On Thursday, a few weeks ago, I watched a film that ended with a dedication that read “In Loving Memory of our Princess, Carrie Fisher.” The Last Jedi was her final film, her last piece of art in a world where many only knew her by her 70’s hairstyle.
It’s fascinating that a woman who was cast when she was 19 would spend the rest of her adult life overshadowed by a role. She said that her role as Princess Leia overcame her personal life, and the two of them became the same person over time. The fame and recognition she received from this role differed from her male role models. She became a sex icon at a young age, and would spend most of her life trying to convince people that she wasn’t just a woman in a metal slave bikini.
If she was ever bullied or intimidated because of her status, she was quick to shut down sexism. When people commented on her appearance or her weight she didn’t pull punches. She told people that Star Wars hired ‘three-fourths of her’ and when she was asked to lose 35 pounds for the 2015 movie, The Force Awakens, she said that they might have well said ‘get younger.’ She called out the misogyny of the movie, and it wasn’t the first time she’s been acerbic when responding to sexism. In 2000, Heather Robinson confided that now-noted sexual abuser and rapist, Harvey Weinstein, had made inappropriate advances on her, and Carrie Fisher, after hearing this, sent the film producer a cow’s tongue and a threat, tied up in a bow. This is the sort of iconic response she was known for. Immediate, intimidating, and hilarious, all at once.
Carrie Fisher moved on from Star Wars, even if it never moved on from her, and became well known in the industry as a script doctor. A script doctor is someone who is hired to polish a script (or certain parts of it) after it has been written and is in the beginning stages of production. She was uncredited in many works that she had a hand in, and her humor and quick wit came out in many of the scripts that she worked on, including Hook, various Indiana Jones titles, Scream 3, The Wedding Singer, and Sister Act. Her list of works also include action films, such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Lethal Weapon 3. She was often asked to make romantic or female-led movies more believable, and had a hand rewriting the scripts for Kate & Leopold and Intolerable Cruelty.
Her own writing was also well-received. She authored eight books, both non-fiction, fictional, and semi-autobiographical. Three of her books made USA TODAY‘s best-seller list: Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, and Wishful Drinking. She was a noted screenwriter and playwright, and wrote These Old Broads and a one woman play version of Wishful Drinking.
In 2016, when she released her final book, The Princess Diarist, she shared personal stories and excerpts from her diaries she wrote while on set filming Star Wars. At points earnest and idealistic, the book was a heartfelt love letter to Princess Leia, a reflection of the time she spent crafting an image that would overshadow her life.
Fisher never shied away from revealing intimate details of her personal life, drawing on her own experiences and mishaps to write the story of her own life in her own words. By doing so, and leaving a long backlog of autobiographical works, there is very little speculation about what she actually thought or did in her life. We know, because she told us. For a woman in a position like Fisher, who has had an image of herself rehashed and delivered for public consumption for almost 40 years, this is a powerful move. She will not allow anyone to write her history, reveal her secrets, or demean her choices, because, guess what, she beat you to it.
In all this reveal, there are a few other points about Carrie Fisher’s life I want to touch on. The first is the fact that she had been afflicted by mental health issues such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, and had not made a secret of any of it. She was also diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and shared intimate details of her struggle with the public through her writing. The strength of her character comes through in her support for foundations working to raise awareness and her candid responses to any questions about her past drug use or addiction.
Her efforts cannot be diminished. She was such a firm and open advocate of mental health that when she passed, fans opened up about their own mental health issues, honoring her advocacy. She had the ability to write clearly and humorously, without degrading experiences or opinions. Her abbreviated column for The Guardian, ‘Advice from the Dark Side’, showed the relatable and understanding side of Fisher that made fans love her.
Now, at the end of a full year without this beloved woman, her last work emphasizes the values that she held dear. The duty of every person is to fight for justice, compassion in the face of anger, and an inimitable capacity for hope. Carrie Fisher has passed on, but her words and the inspiration she has given to women, mental health survivors, and Star Wars fans of all ages will never leave us.