Carrie Fisher was the Princess we need

Carrie Fisher, when I saw her speak in person a little over five years ago, was the essence of “acerbic wit.” Forthright about her career, her mental illness, and how “Star Wars” and celebrity had treated her, for good and ill.

Carrie Fisher speaking at Dragon*Con in 2011. Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

Carrie Fisher speaking at Dragon*Con in 2011. Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

Carrie Fisher used the megaphone handed to her by her Hollywood royalty parents and her Hollywood roles to tell the rest of us there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when things aren’t great. We can, or should be able to, reach out for the help we need without feeling ashamed and stigmatized.

As a friend pointed out this afternoon, Leia was the Princess who wasn’t the proverbial Damsel in Distress. She did the rescuing as much as she needed to be rescued. In 1977, when the original “Star Wars” came out, that wasn’t just unusual; it was extraordinary. Nearly 40 years later, we still have a long way to go, but we have generations of little kids who’ve learned that a pretty princess can also be a badass.

Indeed, as another friend observed, Carrie Fisher as Leia showed us that you can be both Princess and General, and that even if you’re broken, you can put yourself back together again. That was true of both her on-screen and off-screen personas in recent years, as Fisher reprised her role in “The Force Awakens,” as a character clearly conflicted.

This afternoon, George Lucas called her “our great and powerful princess — feisty, wise, and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think.” He said “She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer, and comedienne with a very colorful personality that everyone loved.”

“I heard someone say once that many of us only seem to be able to find heaven by backing away from hell,” Fisher said in her 2009 book, Wishful Drinking. “And while the place that I’ve arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone’s idea of heavenly, I could swear sometimes — I hear angels sing.”

After her cardiac episode on a flight to Los Angeles late last week, I have little doubt she was trying to hang on past the end of 2016. For our sakes. We can’t always have what we want.

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