfriends, and having to ask her ex-husband to co-sign the loan on our cheap-ass little Toyota Corolla. Then, one fateful night, we went to see this new “Star Wars” movie. Around the 5-minute mark, not only did a significant female character not die, but she instead stomped right up to 7’ tall Darth Vader, chewed him out and rocked my world. She was the smart-mouthed bitch my juvenile outrage craved to see in the world.
She stood up to powerful men.
She pointed out the stupid, and took charge when she had to.
She was the master of the hilarious smackdown.
She had a backbone of steel.
And she hooked up with Han Solo.
IRL I think people always wanted Carrie Fisher to be Princess Leia, and were a put off by her non-space hair, her regular weight, her crassness and vulgarity. But Carrie was the ultimate Princess Leia. She stood up to powerful men. She pointed out the stupid, and took charge when she had to. She as the master of the hilarious smackdown. She had a backbone of steel. And she hooked up with Han Solo.
You, Carrie Fisher, are my fucking hero.
Growing up playing Star Wars with my cousins means there were always more girls than there were Princess Leia’s. Even R2-D2 is a guy when let’s face it, his personality is all lady. And would it have killed Lucas to just give Artoo female pronouns? “Oh she excels at that, sir.” Already, the movie is better.
Anyway, it didn’t matter that Leia was the only girl to play when there were seven girls at my Mammaw’s house … we didn’t want to be her because she was female and wore a pretty dress. We wanted to be Leia because she was the strong one, whose purpose never wavered. You never had to wonder which way Leia would go when faced with a tough decision because she was always brave. So, we pretended to be Chewie and C3PO and Yoda and Lando (so our boy cousins could be Han and Luke), but we gave them all Leia’s personality.
Carrie Fisher was more than Leia. A fierce advocate, the perfect guest actress, a hilarious screenwriter, the perfect convention panelist. But if she had been a different kind of actress, we would not be indelibly connected to Leia the way we were as children. In the dorky way we were as teenagers using our nerd-cache to get dates to Star Wars:Special Edition. In the nostalgic way we are as adults when we cry that she’s no longer with us.
And for all of you, my favorite Carrie Fisher moment.
Carrie Fisher taught me that a princess
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.” — Carrie Fisher.
You given us so much joy and have been such an inspiration. You will be missed. We love you, Carrie Fisher.