In some ways it was hard to be a little girl in the 70s. There weren’t very many female characters to identify with. Sesame Street only had Prairie Dawn who had a whispery voice and was a goody two-shoes. In other words, she annoyed me. Fortunately, I had absolutely no problem assigning gender to non-humans*. I simply decided that Grover and Ernie were girls because they were my two favorite muppets.
When I first saw Star Wars in 1977, my little mind was blown. Here was a princess who was not passive. It only took a few minutes before she showed us her mettle by standing up to the scary villain. That made me sit up and take notice. So much so that I even remember being irritated with Luke from an early age for describing Princess Leia as beautiful when he sees her in the holographic message. Who cared whether she was beautiful or not? She had an important message to convey. Why didn’t he understand that?
As I grew older I started to (grudgingly) recognize that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were not one and the same. But that was ok with me because it turns out that Carrie Fisher was more than just an actor. I can still remember my surprise when I first ran across a book she authored at the library. In the days before IMDB and Wikipedia, it actually took me a bit of digging to confirm that this author and Princess Leia were the same person. I knew actors and I knew writers, but I had never encountered someone who could do both. It would not be the last time that Carrie Fisher impressed me.
In 2008, Carrie Fisher released “Wishful Drinking” and that is when, in my mind, she truly came into her own and transcended Princess Leia. If you haven’t read any of her autobiographical books, I suggest you do so in short order. Her style of no-holds-barred truth telling is both funny and poignant. And if you really want some good entertainment, watch the one woman show that grew out of that book. I’ve seen it several times and she still cracks me up every time.
Carrie Fisher is gone and a great light has been extinguished from the universe. But Princess Leia will live on. She has been immortalized in film and literature. The Star Wars universe may now have Jyn Erso and Rey, but as awesome as they are, they will both walk forever in Leia’s magnificent shadow.
*As R2D2 was an ungendered droid, I happily decided that he was female. And no, using the male pronoun was not a mistake. It never bothered me that my favorite female characters were referred to using the male pronoun. It simply made me feel like I was in on a secret that no one else was privy to.