I was 9 when Star Wars was released, and to my memory it was the first movie I saw in a theater. I didn’t want to be a princess because I simply was never that sort of girl. But I saw a glimpse of what I did want to be: a smart-mouthed, brave, feisty chick who could handle a gun, and who could still glower while staring up at her captor. I wanted a light saber and I wondered if I would ever have the courage to stand up against a seemingly all-powerful enemy.
The politics of the movie escaped me at that age, and honestly, I wish they still did. I might be able to blame the movie for my obsession with World War 2 history because my understanding of totalitarianism, and resistance, started with it.
I learned some great lessons that I carry with me today: that a girl can do everything a boy can, that she can fight for a cause, that she can change things. Leia was a role model I could identify with, and one that I knew I would have to actually work hard to live up to. An actress is not her character, but in Carrie Fisher’s case it sure seemed like there was a lot of her in Leia. They were both mouthy, brash and willing to speak up. In Leia, Fisher created the perfect feminist icon, perfect because, well, she wasn’t perfect, neither Fisher nor Leia, but rather relatable. The thing about fiction and fictional characters is that we’re able to carry them with us, but in Leia’s case we had her embodiment here with us.
In an awful year, and the awful four years to come, Carrie Fisher’s death was a particularly harsh blow. Yes, she was more than the princess/general she played in movies, but that image meant so much to many women of my generation. To lose our icon at the moment we need her most, when women are in danger of once again being relegated to being nothing more than “a piece of ass” is depressing.
So be sad, mourn, and then follow the sage advice of, my quotes here, “some guy on Twitter”:
Be Princess Leia in 2017.
Fight on the front lines. Strangle fascists with the chains they would have you wear. Be a motherfuckin’ general.