Carrie Fisher, who died Tuesday, went on to become a lot of things.
But she was, first and foremost to me, the first princess in my life that I could identify with.
I’ve written about my experience of Star Wars before. I know, I’m rather shocked, too, but it was the first pop culture touchstone of my life.
Here are some things I learned from Princess Leia:
1. Even if a guy has to come to rescue you, you don’t necessarily have to take his orders.
2. Once you’re out of your prison, you can grab a blaster, and make something happen.
3. Scoundrels will steal your heart.
4. It’s okay to want to kiss the scruffy-headed nerf herders.
5. Women have to be stronger than men. (Okay, I also learned this from my maternal grandmother.)
6. Women are leaders. Unquestionably.
7. Women can do the rescuing.
8. You can kill someone even if you’re wearing a cold bikini.
I was, as a child, a tomboy. Is this still a phrase used to describe girls? I didn’t gravitate toward dressy clothes or dolls. At 6, I had already had my fill of Disney princesses and Prince Charmings. I wasn’t cleaning up after men or trying to enlist the help of mice or birds in my sewing. And I also wasn’t being told to do those things. The expectations for me were to grow, learn, and explore; to speak my mind; and to take up space.
Princess Leia wasn’t meek or mild. She took events into her own hands; she challenged authority. She spoke her mind, participated at the table.
Princess Leia didn’t lean in — she took her place, and made people lean toward her.
And she never went to the dark side.
I delighted in many of Carrie Fisher’s later roles. She was a great actress, in that as much as she had been Princess Leia to me, she could and did embody other characters.
As a mental health advocate, a recovering addict, and a woman in Hollywood, she was fierce and outspoken. She was also a writer of the first order. And she was funny. Holy cats.
My two favorite quotes of hers:
“Please stop debating whether or not I’ve aged well. It hurts all three of my feelings.” — on Twitter
On what to tell children about that gold bikini: “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.”
I was so pleased that in The Force Awakens she appeared as General Organa. Still leading the rebellion; still in love with her scruffy smuggler. Now a mother, as well, with pain and regret for the loss of her son to anger and the dark side of the Force. And absolutely clear with whom her legacy rests: Rey, an orphan who needs to find her destiny, and take it into her own hands.
She will always be my hero, in so many ways and for so many reasons. Farewell, sassy princess. May the Force ever be with you.
What did Carrie Fisher mean to you?