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In Memoriam: Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher Accepts Humanist Award

Growing up, it was clear that I was not the sort of girl who could be a princess—the docile, glossy, and cartoonishly big-eyed kind. The kind always wishing for their prince. I was not graceful or thin or pretty enough. I was a little too messy, a little too loud.

But Princess Leia was a different kind of princess. She was angry about being rescued. She fought. I watched Princess Leia wield a blaster pistol with precision, watched her fix her Imperial captors with a steely glare as her planet exploded into thousands of smoldering fragments. As Princess Leia melted Han Solo out of a carbonite prison, she chipped away at the gendered damsel-in-distress narrative trope. Even when Jabba the Hutt put her in a gold metal bikini — turning her into the sexual fantasy of a million teenage boys—Princess Leia still strangled Jabba the Hutt with the chains that tethered her to him. Princess Leia taught me that I was, in fact, the sort of girl who could be a princess—the kind who fought back, who held her own, who took names. When my stormtroopers and Imperial officers arrived in the form of middle school bullies, or calculus tests, or college applications, I remembered the woman who knew how to confront her problems head-on.

But I’ve realized the Leia I needed most was General Leia Organa, leader of the Rebellion, champion of the Resistance. It was General Organa, after all, who realized that royalty is inherited but leadership is earned through hard work and trust. General Organa, battle-weary, brokenhearted, who sat through fight after fight, suffered personal defeat after another; General Organa, who lost her son to the dark side, whose brother disappeared to reclusion and whose husband reverted to a life of dodging responsibility, who remained the steadfast military general that the New Republic needed. It was General Organa who set aside her natural Force strength in favor of commanding the Resistance, and who demonstrated the kind of heroism and leadership and dynamism too meaningful to package in a gold metal bikini.

Carrie Fisher was something different to each of us. We mourn the loss of not only a space princess and general, but a talented actress, a candid writer, and a mental health advocate. We mourn a survivor of addiction, a witty comedienne, and an outspoken opponent of Hollywood ageism.

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Even rehashing Carrie Fisher’s résumé feels like a disservice to the bold, honest, self-critical, witty person who inhabited such a prominent place in pop culture and film. In every medium, in every outlet, from talk show interview to memoir to science fiction blockbuster, she had an unwavering vitality, an inarticulable presence. Carrie Fisher and her Princess Leia were made, unfailingly, of hope—the stuff rebellions are built upon.

—Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at caroline.tsai@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolinetsai3.

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