The Person Who Made “Rebel Princess” A Thing

Black and white photo of Carrie Fisher, with wide smile and long unbound brunette hair, in snowy Norway, wearing a winter jacket and wooly knitted gloves

(B&W photo of Fisher in winter jacket and wool gloves, hands clasped in front of her and a wide smile on her face, hair unbound. CC License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Tom Simpson/randar on Flickr)

 

I’ll be honest:

I’ve known for a long time I loved Carrie Fisher, but I didn’t know I LOOOVED Carrie Fisher.

I remember being all about Luke when, at the tender age of 7, I first saw “Star Wars” (what is now referred to as A New Hope). It wasn’t so much about him being called the hero – I loved the goofy, awkward farm boy becoming important, becoming someone who was needed by the world. In contrast, Leia starts off the movie already royalty, already in a position of power, and already incredibly self-possessed (and able to withstand torture) at the age of 19.

I envied her. But I didn’t identify with her. I was clutzy, boyish, whiny, and I couldn’t rescue myself out of the nightmare I was living at the time. She was a princess, AND she was a rebel, AND she rescued herself (twice!) AND she led a group of righteous fighters against what was arguably the biggest threat in their universe.

I didn’t feel I even had the right to identify with her. I couldn’t even identify with Disney princesses who never rebelled – how could I identify with a military leader?

Then, in Blues Brothers, she was an ex-girlfriend who dared to hunt down the man who betrayed her and literally blow shit up to get him out of her head. That brought her much closer to the type of person I thought I was. Strange? Sure, but I was a pretty angry kid, and this was something I understood.

I remember Under the Rainbow being simultaneously strange and forgettable. I remember her small role in Hannah and her Sisters being dwarfed by the fact that the movie seemed almost tailor-made for me, during a time when I had a furious hate-on for Woody Allen.

Then, I adored her writing for a few years. Postcards from the Edge hit a soft spot I have, and while I have not had the book for a number of years, I remember at the time reading it more clandestinely than I ever did for Judy Blume’s Forever.

A few years later I remember loving her role in When Harry Met Sally with unreserved glee – going from “You’re right, you’re right,” the immediate chemistry between Marie and Jess, and the “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again.” But I did notice she seemed to have aged a decade in those few years.

And then, to my media-glazed eyes, it seemed like she disappeared from the major movie scene. I didn’t recognize her in Soapdish, Scream 3 and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and I was shocked at how she looked during her brief turn in Wonderland. I also somehow missed her many more memoirs. I’m not sure how, but somehow I was oblivious to the fact that she was writing tons.

Therefore, when I saw the poster for the show of Wishful Drinking, I was happily surprised. Ooh! She’s still there! The sense of unrepentant honesty, the originality, the ability to open her life and heart for others was a delight, and while I only read snippets in passing, I was always impressed by her ability to do that while her family was still living.

Again, I envied her. And still didn’t feel like I had a right to identify with her.

Once the new movies were announced and her participation was guaranteed, it was with great delight I watched her take her royal ass and rebel against Hollywood the way she did. Of course, she has been doing it all along, but being back in the Star Wars spotlight really put her power into focus:

Being a rebel princess isn’t just about fighting fascism. It’s about fighting for what is right and being able to be your own, whole self.

I envied her, as always. But I also empathized with the amount of struggle and pain it all came with.

That struggle and pain, finally, was what I identified with.

Side note: What’s interesting is that between 1995 and 2005 I was also having a LOT of rebellion dreams. Being a participant in a rebellion, fighting helmeted jackboots, being a leader in a military organization, being depended upon for crucial intelligence. While some of the dreams were tough, most of them were amazing to experience.

Until today, I never realized it’s because of her I could even have those dreams. I may not have ever identified with her, but somewhere in me she planted the seed –

You can be a rebel and a princess. It might mean something different for me and for you than it did for her, but the two things can live together.

Love you, Ms. Fisher.