Fans gathered to remember and celebrate the life of the inimitable Carrie Fisher, who passed away earlier this week, tragically followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, a day later, with a lightsaber vigil and walk at Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona.
Today started like any other day. I woke up, ate, ran errands, and logged into facebook. That was when I heard the terrible news. She was gone. I wanted my first article after an academic hiatus to be something fun, uplifting, however the news of Carrie’s death wouldn’t leave me. I kept hearing words in my head about her struggles, how she inspired millions, and how hard it is to lose family during the holidays. Despite all her problems, I think deep down, or maybe even because of them, Carrie had an amazing sense of humor. Why do I think this? In her own alleged words, “I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra,” from her book, Wishful Drinking. From what I have heard so far, it seems that many news sources have complied with her wish, and ‘reported’ her cause of death as such. Dear Carrie, I hope you are laughing, or at the very least smiling. For now, and for some time to come we will be crying.
Yet another wonderful, talented human being was taken from us by this cruel year. While I am not usually one to feel deep sorrow when a celebrity dies, I am moved to write about Carrie, and what she represented to me, if not to so many other loving fans.
To quote Obi-wan, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened”. We the fans are those millions of voices, and yet… and yet…
Carrie Fisher came to us as Princess Leia Organa, though her acting career began before she ever laid eyes on George Lucas’ script. Through the years, she became an icon to many science fiction fans. Young women wanted to be Leia, young men wanted to date her. Carrie portrayed a Princess the likes of which we had never seen before.
Damsel in distress? Not likely. Through Carrie’s acting skill we met, and fell in love with a young woman who spoke her mind, stood toe to toe with the likes of Vader, Solo, and Chewbacca. She held her self together when her very planet was destroyed, and continued to fight for the freedom in the Republic. She rose to the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance. That was Princess Leia. Yes, Princess Leia, but not Carrie Fisher. Or are the two women more alike than we think?
Contrary to the dictates of Hollywood, Carrie said no to plastic surgery, and fad diets. She was a woman who aged, her body changed because she had children. She didn’t try to hide any of it. She spoke openly about body shaming, and even countered a reporter who commented on her appearance, asking if that was something she would say to a man she was interviewing. Caught off guard, the interviewer barely said yes, and jumped to a different question.
Carrie also spoke openly of her demons. Bipolar disorder, and prescription drug addiction had taken their toll. For her everyday was a struggle against mental illness. Let us be honest here. Mental illness conjures images of lunatics running up and down the street talking to invisible people, right? The truth however is that mental illness comes in many forms and degrees. Depression, bi-polar disorder, etc wreak havoc across our population. Social stigma prevents people from speaking about it, and from seeking help for it. Carrie showed us a different path. A path that led to not only improved mental health, but also freedom from stigma. I and several of my friends fight similar demons every day. From where she found the strength to fight back, to share her pain with everyone, I doubt we will ever truly know. What matters is that she did. For all of us with demons, (and be honest we all have them), Carrie became someone to whom we could look for strength, for inspiration. I and countless others owe her a debt of gratitude that could never be re-paid even if she were immortal.
My editor has been in contact with Jen Hinds of the Blue Ribbon Army Social Club. Ms. Hinds states that a ‘Memorial Saber Walk for Carrie Fisher’ will be held Friday December, 30th at 7pm at Tempe Beach Park, in Tempe AZ. Participants will meet at the boat rental office by the lake and will be taking a route from there. The walk isn’t expected to last more than 45 minutes, but there will be time to socialize and remember Carrie after the walk is concluded. The saber walk was inspired by a few of the group’s members “who thought this would be a great way to show our appreciation and love for a truly talented lady. We are so excited to see our tribute extending beyond the Blue Ribbon Army Social Club and to everyone in the valley who loved her.” If you can join the Walk, do so. wear your Star Wars cosplay, bring those light sabers, send our General to the stars with such joy and sorrow as only we fans can do.
Fans can still take heart and some small comfort from the fact that Carrie had apparently finished filming all her scenes for Star Wars episode VIII. What will happen to General Leia? Will she and Luke be re-united on screen? How the franchise and the fandom will carry on after that is up in the air.
The world has lost a talented actress, gifted author, and a role model for positive self imagery. The fandom has lost its Princess, its General, but more importantly, her friends, and family have lost their friend, sister, daughter, and mother. To all of you who actually knew Carrie, my heart goes out to you. The death of a loved one is never easy. It is even harder to survive during the holiday season. Please know that every single one of us who admired Carrie as our Princess, our General, grieve with you, and send you all the love we can share. May the Force be with you, always.