When I was five, I wanted to be a princess. Not one with a tiara and a big dress--that has never been my scene. My princess had cinnamon bun hair, sassed her bumbling "rescuers", carried a blaster and was connected to the Force.
This princess, after watching the annhiliation of her home planet, says, "We have no time for sorrows, Commander....use the plans in [R2-D2] to help plan the attack. It's our only hope." This princess gets sh*t DONE.
Carrie Fisher is my princess.
From ages five to ten I played with Star Wars action figures and stuffed animals. I had an AT-AT and the Millenium Falcon (I coveted the Ewok Village set, never got that one). Barbies and dolls and castles and frou-frou stuff was never my scene. Give me trash compactors, space battles, villains in black and heroes in white. Princess Leia was my role when my cousins took both Han and Luke when we played pretend, and I was cool with that. That princess never needed rescuing, was never locked in a tower, and could summon the Force and give orders when needed ("Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy"). Because of that--because of HER--I never felt that I couldn't do exactly what I wanted.
As I got older, I appreciated the Star Wars saga even more: In high school, it was a "language" that I used to make friends when my family moved twice in two years. The Star Wars kids were the band kids. Discussions about characters' morality, questions about the plot lines, endless ruminations on plot and character, and throwing quotes around the back of the bus on the way to band competitions gave me my way "in" to relationships.
In college, Star Wars was in near-constant rotation on the bus TVs when we traveled to away games and competitions. As an English major, I learned about Campbell's heroic cycle and applied it to Luke and Anakin's journeys. My understanding of the story changed--from space battles and good vs evil, to one of family and redemption. I read up on how Lucas created the saga, his influences and began to understand the larger cultural context of why it resonated with so many people. Princess Leia's role--a leader in the rebellion, trusted to carry plans from the Death Star to Ben Kenobi, had a larger significance. As I learned more about feminism, her gold bikini scene with Jabba the Hutt became more resonant (literally strangling the mysogynistic figure who holds her hostage).
It keeps going--the story continued with the prequels, the conversations continued with friends. I beat my boyfriend at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit (he was so good at it his friends made him answer an entire card of questions each time he rolled, let alone when he got a slice of the "pie") and I promptly retired from the game. We later got married (perhaps so he'd always have me on his team), and the famous Leia/Han quotes "I love you." "I know," are engraved inside our wedding bands, where most people inscribe their wedding date.
Our kids are into Star Wars, and Star Wars stuff dots our house (Death Star ice cube maker? Planet drinking glasses? Wind up Boba Fett? We got it, and then some). And Leia grew to be a general, leading an army of resistance fighters and never losing her spark. She's someone who my daughter loves just as much as I did.
Carrie Fisher went on to do lots more besides Star Wars, of course--Postcards from the Edge
, writing 8 books, being a voice destigmatizing mental illness--her accomplishments are varied and show the breadth of her ability. But for me, she's first and foremost Princess Leia.
My story isn't a unique story, and that's pretty much the point. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford...they are icons for a generation. They shaped the way we played, the slang and verbal short cuts we use, and represented the possibility that one person, or a group, can make a difference in the whole universe. Carrie Fisher's death, at the end of a year that's taken too many, too soon, feels like the abandonment of the hope her character represented. Princess Leia wanted peace, freedom, and to be out from under the shadow of the Empire. As the popular meme details, she lost her mother, her father, her planet, her adoptive parents, her husband AND her son...and has never been tempted by the Dark Side. Today, for lots of reasons, it seems like the Dark Side is winning.
Today there's time for sorrows.
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you, always.