Like so many other folks, I grew up watching Star Wars. My first celebrity crush was Mark Hamill (later replaced by my true, undying love for Spock, sealing the deal on whether I’m more Trekkie than Warsian), but Princess Leia was my first role model of some sort. I’d say “feminist role model,” but the reality of Leia’s character is marred by sexism. Han Solo spends a significant part of the trilogy pursuing Leia despite her resistance, jealous of Luke, and ultimately joins the Rebellion because of her. Leia could shoot a blaster, but was still squeezed into a tiny, metal slave outfit that’s become the fetish fantasy of many fans.
I really fell in love with Carrie Fisher after seeing her her one woman show for HBO, Wishful Drinking. She’s very honest in the most vulnerable sort of way, shedding light on the experience of being Leia, which included some notable lines like “There’s no underwear in space” and “Galaxy snatch,” as well as being told that she needed to go to Fat Camp to get the part. She talks about her mental health and alcoholism. It was the first time I’d gotten to hear her authentic voice. Not only did she become human in that moment for me, but she became one of those celebrities who I felt would “get me” if I ran into them in a coffee shop and didn’t act like a bumbling idiot.
In the media blitz of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Carrie made the talk show junket, beautifully using her voice to illustrate issues surrounding her memories in a way that distances the audience and forces them out of their fandom and into their awareness. I’ll call it “Carrie-splaining.”Here’s Carrie Fisher Carrie-splaining on GMA a year ago.
My Facebook feed is full of Carrie memes today, from memorials to honoring Carrie by normalizing mental illness and taking down a fascist regime. Word of her passing is hitting hard. Not only was she a true love, but her passing comes at the end of a year when a lot of notable people have died. I’d barely moved into my new apartment, I was still surrounded by unpacked boxes, when I saw the news of David Bowie’s death. There’s even a meme about how this tore the fabric of the universe (in which case, The Doctor has some ‘splaining to do). The deaths this year have been influential people: Bowie, Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gwyn Ifill, Gene Wilder, Prince… For some reason, each more surprising than the last. In our media-saturated culture, we didn’t see them coming.
2016 has been a notably difficult year. I’m sure someone will do a Year in Review (I’m looking to you, NPR). There’s something happening that suggests a major shift on the horizon. This shift has been coming, but the exit of the artists and the entrance of the Trump Administration gives 2016 a difficult flavor. 2017 already feels a little less bright, and it isn’t even here yet. There’s some serious shadow shit going on; the American Shadow is strong and needs to be addressed.
Carrie, along with everyone else who left us in 2016, left us with some valuable words and memories. We can carry these into the next year and beyond in our Bag of Holding, reaching in whenever we need a little light. These folks are beside us on the journey through time. As long as we remember, there’s always hope.