Carrie Fisher 1956 — 2016
Since a long time ago it’s been easy to forget that in a decade far, far away, the Empire and the Rebel Alliance were besties compared to the partisans for Lucas or Spielberg, some of us loyal to Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘s cosmic exchange-program ethereality, and others to the first Star Wars‘ galactic ass-kicking spectacle. I was a snob about Star Wars from opening week; the plotlines from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and the checklist from Joseph Campbell’s collected works and the more-than-passing resemblances to Dune and Foundation and Flash Gordon, as well as the nostalgia for morally uncomplicated warfare, all seemed like stuff my 13-year-old self had seen before. One thing I’d never seen was the upfront, indispensable presence of a female hero, whose leadership and steely wisdom were admired more than (though at the same time as) her attractiveness and feminine identity were acknowledged. Carrie Fisher didn’t break any precedents with this role, she created one. And then went on to make her personal truth as much of a pop-culture classic as the fantasy she first became widely known for — all the more an achievement as we moved further into an era of filtered and staged “reality.” Redefining admissible womanhood with unapologetic self-acceptance and personal style; making marks as memoirist, novelist, scriptwriter, social observer and public counselor; hilariously disrupting the conventions of celebrity comportment because she was a continual, natural “character,” she showed generations what it looks like to be yourself. It’s why anybody can be as brave and irreverent and realistic and kvetchy and joyous as she was whether they’re fighting the addiction and mental illness her honest witness helped keep at bay, or some completely different demon, and why her life story was about so much more than her. She didn’t have answers, but she was always willing to talk, and she taught much more often than she may have known. We’d never seen anyone like her, and it’s her greatest testament that, in more and more ways, we will.