Mirror Mirror - 2017


Carrie Fisher: The Writer, the Activist, and Our Princess

By Jennifer Allen

“If my life wasn't funny it would be true, and that's unacceptable."
~ Carrie Fisher

In the early 1970's, I was born into this world with a view that strong women were (somewhat) the norm. The Women's Liberation Movement was in full swing and seeing a world before it started in the late 60's seemed so extremely bizarre. My own mother was this way due to her own struggles earlier in life, and while I've also had various obstacles while growing up she certainly instilled a good bit of inner strength to cope with it all. Of course, there were outside influences that assisted in molding my overall character into its current state.

It shouldn't be too surprising that many self-confident women in the 60's and 70's come from the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre. Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Lindsey Wagner as Jamie Summers, the Bionic Woman. Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien. Heck even Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched in To Kill a Mockingbird was showing just how powerful she was behind her (supposed) soft, calming demeanor.

Perhaps the most recognizable of them all was a woman introduced in a white dress and that now iconic hairdo who showed us with one simple image that she wasn't and never would be a damsel in distress.

Aside from the golden slave bikini scene in Star Wars, just about every time we see Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa on screen, she shows an enormous amount of personal strength. When Han and Luke screw up her rescue, she grabs a gun and rescues them. Also, she persuades Chewbacca that they need to get Han back from Boba Fett before he leaves Cloud City. Even when she chases after the forest Troopers on the Moon of Endor to keep them from reporting to their superiors. Time and time again she took the whole concept of “save the girl" and turned it on its head.

“Leia follows me around like a vague smell."
~ Carrie Fisher

Whether she liked it or not, Princess Leia became the personification of a cultural icon. There were certainly times that she despised aspects of the performance. From George Lucas telling her she couldn't wear a bra because “…there's no underwear in space," to the pressures to lose weight to the aforementioned golden bikini, she went through a lot. I think it was only when she came back for The Force Awakens and the amount of promotional interviews she did for it that she finally accepted her cult status and had a lot of fun with it.

After Star Wars, Fisher would not only be recognized as a memorable actress. She was also a celebrated book author and screenwriter. She said she started writing short stories and poetry as early as 12 and was quite the book enthusiast since reading helped her to hide from all the stress in her childhood. She also became a well sought after script doctor. I didn't even know such a thing existed until I heard that she was doing it.

More importantly, she became a well-known face to educate people about drug addiction and mental illness. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder at 29 and often cited that the drugs were self-medication to cope with it. Unfortunately that led to years of addiction to cocaine and prescription medication such as Percodan which was often used to control her more manic side. She often said that the drugs made her feel “normal." She was sober by the late 80's and in turn decided to help educate others. She even became a (mostly) anonymous internet therapist for a while answering fans in emails and chat-rooms.

Throughout her many public appearances over the years, it became clear that the most memorable aspect of Carrie was her very open and honest personality. Perhaps as a way to cope with both her mental illness and constantly being in the limelight, she would always answer questions with such a smart yet dry wit that would catch most people off guard. One moment she would be speaking about Star Wars and then she would mention as an aside that her ex-husband (Paul Simon) often used a Leia doll to push voodoo pins into. Whether it's true or not, it can't help but make you chuckle.

Her last few years, I could tell that physically something was a bit off about her. She seemed a lot more exhausted whilst touring around for either her books or The Force Awakens, but her mind was just as sharp as ever.

Her last few appearances often included her beloved French bulldog, Gary who became a star all to himself thanks to his occasional antics and constantly having his tongue hang out the side of his mouth. It's been said that he was an emotional support animal to help her with her mental illness, but she certainly took his celebrity up to 11 since he has his own Twitter & Instagram account. With her passing, Gary now lives with Carrie's daughter Billie Lourd so he'll always have a good and loving home.

Fisher's death struck an emotional cord with me that not many other celebrities could. I think the only other people whose deaths made me completely break down were Freddie Mercury and Robin Williams. As amazing as those two were, Carrie was something different. She will always be a feminist icon who transcended the traditional concepts of being a celebrity. Leia Organa is a strong character because of the equally amazing woman who brought her to life. She gave us a beautiful gift of honesty, humility, humor, and brilliance that not many other human beings will ever be able to duplicate. She has been and will always be my spirit animal, my hero, and my Princess.

While she said that she wanted her obituary to mention that she died “…bathed in moonlight, strangled by her own bra," I think that she would be equally amused that her ashes were placed in a giant novelty Prozac pill.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher, and May the Force be With You wherever you are...