The entire galaxy mourned last week when news broke that Carrie Fisher passed away as the result of a severe heart attack. I rewatched Star Wars: A New Hope last night as a cathartic way to grieve the loss of Carrier Fisher. My yearly Star Wars Day marathon of course includes this film every year, but this time around I noticed details that had never before caught my eye. While her tenacity, bravery, and brazen demeanor made her one of my first heroes growing up, never before had I made myself soak in every frame of her performance and how revolutionary that character must have been, and still is. The opening crawl only mentions one character by name as it fills in the viewers on the events they’re about to catapult into: Princess Leia.
Leia is not a damsel in distress. Regardless of what her male companions say, she doesn’t need rescued, which is glaringly obvious once the three of them attempt their escape. Within her first few minutes on screen, Leia establishes herself as a subversion of the typical movie princess trope, bursting into view fearless, guns blazing. Never before had we seen such a bold yet empathetic leader, and never since have we seen anyone quite like her, as even when Carrie Fisher reprised the titular role, she had evolved into General Organa, who is a much more jaded yet just as brave as her younger self. Leia had aged gracefully yet ruggedly, her pure white dresses exchanged for more drab, practical military garb. The ambitious smirk replaced with weathered experience, just as determined but much less naive. She has used loss to fuel her motivation rather than deplete her life force.
The evolution of Princess (General) Leia runs parallel to that of the woman who brought her to life on screen. Carrie Fisher has left behind a legacy of giving people the courage to acknowledge and seek help for mental health issues by working hard to disintegrate the stigma that plagues mental illnesses, like suffering from bipolar depression. Not only was Carrie open about her journey and obstacles, she celebrated that journey, finding a way to find laughter and wit every step of the way, impacting lives and opening hearts through her acting, writing, and general openness and self expression.
Awhile back, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie discussed how her mother raised her without gender in an interview with Teen Vogue. This revealed how progressive, and how thoughtful of a mother Carrie Fisher was, as she taught her daughter to fulfill her potential as a human being and not just as a woman. Without the differentiation of expectations on basis of gender, a woman’s view of herself on what she’s capable of achieving are absolutely limitless, as they should be. Billie is 24 years old now. That strategy and stance as a mom raising her child might seem like common sense to us now, but in 1992 that way of thinking was rare and precious and courageous. Carrie was a pioneer. A trailblazer, just like Leia.
Now, more than ever, since we have lost this important, quirky, innovative, compassionate voice and an ally to our community, it’s imperative that we share Carrie’s message. She brightened the world by impacting communities that felt unheard or too scared to even speak out about themselves. Carrie might be gone, but her role isn’t, and it’s our responsibility to refuse to let her light burn out. Let’s love. Let’s teach. Let’s share. Let’s laugh. Let’s all be Princesses and Generals. Be loud, be proud, be Leia.