On Tuesday’s ‘blog break update’ I mentioned that I would be posting a New Year’s Eve Movie list today. Coincidentally, the movie that I watch every New Year’s Eve features the actress whom I will be writing about instead.When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favourite films and Carrie Fisher played the supporting character Marie, best friend of Meg Ryan’s Sally.
My blog-writing plans changed after I left the movie theatre Tuesday afternoon, I had just seen Rogue One with my dad. I turned my phone on and checked the text messages that I had missed. About half way through the movie, one of my best friends had sent a message telling me that Carrie Fisher had died. The excitement that I felt over just seeing a great film passed all too quickly as the surreal news set in.
I had never really felt affected by another celebrity’s death before and it’s a weird experience to describe. I didn’t cry, nor was I as sad or heartbroken as I had been when friends and family have passed away, but somehow, I felt disconnected.
Carrie Fisher was linked to so many projects, films, and followers. Her telling memoirs as well as her real-life advocacy for mental health awareness and feminism contributed to the deeper connection that her fans, like myself, may have felt toward her. As a child, I saw Carrie Fisher only one way – as Princess Leia – but as an adult, she was Carrie Fisher first, fictional characters second.
I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my family’s boxset VHSes. Leia Organa was the coolest female character that I had ever seen: she was a brunette; she was a princess who didn’t always wear dresses; she used the blaster like a boss; she was hilarious and sarcastic; she was strongminded and stood up for what she believed in; and rather than being a damsel in distress each film, she did a ton of the rescuing herself. Almost every Disney movie I had watched told me to admire princesses, but they had never been so complex.
I discovered Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally as a teenager, I was obsessed with This is Spinal Tap and was fanatically consuming all other media that he’d created. I was so excited to see Carrie Fisher in our galaxy! She was still hilarious and sarcastic, but this time she was wearing a bra (George Lucas believed they’d be dangerous in space). Although Fisher’s character Marie was fictional, it felt like I was getting to know the woman behind the buns. It was from here that I searched for more answers as to who Carrie Fisher really was.
The Faults within our Star
In the memoir based off of her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher let fans into her personal life – or what she remembers of it. She had openly discussed her battle with addiction to both drugs and alcohol, and being under the influence can make some memories foggier than others. As it is with many autobiographies, you need to take Fisher’s words with a grain of salt; however, her ‘take-no-crap’ attitude on and offline has always led me to believe that she wasn’t someone who often held back. I really respect a sense of transparency.
Real-Life Rebel Alliance
Fisher’s candid nature as well as her movie-royalty status allowed her to challenge societal norms – this is what she should be most celebrated for. Fisher was Bipolar, which made her advocacy against mental health stigmas all the more powerful. She emphasized that mental health issues are simply that – health issues. Fisher stressed the significance of treating mental health conditions medically, something that society frequently struggles with acknowledging even when many issues are the result of imbalanced chemicals. Talking about the stigma that surrounds mental health can inspire courage in those who also experience the fear and shame of hiding their diagnoses. Celebrities like Fisher have an enormous reach that amplifies their opinions, one tweet can become topical content for thousands of articles, which is why it is amazing that she used her virtual megaphone to say something actually worth listening to.
It is through Fisher’s real-life story and opinions that I found an adult role model. We may look to television and film characters for style and grace, but I believe that it’s healthy to know what our idols represent when they are off-screen. I will never really know who Carrie Fisher was just by reading her books, watching her interviews, and mouthing every line to her movies, but the deeper research into her real-life actions will help remind me of what she once did and always will represent.
Fisher was like a Facebook friend; I only knew what she and the media wanted me to know. This managed representation made me feel like she was a virtual acquaintance, it’s similar to how you ‘know’ 600 people on your social media account – her close friends and family will be the only ones who really knew her. I realize now that I didn’t cry when I heard that she had passed because I don’t need to mourn that way. Her loved ones are mourning Carrie Fisher the person – I am celebrating Carrie Fisher the role model.