Yesterday, Carrie Fisher died. She'd had a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve, and succumbed on December 27. She was 60 years old.
I'm still sort of in shock about it. Considering the fact that I never even saw Carrie in real life, let alone know her, she had a large impact on me. I hadn't even really considered it, until suddenly she wasn't here anymore.
As with so many other people born in the 80s, I was a huge Star Wars fan. Still am, in fact. (LOVED Rogue One, in case you're wondering). Obviously Leia was one of the main characters, and since she's really the only female of note in the original trilogy, she was the one I gravitated to. That fancy hair, those flowing white robes. Sassy, smart, fierce, and still gorgeous. Some people found her too prickly; I say that's a good thing for a girl in a man's world.
For a little girl growing up just after the blatant sexploitation era, it was a great thing to have a strong female role model in such a popular series. I know Wonder Woman existed as well, but I was a bit too young to get into that. As far as sci-fi women went, she was really in a league of her own. Think of how recently Barbarella had been the most famous sci-fi female. I'm not knocking her; it takes all kinds to make a world (although I've got some thoughts on Jane Fonda herself) and she's definitely entertaining. But as the mother of a tiny little Shieldmaiden, I can tell you hands down Leia is the one I want to be an influence, any day.
Carrie was smart and witty, and you can clearly see that in the way she played Leia. She was imperfect and feisty, and still came off as feminine. What a great thing for little girls to see. A few years ago there was a tempest in a teapot where a male said, "What am I supposed to tell my daughter?" About why there were slave leia action figures. Carrie's response:
"The father who flipped out about it, 'What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?' 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 feel that's such a perfect response. It states that bad things can happen to women, but it's up to us to control what occurs after. What an important, and realistic, lesson for little girls. Don't deny the facts of the world; teach our little ones how to handle them instead.
I believe women deserve the chance to try to be whatever we want, but I equally believe we can't all fit into every role. Leia was a representation of doing the best with what we have in bad circumstances, and excelling at it. As General Organa, she reached the ultimate role of wisdom and power. I hope my little girl looks up to her as I did, and I hope that later she learns about the smart, witty, honest woman who played her. The Star Wars world lost a bright star unexpectedly, and it's a sad thing. But at least we will have Leia and General Organa for our little girls for years to come.