There are some tragedies that hit you hard. Celebrities’ deaths, for one, are strange in a way, ‘cause you don’t know them personally, but then their death affect you in such a way that makes you realize how big of a role they actually played in your life. There are a few that have done that for me—one of them was Carrie Fisher. I remember the shock and loneliness upon hearing the news that she passed away. To me, she’ll always be Princess Leia. The Star Wars franchise is special to me because watching the films has always been a family affair. As the only daughter among five siblings, yeah, you can say Princess Leia was such an icon to the younger me. Here was a princess who’s so cool, even my brothers thought so. She may be in a galaxy far, far away now, but she’ll always be the Princess and General to us.
Beyond her beloved Star Wars character, Carrie has made a name for herself as a truly remarkable woman befitting her title as Princess. Since she just celebrated her birthday, this is an ode to her. We didn’t deserve her, but I and a lot of fans are forever grateful for what she’s done in her lifetime. Here are just some of them.
A mental health advocate
The way she talked about mental health during her time was revolutionary. As someone who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, how she chose to overcome her illness—with wit and humor—was so refreshing. She showed that, yes, it is a serious issue, but it doesn’t mean you have to take yourself as seriously as some people assume people with similar illnesses do, ie. with gloom and darkness. Her book, Wishful Drinking has been a big help to so many people with the same experience.
One writer shared, “As I read, I felt like Carrie was speaking directly to me about my eccentric yet amusing life story, my bipolar symptoms, and my drug and alcohol use. She was so candid about the topic of mental illness.” She shared how the actress led to her self-acceptance, and even share her own stories. “If I too could one day write a single sentence that could change someone’s whole life, then I’ll have done Carrie Fisher—and my entire community—proud.” She added, “Carrie Fisher gave me a voice and purpose when I had none, and for that I will be eternally grateful. She taught us that being bipolar doesn’t make us any less human. I may have a mental illness, and I may have gone to the edge and back. But to borrow more of Carrie’s words from Wishful Drinking, for the first time in my life, ‘ultimately I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.'”
The face of women empowerment
As both Princess Leia, and herself, Carrie Fisher broke gender stereotypes. As Princess Leia, she was a princess who wasn’t in the least bit a damsel. She took over her own rescue mission, in fact. She was tenacious, brave, smart, trained to do combat, and most importantly, she always spoke her mind and unafraid to take charge. She never lets men tell her what to do—even if the men were charismatic AF and you can’t help but fall in love with them (ehem, Han Solo). Throughout the trilogy, she may be surrounded by men, but she held her own. In fact, she became the men’s savior in a lot of instances. She showed the world, and especially young girls that, as HelloGiggles put it, “We could achieve what the boys do and more, and we could do it wearing lipstick and a complicated hairdo if we wanted.”
As herself, she also fought for women . Remember that scene of her wearing a golden bikini? Of course you do. She was aware she was being sexualized, mind you. She would later advise Daisy Ridley. the female lead of The Force Awakens to fight for her outfit, saying, “Don’t be a slave like I was.” Years later, when she was 59 years old and the same fanboys who have ogled her in her bikini now criticized her for not retaining her slim figure (come on!) in The Force Awakens, she retaliated by saying, “Please stop debating about whether OR not I aged well.” She added, quite savagely, that “My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.” She also pointed out the ridiculous double standards, especially in Hollywood, claiming that “Men don’t age better than women, they’re just allowed to age.” She stressed too the frivolity of physical beauty: “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy bi-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either,” she said with a bite. Hear hear!
An ally of the LGBT community
Carrie had quite the love affair with the community. Literally. She was actually in a relationship with a gay man, and even had a daughter with him. Sure, he was closeted then, and them not working out devastated her, but in the end, she remained supportive of him. They co-parented their daughter Billie Lourd and even spent family vacations together.
She also had a special connection with her gay fans. For a Broadway performances of her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, she was known for inviting gay male audience members to come onstage and play with a life-size Princess Leia doll. She revealed, “I think gay guys feel a little more comfortable with me…. gay people are a little more open to doing weird things.” Even when she was younger, this was the case. According to Hornet, “From the time she started performing alongside the gay backup dancers in her mother Debbie Reynold’s stage show, Fisher spent her life loving and being loved by gay men.” She even confessed to The Advocate that she got her first kiss from a gay man. Moreover, one of her very best friends was a gay author who wrote several AIDS-themed novels. She also donated money to various AIDS organizations and even co-hosted a fundraiser for The Foundation for AIDS Research.
A fighter for animal rights
Everyone who knew Carrie knows how much she adored dogs. She and her beloved dog, Gary, who helped her cope with her bipolar disorder, were practically inseparable. She even brought Gary as her “date” to red carpet events and along to book-signing events.
She was a staunch PETA supporter, and even joined a demonstration to call for a ban against the annual Yulin dog-eating festival. “These poor dogs need us to fight for them,” she said. “There is so much animal suffering in the world, and much of it you feel helpless to end, but stopping the Yulin dog meat festival and ending all that suffering is easy… All the authorities need to do is declare it shut down, and the killing stops.” She reasoned, “Every single one of them is as precious as my dear Gary, every one of them is someone’s best friend.”
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) November 24, 2016
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Art by Marian Hukom
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