She was a feisty soul who ate patriarchy on buttered toast for breakfast and cut sexist media standards off at the knees. She worked to take away the stigma of mental illness. She didn’t edit herself as a woman; her speeches and interviews are brash, hilarious, and honest.
And let’s not forget that she inspired several generations of female heroines in sci-fi and fantasy films.
I’ve said a lot about the role of Star Wars in my life, and I won’t repeat myself here, except to say that Carrie Fisher modeled strength through adversity during one of the most vulnerable moments of my life, and that is an unpayable debt.
So here’s my two cents in an internet flowing with Carrie Fisher love: it’s our responsibility to carry her work forward now.
In the year of Fisher’s death, Princess Leia appeared onscreen in a film about picking up and continuing the work of those who have gone before us. I can’t imagine a more apt message to those of us who loved her.
She’s like our Ben Kenobi: gone too soon, at a moment where we feel we still need her. In reality, though, her strength and example are still with us, in every recorded interview and written book and onscreen moment as Princess Leia. And unlike Luke, who lamented, “I can’t do it, Ben…I can’t go on alone,” we aren’t alone. Those of us who loved Carrie Fisher have each other. We can band together to continue the efforts she started.
So whatever Carrie Fisher did for you, now do for someone else:
- Talk openly about mental illness and correct people who think the subject is taboo.
- Mock sexist media standards until their defenders feel like two-inch-tall morons. Live outside of those standards; they don’t apply to us unless we let them.
- If you’re a woman, be outspoken and hilarious. If you’re a man, be outspoken and hilarious and support the outspoken, hilarious women in your life.
- Set a standard for strength and perseverance. Notice and affirm others who embody strength and perseverance, even if they aren’t beautiful or popular or doing anything particularly spectacular.
- If you’re an artist, create work about strong women.
- If you wind up in a mess, take charge and rescue yourself and your companions.
- If you had a steamy love affair with Harrison Ford during his prime, write a tell-all memoir.
- (Seriously though, the normal pattern would be for the international male superstar to brag and “tell all” about bagging a hot 19-year-old who played a princess. Carrie Fisher completely turned that on its head and bragged about bagging the world’s most famous male heartthrob. Can you even?)
Be the Carrie Fisher you want to see in the world. Join hands with your sisters to smash patriarchy and stigma and stifling social norms. Tell your truth, and tell it loudly. Be funny. Be smart. Be compassionate. Go out drowning in moonlight, strangled by your own bra.
It’s up to us now.