I like to joke about never having seen Star Wars – as in I’ve never sat down and consciously watched more than a single Star Wars movie at a time. I have seen the entire original set though, just in pieces. I think Return of the Jedi was the only one I watched in one sitting. Nevertheless, as a self-proclaimed geek, most of my friends are very into Star Wars and it’s pretty much impossible not to have absorbed a lot of Star Wars information and trivia via osmosis. Princess Leia wasn’t the type of princess to sit around waiting to be rescued – in fact, she’s the one who leads the rescue mission for Han Solo in Return of the Jedi. All that being said, I adored Carrie Fisher – not just because she was amazing in Star Wars, but because she was one of the most well rounded Hollywood actresses I’ve ever heard of.
The first movie I remember seeing that had Carrie Fisher in it was The Blues Brothers. She played a mystery woman – Jake’s ex-fiancée – who had a bone to pick with the Blues Brothers and a small arsenal at her disposal with which to make her point. She was seriously badass and I desperately wanted to be like her one day. Not that I wanted to blow up a propane booth and send a telephone booth airborne because of an ex-fiancée who’d done me wrong, but I wanted to be the type of woman who would take up a flamethrower if necessary to show that she meant business.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was a cinema geek. the more obscure the movie, the more likely it was that he and while we were dating I, had seen it. He had a thing for Woody Allen movies, and we spent many an evening watching and re-watching his favourites. One of these movies, Hannah and her Sisters, had Carrie Fisher in it and once again, I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. I liked the April-Holly story arc the best of the three in the film and wanted more of April (played by Fisher). April wasn’t flamethrower badass but she was a woman who knew what she wanted and was determined to get it – no matter the setbacks.
Fisher was also a celebrated screenwriter and script doctor – at a time when there weren’t a lot of women in the business. She was one of the most in-demand script doctors (writers not previously associated with the script who fix it up pre-production, making it funnier, filling plot holes, and shoring up any shaky bits) in Hollywood. As a writer and editor myself, I have tremendous respect for those who toil behind the scenes making things better. As a freelancer, I have even more respect for Fisher walking away from her script doctoring career when movie studios started to take advantage of script doctors by making them do what amounted to spec-work. Instead of hiring a script doctor based on their previous works or recommendations from other writers, studios started to demand that script doctors “audition” by sending in their notes for proposed changes, and then using the notes from various prospective script doctors to change the scripts themselves without paying. As Fisher bluntly put it in an interview with Newsweek in 2008 “That’s free work and that’s what I always call life-wasting events.” I couldn’t agree more.
Carrie Fisher was very candid about her struggles surrounding mental health. While early in life she tried to hide it, in the past two decades she owned her chemical imbalance. She basically said “this is who I am, warts and all, and if you don’t like it, I don’t care” – this message is hugely empowering for women in general but especially for women in the arts who often feel the need to be ‘perfect’ in order to secure jobs. Her message when asked what advice she would give people living with mental health issues who were afraid to pursue their dreams struck a chord with many people. “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
Finally, there is one Star Wars movie I’ve watched a couple of times: The Force Awakens. This was the movie in the franchise that made me want to go back and watch the others – particularly the original trilogy – and it was all due to Carrie Fisher’s role. She was still Leia, but she is no longer just Princess Leia, but General Leia Organa. She is not the young, naive, girl in we first met, but an older, stronger, and wiser version of herself. Leia Organa carries herself with authority, takes no crap from anyone, and does what needs to be done. Even when she learns that the love of her life has been killed, when she could easily say “to hell with this” and walk away, General Organa fights on. With apologies to the mystery woman from The Blues Brothers, but I really want to be General Organa when I grow up. If I can muster half the intrepidity that General Organa (and Carrie Fisher herself) have, I’ll be delighted. I was struggling for a single word to describe Carrie Fisher – strong, courageous, brave, and full of moxie came to mind – so did spunk but that’s more aligned with Mary Tyler Moore in my brain. I have been trying all day to figure out the right word when it landed in my lap… intrepid. Intrepid is another Latin root word – with the prefix in meaning not in front. The Latin word trepidare means ‘to tremble’ so intrepid means not trembling. Unafraid, or rather, afraid but doing it anyway – Perfect.
Intrepid ( in·trep·id) adjective
Characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance