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Writer, General, Princess: Remembering Carrie Fisher

I remember exactly where I was when I found out Carrie Fisher had passed. I was in the upstairs offices of Strand bookstore when the alert when off on my phone while I was entering books. I felt my entire mouth go dry. When the news first broke about her going into cardiac arrest, I was terrified, but then relieved when she was stable. Then December 27th, 2016 we lost Carrie Fisher and the following day her mother, Debbie Reynolds passed away as well.

Losing Carrie Fisher was a deeply visceral experience even for those of us who did not have the pleasure of being in her personal sphere. Yet that shows just how important she as a person and as her iconic character, Princess Leia, was to the world. For myself, as you’ve all noticed by now, my name is Princess. It’s my birth name, not a nickname and kids are dicks. Growing up I hated my name because it was so deeply connected with hyper-feminine, white, Disney female characters that it made me the butt of every joke.

But Princess Leia was different. While she was white, she was also a badass character who could be a damsel and a hero and the best shot in the galaxy and a romantic lead. Princess Leia was a full person and watching her in Star Wars was the first time I saw a character who was a princess be more than just a beautiful woman in a gown. Leia was also sassy and sarcastic in a way that connected with me even as a child.

Through her, I was excited about not just Star Wars, but about this new realm of princesses who could lead a rebellion. Leia was how I learned you could be feminine and be powerful for the first time. That has carried on with her now being General Organa in the new trilogy,  in the fact that she is the one who understands the larger effects of war, and whose connection to the Force is seen most strongly in her ability to connect with people. Much like my other princess fave, Usagi Tsukino, it is a character whose femininity and compassion is never seen as a hindrance or an “emotional” burden, but the maturity of a true leader.

Yet, Leia is only part of Carrie Fisher’s legacy. Carrie Fisher was a brilliant writer. The comedic timing in her prose is unbelievable. When I finally sat down to read Wishful Drinking I was totally blown away by how sharp and self-deprecating she was. It was such a disconnect for me because when I heard men talk about Carrie Fisher before The Force Awakens it was also about how she was “a nut case” or “crazy.” There was a sense that she was just a mess and both Wishful Drinking and Postcards from the Edge are both great at exploring that yes, Carrie Fisher suffered from drug addiction and was bipolar, but this idea that she was this mad-mad-woman was always delivered with a heavy dose of sexism that people happily parroted. Fisher was very deeply aware of herself.

In addition to her own writing, Fisher was also a script doctor for many films, including The Last Jedi. Back in 2008, Fisher spoke with the Phoneix Times about her being one of the best script doctors at one point in Hollywood:

“It’s a good job, but that is a job I did not look to get. I wrote Postcards and based on that I was asked to rewrite Hook. They told me they wanted me to rewrite Tinkerbell’s part, but if Tinkerbell interacts, you’re writing scenes.

To get off of that I took another rewrite job. So it just went from Hook to whatever. Sister Act. Lethal Weapon 3. The River Wild. Some really bad ones too. I would rewrite my parts if I did little parts too. I rewrite the dialogue. That’s sort of how I got to do it. Harrison Ford was rewriting his stuff in all the Star Wars movies and it became annoying because it impacted my stuff. It is easier as an actor to go into rewriting because you know what would fit into your mouth dialogue wise. We would tell George Lucas, ‘You can type this shit but you can’t say it.’

“By the third film, I was rewriting a little bit of my dialogue. George asked me to punch up one of the prequels. I wrote a script with George for one of the Young Indy series.”

That’s right, Carrie Fisher has been fixing Star Wars movies for a long time. It is also worth noting that women who speak up for themselves, are unafraid of being loud, sexual, vulgar in any way are usually labeled as “crazy” regardless of whether or not they have legitimate mental health concerns. Carrie Fisher spoke her mind loudly and often. And despite it all, she has stayed strong in the hearts of millions. Including her beloved space brother, Mark Hamill who has been leading the charge in paying tribute to his co-star, friend, and on-screen sister. Their scenes in The Last Jedi will make you cry.

I met Carrie Fisher twice, both in 2016. First at New York Comic Con where I paid to get a photo with her because if there was one thing I wanted, it was to meet Carrie Fisher. It was a quick moment (I told her I hoped she was having a good day), but she put her arms around me in a hug and her energy was so positive and beautiful that I still remember it today. The second time I caught a glimpse of her at Strand right before her book signing and I still regret not getting my book signed by her.

There are the types of people in this world, who by just living their truth and sharing that with the world, they’ve made it better. Carrie Fisher was one of those people and I’m glad we had her in this world. She is never forgotten, she is in the Force with us always, reminding us to be loud, be vulgar and flip off assholes.

Screengrab of Carrie Fisher as Leia wearing the chalcedony waves in A New Hope

(image: Amazon & Screengrab)

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