For fucks sake 2016, Princess Leia??? You have got to be kidding me.
It took me weeks to work through my upset over losing David Bowie early this year, then I nearly, literally, fell down when my coworker announced to me that Prince —PRINCE! — had died. Leonard Cohen’s exit right after the election was an especially poetic touch from this gruesome year. I really thought the sucker punch of the death of George Michael ON CHRISTMAS DAY might be the end of a year full of tremendous, unfair, cruel losses. So many insanely talented people who made such a difference to my growing up. But no.
Today, it’s Carrie Fisher. Despite knowing about her recent heart attack, I am gob smacked. She was supposed to have The Force, after all! She was a PRINCESS, for crying out loud, a kick ass, tough-as-nails princess, the profound female role model of my tender formative years years, one that blew all of our young minds. In elementary school, she was the one all of us girls wanted to dress up as on Halloween (my friend Khajha was the only one who actually had the right hair – the hair we all coveted) — and the kids still dress up as her. That’s what a legend she was as Leia.
Fisher had another role that was really important to me: a writer. But as much as I appreciated her acting chops, her on-screen dynamism, her storytelling gifts, her directing and screenwriting, what I loved about her most about Carrie Fisher was that she was open about her tremendous personal struggles, especially in acknowledging she had bipolar disorder.
Fisher was one of the first famous people who lived it out loud, unapologetically, along with all the baggage she and everyone who suffers with this disease has to drag along: the self-medication with alcohol and (many, many) drugs, the antisocial behavior, the terrible messes it all makes. It wasn’t pretty princessy stuff, but then, she was never an ordinary princess. She persevered. And in doing so, she allowed others with mental illnesses to see that they could make amazing contributions, let their creativity shine, and be super successful while letting that all hang out.
I’ve been thinking about heroes a lot lately. All of these famous people who inspired and moved me were also really interesting, complex, generous human beings. They were all heroes of mine.
It’s funny that the last thing Fisher finally unveiled — through her newest memoir — was the juicy truth about her affair with Harrison Ford, the thing we all suspected and waited decades to know for sure. I’m glad she left us with so many truths. The others left us with some serious mysteries, and that’s always hard to sort. I will really miss her.
Dammit, 2016. There are four days left of this year and that makes me nervous about what else might happen. Where is Obi One Kenobi? He’s our only hope.
Photo: Wiki Creative Common, by Riccardo Ghilardi