Well, I know you’ve all heard the news. Our Princess is dead. We all thought Carrie Fisher would pull through and come back to us, but alas her body said no. So what does Carrie Fisher mean to me, a female geek who is 52 years old?
I had just turned 13 when Star Wars came out in 1977. All my young life teachers, adults, TV commercials, TV shows, games and movies portrayed women in secondary roles who needed a man to rescue her as she could do little for herself. She wasn’t very smart, was super skinny, and was more comfortable in the home as opposed to the president of a large corporation. In the 60s to the late 70s, a woman was mocked if her goal was to be an award-winning journalist, a surgeon, or worse yet, a police officer. 1970’s society did little to encourage young girls to be anything higher than an assistant. The best board game for girls was the 1966 What Shall I Be? Game in which a woman could be a nurse, a model, an actress, an airline stewardess, or a ballet dancer. (Luckily, the company upgraded the game in 1976, but alas, the damage was done to those born in the early 60’s) Girls were told women couldn’t fight in wars nor could they fly fighter planes in the Air Force. All they could do in the army or air force was answer phones or drive trucks. After seeing Star Wars, I longed to be a X-wing fighter in some far away galaxy. But even in Star Wars, women were never seen on the battle ground, except one: Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia.
My mom took me to see Star Wars in 1977 and I was fascinated by Princess Leia. She wasn’t the normal damsel in distress, instead, she was more like the woman who saved others. Yet she was still a woman who cried, yelled, dreamed, fell in love and was in charge. She was like me. I didn’t have a happy childhood so I would often dream of becoming like her: a woman in charge – a Carrie Fisher in real life. I wouldn’t take the nonsense from others and I would stand up to the Darth Vaders in my life just as she stood up to her Darth Vader. And like Leia, I suffered the consequences for standing up for myself. But it was worth it and thankfully I do it all the time now, to the horror of others LOL.
And despite losing her family and her planet, Leia still remember her ‘breeding’ and her timeless class. She took control of the senate, encouraging the rebels to attack the Death Star and waited until later to grieve over the death of her family. Leia was the true princess warrior, a person society had never seen before in the movies.
Sadly, I can remember those who hated Leia and her commanding attitude. She was called bossy, comical, plucky, drab, needed to be rescued and basically seemed out of place in a society that saw women as ‘the passive assistant.’ Society simply pushed her aside and focused on the handsome Luke and Han Solo. Society patted this amazing character on the head and said, “it’s that sweet? Do you use Charlie Perfume and wear pants in public? Maybe you should go answer phones, dear.” (Baby boomers are laughing now.) It wasn’t until 1981 that Princess Leia came to the forefront.
But to girls like me, the Princess was perfect in all ways. She took us by the hand and taught us that we should NEVER allow anyone to try to destroy or control us and to always stand up for what is right even if it crushes you. A lot different from the sexy Charlie’s Angels that focused more on a woman’s cup size and hair size as opposed to the size of her heart. Or worse, Mary Ann and Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. If Mary Ann and Ginger had been on that Death Star, Mary Ann would have started an all girls’ singing group and Ginger would have sang in her best Marilyn Monroe sexy voice Happy Birthday to the General. But never would have fight back. Women didn’t fight back in those days. Never.
So now here I am, 52 years old and grieving over my first female movie feminist and the one who taught girls that they could do whatever they wished in a society that basically felt women should be seen but not heard. She opened so many doors for us later baby boomers. We learned from her and became like her. We learned that Darth Vader could be vanquished, that we could have a home, a family and a career, but most of all, we learned to believe in ourselves even if no one ever did. I miss you, Carrie Fisher. Thank you for teaching girls to be strong women and to beat the odds. I hope I see you in heaven one day.