The news that Carrie Fisher has passed away just four days after her heart attack on a flight bound for Los Angeles has left many of us shocked and bereft. While most only think of her as Princess Leia from Star Wars, her long list of accomplishments include being a published and award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer, screenwriter, actress in over 40 films and 40 television series, consultant on over 30 major films, and a mental health advocate.
Fisher was born on October 21st, 1956 in Beverly Hills to singer Eddie Fischer and actress Debbie Reynolds. While Fisher herself has poked fun at her upbringing by saying, “I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive,” her childhood was anything but perfect since her parents divorced when she was only two. Not only that but they divorced amid the scandal that her father left her mother for one of her mother’s closest friends, Elizabeth Taylor.
From a young age, she used reading and writing as her escape from reality, which served her well in her later years while penning various books, plays and scripts. Her writing was so good that she won various awards and many were adapted into plays or movies.
What she is most known and recognized for is her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars movie franchise. She has been quoted as saying that Leia followed her around like a vague smell, but from the beginning of filming she new the movie was going to be a huge hit. Little could she, or anyone, realize how huge a pop culture phenomenon it would become. The Star Wars franchise has been estimated at being worth over 27 Billion dollars with devout fans like the world had never previously seen. I remember seeing her in the iconic white dress and two hair buns at a young age and using that as my yardstick to compare all other things of beauty (not unlike many other young girls at the time). While I am sure any man can tell you all about her gold bikini (in Return of the Jedi) and what that meant to them, as a woman, I was inspired that one of the major characters in Star Wars was not only beautiful, but was a strong woman who didn’t always need saving and was capable of saving herself as well. When she reprised her role in 2015’s The Force Awakens, she was once again an amazing role model addressing the double standard of aging men and women in Hollywood. Not only did she shine off-screen, but she showed that an “aged” star can still show off some acting chops, as she was nominated for a 2016 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress.
It is not surprising, given Star Wars catapulted her into super stardom at the young age of 20, that she had some personal struggles along the way. She struggled with drugs and Bi-Polar disorder for most of her life. She did everything from year long treatment facilities to electroshock therapy to combat her addictions and has said that due to the Bi-Polar disorder not being diagnosed for so long (she was not diagnosed until 1985) that drugs made her feel more normal most of her life. She was very outspoken on these issues, particularly mental health. While a young star struggling with drug abuse is more the norm then the exception in Hollywood, it is few and far between who are so open about their past drug abuse in an attempt to help others.
Carrie Fisher’s legacy is one that will undeniably be written about, and discussed at great length, over the next few months. She will undoubtedly be remembered as a great writer, activist and actor. One thing that I am sure all can agree with is that she was taken too soon and will be forever cherished in the world of Pop Culture.
May the Force Be With You, Carrie
~ Melissa Anderson