On December 27, 2016, at 8:55 AM, Carrie Fisher passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. She was only 60 years old. Besides the personal tragedy for Fisher's loved ones, her death is a substantial loss, even for Star Wars noobs like me.
Growing up, I honestly didn't know much about Carrie Fisher other than she was Debbie Reynolds' daughter and was an actress in some movie everyone and their mother seemed to gaga over -- Star Wars. As I got older, I came to know Fisher more for her writing, but still had never seen a Star Wars movie.
Yes, I knew who Luke Skywalker's father was and that "Do or do not, there is no try" was a Yoda quote, but had never seen the films. All my life, particularly into adulthood, the conversation with a Star Wars fan would go something like:
Star Wars Fan: Wait, you've never seen a Star Wars movie?
SWF: Like, ever?
SWF: Seriously? Obviously, I understand skipping the Jar Jar debacle, but not even the original trilogy?
Me (Internally): ...what's a Jar Jar?
SWF: I can't believe it! I have all of them on video cassette/DVD/Blue-Ray! I'm going to make you watch them!
I once even had an über-SWF take personal offense that I hadn't seen any of the films and told me they would "tie me to a chair and force me to watch them." Really.
But despite the insistence (or threats in a few cases) nothing ever transpired, so I never saw them. The closest I'd ever come to seeing one was in an anthropology class where the professor had spliced scenes together to illustrate Joesph Campbell's hero's journey theory. Even the professor seemed surprised when a classmate informed him during break that his lesson was my first basic introduction to the Star Wars universe.
Nothing personal, but Star Wars wasn't a film that my parents had seen and could pass on a love for the story to their children like most Star Wars fans from my generation, and sci-fi generally wasn't in my wheelhouse anyway. Furthermore, most of the boys I knew who talked about Star Wars would often bring up "hot Leia." Frankly, it left me feeling more than a little biased against the franchise: Great, here's yet another damsel in distress that has to be saved. And she wears a slave get-up complete with chains? I thought this was supposed to be a sci-fi action flick. Clearly, I wasn't sold.
But then in 2015, I read an article about Fisher's reaction to the infamous gold bikini and parents having to "explain" the slave costume to their children before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released.
Wall Street Journal: There's been some debate recently about whether there should be no more merchandise with you in the "Return of the Jedi" bikini.
Carrie Fisher: I think that's stupid.
WSJ: To stop making the merchandise?
CF: 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.
Wait, Princess Leia killed the slug thing? I had to look it up.
Well, I'll be damned. And just like that, because of Carrie Fisher, I watched my first Star Wars movie.
Was it the best film I'd ever seen? No (sorry diehard SWFs). But I was able to finally understand the franchise's significance to pop culture and film history. And, perhaps even more importantly, I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the series (maybe I'll finally learn what a Jar Jar is). Though I'm obviously new to the Star Wars universe, Fisher's portrayal of Princess Leia made me admire her even more than I already did.
As such, her sudden death stings.
Carrie Fisher was so much more than the actress who played Princess Leia. She was fiercely and unapologetically herself in the face of an industry where individuality can make or break one's career. She was frank and honest about her battles with depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. She vehemently spoke out against ageism and sexism in Hollywood. She leaves behind an impressive collection of film and television roles, screenplays, and books. In every sense of the word, Carrie Fisher is a role model.
Though it may bring little comfort to her loved ones and fans now, she will go down in history as a feminist icon, humanitarian, all around decent human being, and a BAMF who did things her own way. Her legacy is incomparable, and her unique and powerful voice will be sorely missed.
Rest peacefully, Carrie Fisher. May the force be with you.