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© 2017 MERRY JANE. All Rights Reserved.

Carrie Fisher Was So Much More Than Princess Leia

Everyone remembers her for “Star Wars,” but her life off-screen was even more memorable.

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To many people, Carrie Fisher will always be Princess Leia. It’s almost impossible to separate her from the iconic Star Wars role that propelled her into our lives. Yet, to me (and others), she has been so much more, and it is because of this that her unexpected passing has hit us so hard. In fact, while 2016 has certainly done its worst, taking so many amazing luminaries from this earth, it was Carrie Fisher’s recent death that found me teary-eyed in front of my computer screen.

Despite the fact that Fisher was many things beyond Princess Leia, as a woman who grew up in the ’80s, I can’t not mention the impact she had on so many little girls my age due to her work in Star Wars. Princess Leia was one of the first princesses I truly connected with. She was a princess that also knew how to wield a gun and could smart talk the best of them. (I’m talking about you, Han Solo.) I’m already wondering what will happen to our beloved General Organa in the ninth film (Fisher had already completed her scenes for the eighth Star Wars movie).

As an actress, Fisher spoke up and out about the sexist aspects that made me a little bit uncomfortable about Princess Leia (the gold bikini that starred in so many young boys’ wet dreams). In fact, while promoting The Return of the Jedi in 1983, Fisher told Rolling Stone to “not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies.” She recognized that this while the character of Leia was unique in many ways a princess, she was living in a world created by men and catered to men.

In a 2015 interview between Fisher and actress Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the most recent Star Wars films, Fisher pushed the point farther, telling Ridley that she should “...fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was.” It’s comments like these that show Fisher’s staunch feminism—something I always admired her for. Sure, she played a princess-turned-slave in the most popular sci-fi movie of all time, but she still called the movie out for its gross sexism. She understood that our favorites can be problematic and that it’s OK to enjoy them while still pushing them to do better.

These are just some of her most memorable call-outs, snarks, and pointed observations that showed that, frankly, feminists can be damn funny, dark, and dirty. She was unapologetic in who she was, whether that was on the red carpet, where she’d wear her tinted shades, a fabulous caftan/kimono mash-up frock and flats with her beloved French bulldog, Gary, at her side, or in her Twitter feed, which she used sparingly, but tremendously, offering nonsensical gems like this:

In addition to her sharp wit and mastery of the English language—her writing has always sucked me in and done a number on me in the best way possible, and were you aware of all the potentially sucky movies that she made better?—Carrie Fisher was a tireless and true mental health advocate. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 29 but never shied away from her diagnosis, helping to break down mental health stigma while speaking harsh and sometimes messy truths about it.

As someone who faced some mental health challenges in my mid 30s, I looked to Fisher’s own unflinching and raw honesty about her mental health struggles as I waded my way through my own. Again, just like when I was a kid, I turned to her as an inspiration.

Carrie Fisher taught me what it meant to be a true badass, whether it was as a princess, a writer, or someone coping with a mental illness. The world is truly a darker place for having lost her. I promise, Carrie, that I will channel everything I have learned from you and head into 2017 with a renewed vigor and extra sass and snark to fight the darkness.