As a young child, I was awkward. Not at all like any of the princesses or any of the other girls who were dainty and ladylike. I was too tall, too thin, too athletic, too smart, too interested in “strange” things. I remember being very young and hating how I looked and
how my behavior wasn’t “gentle” like the princesses of Disney or Arthurian Legend.
My father, late one night, came into my room and woke me up, telling me that he needed to show me something, but, good scot, do not tell your mother. We went into the living room and he turned on the TV, putting in a VHS of A New Hope. I was an awestruck 7 year old girl. A 7 year old who now had a female hero to look up to.
A dear family friend once looked at me and told me that he had never seen or met anyone who so resembled Princess Leia. And, thus, a star ⭐️ was born.
Seriously, though, Princess Leia always has been, and always will be one of my heroes. She was one of the first actresses that challenged me to break stereotypes and cliches.
I remember watching her as Leia and wondering just what I could do to be just a little bit stronger. How could I be just a bit cooler? I started being unashamed of my nerdiness.
As I grew older, I still admired Princess Leia, but I grew to admire the actress, the writer, the mental health advocate that was Carrie Fisher as well.
Carrie Fisher represents to me that there is a strength in being ladylike. A strength in being vulnerable. A strength in femininity. A strength in accepting yourself. She taught me that it is not arrogant to believe in yourself.
As an avid reader, I was always very envious of the strong male characters and angry at the damsels in distress. Princess Leia did not need a man to save her. She was sassy like me, strong and able to stand up for herself.
We nerds have lost our Princess.
But: she did more than just look pretty in a metal bikini and save the galaxy. She was an advocate for mental health. She did amazing things for charity.
I suffer from anxiety and depression. Spending most of my childhood and teenage years being told that those feelings are not valid. Once, googling my symptoms, a quote from Carrie Fisher popped up.
“If you claim something, you can own it, but if you have it as a shameful secret, you’re f***ed.”
— Carrie Fisher, Vanity Fair Magazine, 2009
This really hit home for me. My anxiety and depression were crippling throughout most of my teen years. Social anxiety developed through years of aggressive bullying as well as some borderline abuse. Depression loomed over me like some dark monster about to consume me. I was too religious to commit suicide, but the thought did wash over me on, at least four occasions.
And, here was an actress I admired, not afraid to be real – to talk about very dark, personal issues. Issues that I had been raised to believe were not supposed to be talked about. I was taught that mental illnesses could be mended with Jesus (which, I believe is partially true).
I remember being unable to talk to my mother or any loved one because I was ashamed and felt that these feelings, these moods were not things to bother others about. But, I could watch Carrie onscreen (the only way I could with dial-up) and think: here is someone who understands.
Carrie accepted her demons as a part of her and used them to propel herself to becoming a better person. She proved that you can be funny, witty, cool and still have these problems.
“You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side…. I’ll be watching.”
Once I started to accept my demons, my constant companions, I felt powerful. Here, I could do something to make all of this seem insignificant. I don’t have to hide them, I just have to accept them. Understanding that these are valid feelings helped me through so much.
Seeing so many people respond to Carrie Fisher’s death was just one of the coolest things. I got to see that, actually, it was not just me who was suffering through this.
Our culture, obsessed with beauty, turned on her when she came back into the spotlight because of her appearance and she told them their opinions didn’t matter.
This same culture seems to want us to remember the beautiful Princess Leia and not the complicated, amazing person that was Carrie Fisher.
I remember being a kid and admiring Leia – even some of Fisher’s other work as well. But, it was not until I was a bit older that I realized the other things she had done and how she was more deserving of respect and attention than most other female celebrities.
Let’s remember Carrie Fisher.
May the Force be with you, Carrie! Thanks for all the good times!