My current favorite picture of Carrie Fisher. She looks and feels so much like my mother in this picture that it makes my heart go squish.
I honestly don’t know how to process her death. I think I first saw her at the Lensic theater in Santa Fe, during the first run of A New Hope in 1977. I know the first movie made a powerful impression on me at the time, although I think Star Wars and her role as Princess Leia had more formative impact on my development as a woman when Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were released.
Leia ended up being a role model for me in a lot of ways that were not necessarily positive. I definitely recognized myself in her: she was a tough, smart, competent woman with a quick wit and a penchant for sarcasm who was fighting with all her power for her principles, while the shadow of a destructive father figure loomed over her life.
Unfortunately, she also had a lot of romantic vulnerability, and a tendency to fall for men who were funny, passionate, and deeply flawed. Guys who faced the world with the wry half-smile of the wiseass who doesn’t just THINK he’s better than everyone else, and above the rules–he KNOWS it. And he’s happy to prove it at your expense.
I ended up getting involved with two guys in the Han Solo category, in the course of my life. Lots of passion, lots of regrets on both counts–those relationships didn’t work out any better for me than they did for Leia, which is one the reason that the scenes with her and Han in The Force Awakens gave me a pang. They felt…true. In a way that made me sad, guilty and a little uncomfortable. (Whatever, at least I don’t have a son who goes around trying to murder the universe. Okay!?)
One of my favorite movies for her was a bit part in The Blue Brothers, where she plays the vengeful, oft-jilted ex-girlfriend of John Belushi. That final scene with her and Belushi pretty much perfectly captures the dynamic of the relationship I had with my comedian ex. Here was a guy who would make me incredibly (and quite legitimately) furious–and then could fast-talk, pretty-boy, beg and emotionally manipulate me into forgiving him for just about any outrageous abuse. This went on for years–he would dump me on my ass every time I did forgive him, with about as much ceremony as Jake Blues dropping Carrie in the ditch.
I saw Rogue One in the theater, the night before her death was announced. The footage of 20-year-old Leia in that film, the Leia of 40 years ago, comes across as a haunting in retrospect. One of those stories about seeing someone’s ghost before you heard the news that they had passed.
I am incredibly sorry that she’s gone, and that she went so suddenly. She was a fixture of the pop culture multiverse in which I spend a lot of my time, like a star in the heavens.
Like all great lights, she will be missed.