By Alexa Mancilla
60 years ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Carrie Fisher, daughter of pop singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, was born. Sadly, our favorite space princess was taken from this Earth much too soon on December 27. Carrie suffered a heart attack on December 23 while traveling from London to Los Angeles, and was unresponsive for approximately ten minutes. Four days later, she passed away, surrounded by family. While it is a tragedy that fans are being forced to say goodbye to such an incredible woman so soon, we must not focus on our feelings of sorrow. Of course, we are allowed to have time to grieve, but we must remember her for all of the good she put into the world. Fisher, best known for her role as the fearless, strong, independent space princess and general, Leia, was an actress, author, screenwriter, casting director, producer, and advocate for LGTB+ rights and mental illness.
In her most iconic role as Princess Leia, she taught women watching the Star Wars saga that you don’t need to be a damsel in distress when you can handle yourself on your own. She taught many, including me, that independence, quick wit, and fearlessness were all things that made an incredible and vigorous leader. She taught us that not only can we take care of ourselves, without the assistance of a man, but that confidence and strength will get you everywhere. Intimidation, even in space, really can help you defeat the forces of evil. Leia taught us that with strength, poise, confidence, and the Force, any powerful woman is as capable as her male counterparts to defeat the Empire, once and for all.
Along with being the independent and all-around lovely Leia, Ms. Fisher was known for her writing. With 11 published books, Fisher shared stories of her childhood, growing up as Hollywood royalty, playing the iconic Princess Leia, and even works of fiction exploring the world of drug addiction, mental illness, and sexuality (which were based on her life). These books allowed readers a glimpse into her life as an actress, a daughter of actors and singers, and as a drug-addicted, mentally ill woman who had to defy the odds to succeed. Her works allowed for some readers to relate and feel less alone in their struggles while allowing some to understand others’ struggles better.
Carrie was also a staunch supporter of the LGBT+ community and people who have a mental illness. Fisher brought to light the difficulties facing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people while offering them her support and love. She taught others that being homosexual didn’t harm anyone, and that love is love, no matter who it is between. Fisher was also a great advocate for people living with mental illness. Being bipolar, herself, she understood what it was like being looked down on for having chemical imbalances in your brain. She attempted to erase the stigma against mental illness; she wanted to normalize getting therapy, taking medication, being emotional. Fisher also wanted to support people who felt the same way as her. She was incredibly open about her illness, explaining that she is in no way ashamed of it. People, like me, felt less alone when learning that Carrie had a mental illness, while still being hugely successful. She lived a seemingly normal life while overcoming the difficulties of drug addiction, a difficult childhood, and sexism in Hollywood. Carrie helped those of us who were a little bit different due to our illness, to feel normal. Thanks to her, we are less afraid to be open about our difficulties. We wanted to help her erase the stigma against our illnesses while helping ourselves and others who may suffer. She helped us be open with ourselves and with others. Ms. Fisher allowed us to be unapologetically ourselves because she was the same way.
As if her neverending work to help others and constantly create, Fisher also was incredibly outspoken about ageism and sexism in Hollywood and the media. She was sure to call out any person who spoke ill of her (natural) aging, and stayed successful in Hollywood while changing and aging. Similarly to all human beings, Fisher visibly aged. Fans of Star Wars were unhappy because of this and made sure that she knew. Using her unfailing wit (and social media), Carrie explained to many that aging and having fluctuating weight is normal, and happens to everyone. As shocked as readers may have been, Fisher was sure to combat any dissenters to her natural and graceful aging in the best way she knew possible: sarcastically. Carrie Fisher was constantly poised and classy in telling her objectors how incredibly incorrect they were, while also combatting ageism in the media. She showed many how simple it was to age gracefully, even after struggling with addiction and mental illness, and she helped women everywhere see how incredible it looks and feels to be outspoken and unapologetic.
Carrie Fisher was so, so much more than her role as Princess Leia. She was a talented writer, casting director, and screenwriter. She was an advocate for those of us who don’t have as loud of voices, and she helped many find their ways through life. While it is a true tragedy that we lost such an incredible woman at such a young age, we must remember the good that she helped create. She helped so many, and she would have wanted us to remember that. That being said, please stay strong, powerful, and witty. Be the best, strongest, most fearless leader and general this galaxy has ever seen. It’s what Carrie and Leia would have wanted. In the great words of the beautiful, strong, and powerful General Leia: may the force be with you, always.