2016 has been a rough year for fandom. We have lost some of the most iconic actors and artists from some of the best that geekdom cherishes. Of all of the losses this past year, I think I am the hardest hit by the death of Carrie Fisher. Of course our grief isn’t nearly as profound as that of her family, especially with the passing of her mother shortly after. Having lost my own mother this year, I can empathize with what they are going through, and I know that what we feel as fans is nowhere close. Our grief is real, though, and, while different, it is a sign of just how much Carrie meant to all of us.
Carrie was young when she landed the role that would forever place her among the stars. In her life, she fought substance abuse and mental illness. She battled internally and externally to find a healthy balance in her life, and is a real inspiration for people who are suffering from the same struggles. She was a daughter, and mother, writer, and actress. Of all the things she’s done, what most of us will recognize her for is her role in the iconic Star Wars saga. It’s easy to forget the real trials she went through, and focus on the screen image we have of her, but I think for many these go hand in hand. Neither should be discounted, since each is equally as important for different reasons.
“She was my first hero,” my wife sent me in a text when we got the news. That is a powerful thing in geekdom. We tend to choose our heroes a little differently than most people. We look at fantasy worlds, and the people that inhabit them, and choose characters we would most want to be like. Carrie, as Princess Leia, was just that for a lot of people of my generation. She was a hero, for boys, but probably for a lot more girls. She was a leader, a rebel, and a graceful woman. She rescued the rescuers, didn’t take any flak from anyone, and gave as good as she got. When her lover was captured, she put herself in danger to help and when she was captured herself, she took matters into her own hands and got herself free. Eventually she would become a symbol of hope for the future Jedi, and finally a General.
In her most iconic role, and in her life, Carrie is a symbol of strength. When the world – or the Empire – beat her down, she got back up and kept on fighting. When drugs -or a giant space slug – enslaved her, she took that chain in her hands and strangled them. She had a rough life, but I’m thankful that the last images we do have of our Princess, and our General, is again one of beauty and grace. She will continue to be an example to people who struggle. Her writing and her work will live on for generations. She’ll be missed, but as many popular images are going around, she may be more powerful now than she was in life.
We will miss you, Carrie. You are our hero.