Friday, December 30, 2016

In Memoriam: Carrie Fisher, My Weird Space Aunt/Fairy Godmother

Image result for the force awakens leia

January 2015

First thing she did when she saw me, she jumped out of her seat and smeared glitter on my cheek.

“There you go, dear,” she said.

I handed her a glossy 8x10 photo of Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. Trembling, I told her to sign it to Lizy, spelled L-I-Z-Y. I said thank you and I was on my way. The encounter didn’t last more than a minute. I’d spent sixty dollars and two hours waiting in line (part of which she’d been on break) while running a high fever and my feet were killing me. I could have been disappointed then. I could be disappointed now. But I choose not to be. It was the end of a long con and if she wasn’t able to spend as much time with the other fans as she had the day before, it was understandable. I was elated that I had just met a lifetime icon and that I had something from her.

Screenshot from my Tumblr account

I’ve been down in Texas for the last two weeks celebrating the holidays with my family. I heard about Carrie’s heart attack on Friday after my family came back from seeing Rogue One on Friday. I was really hoping she would pull through. But Tuesday I went in for dental work, and Mom and I were waiting in the drive-through for an Arby’s milkshake afterward when I decided to check Facebook from my phone and I found out. I’ve just been absolutely heartbroken since. Seeing her mom Debbie Reynolds go right after her only made it worse (and the fact that Carrie’s daughter Billie Lourd is barely younger than me is sickening).

I’ve already posted a lot of tributes to her on social media but there was more I wanted to say. Firstly, none of the other deaths in 2016 have affected me as personally. Secondly, say what you will about the CGI-enhanced stand-in for Leia at the end of Rogue One: Carrie’s passing around the time of Rogue One’s release could not have been more bittersweet. As we say in Potter fandom, “I open at the Close.”

FanX 2015

Like every other little girl, of course, I loved princesses. I loved Princess Leia when I was a little girl because she was a princess, first of all, but I loved her because she was different. She showed me that princesses could be the hero that physically fights back--that she could get in and fight just like the guys. I idolized her in fifth grade because she was also sassy and smart and gave Han Solo a hard time. I envied her in middle school because while I didn’t have any close friends in middle school and high school, Leia had Han and Luke, and though they got off to a rough start they became friends--they became a family to someone who had lost everything. She is one of the reasons I love Star Wars and one of the reasons I enjoy the original trilogy.

I actually had a stable job around the time that Carrie’s visit to Salt Lake Comic Con FanX was announced in early 2015. I bought an autograph voucher and, the night before Day 3 of the con, I decided to do a little research, just to see what I was getting into. That was when I found out that Debbie Reynolds was her mom--I was a huge fan of Singin’ in the Rain growing up. If my mom had told me she and Carrie were related I wasn’t listening at the time. But catching up on Carrie’s bio I learned that I had a couple of things in common with her. One, she was a writer. Granted, her genre was realistic fiction, adult humor, memoir, and screenplay doctoring, but I’ve done enough reading in genres besides fantasy that I feel a kinship with any kind of writer. Second, in addition to drug abuse and a very difficult personal life Carrie had also struggled with bipolar disorder--and hearing about that as someone who had depression meant SO MUCH to me. She was incredibly open about her struggles, and a very vocal critic about Hollywood ageism and body-shaming. Instead she gave back to the world her own personal weirdness and positive energy.

Carrie Fisher’s panel at FanX was a hoot. First thing she did when she got out on stage was ask, “Anyone here have a coca-cola?” There was an immediate scramble in the audience, and a guy got up to the stage to hand her a bottle--and she snogged him right there! “You see, that’s prepared,” Carrie Fisher told us.  “You give me what I want, I give you what you want.”

Bryan Young came out for the Q&A and she plopped down on the couch with him and pretended to fall asleep.
Image result for salt lake comic con fanx 2015 carrie fisher

As early as the previous night we had seen the glitter dumped on the faces of people who had already done photo ops and autographs, and Bryan asked her about that. She told the audience, “I’m going to get all of you! Everybody needs to get glitter at some point. It’s the law!” Of course we were all absolutely stoked by that statement. Of course, she and Bryan talked about Star Wars. On playing Leia, she said, “I like being bossy.”

Image result for salt lake comic con fanx 2015 carrie fisher
And at one point her therapy pet/space dog/familiar Gary was let onto the stage, and he jumped onto the couch to be with his mom, his unnaturally long pink tongue hanging out. “I was gonna pierce it,” Carrie commented. Her panel lasted less than half an hour, but it was amazing.  “You make me feel younger!” she told the crowd. It was the glitter that made me think of Carrie as my weird fairy godmother. But more importantly, I think the glitter represented the warmth and goodness that we fans got from her.

A Royal Legacy

As 2015 and The Force Awakens got closer to release, we got more footage of Carrie being awesome and interacting with her fans. She was so fun to watch, especially when she had Gary with her. And having Leia back for The Force Awakens was everything I wished for.
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I made a Princess Leia gown in the late summer of 2015. It’s not my go-to cosplay, considering how stressed out I get about doing the buns. Slightly less difficult but still intimidating was figuring out how to be in character. At my first Kids’ Heroes event, I figured it out: to be Princess Leia, act like Carrie Fisher. Be sassy. Don’t smile so much. Purse your lips more. Put your hands on your hips. Have an attitude.

This summer, I fell more in love with Princess Leia through reading Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. One of the best things about the book was that, even though Leia is still distinct from Carrie, there are still moments when Gray invokes Carrie’s attitude. And through reading that book--through Leia--I learned more about what it means to be a true princess.

“ Pocket Princesses 186: Legacy
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Pocket Princesses/Amy Mebberson via Tumblr

Leia Organa was the first modern princess.  Without Leia there would be no Padme or Rey or Jyn Erso or Ahsoka Tano or Hera or Sabine.  There would be no Hermione Granger. The Disney princesses of the last 2-3 decades would have been less 3-dimensional if Leia hadn’t set the precedent--no Belle, no Mulan, no Kida, no Esmerelda or Meg. Heck, no Mira Nova, either. Princess Leia was a strong heroine in every definition of the word but she was still proud of her femininity. The woman who brought her to life, Carrie Fisher, was similar in a lot of ways. She was a fearless, genuine woman but also, according to fans who had more time with her than I did, kind and considerate towards those who have faced struggles similar to her own. She was, like Princess Leia, an advocate and a fighter. And she’s (somewhat) the kind of person I’d like to be when I get old--someone able to poke fun at herself. Carrie is currently the only celebrity I’ve had a chance to get an autograph with, and even if I never meet anyone else famous in my lifetime I will be proud that I met her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. May The Force Be With You
via BoredPanda

The good news is, Episode VIII finished filming earlier this year. I couldn’t tell you what the full implications of Carrie’s passing are, but at some point during Episode VIII or IX depending on how her footage is used, Princess Leia WILL DIE. This means we will have to endure losing her twice and that is going to suck.

In the meantime, Carrie Fisher is watching over me. Literally. I keep that autograph picture on my bedroom wall where she can see me. And if you look closely enough, you can still see the glitter.


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