Carrie Fisher, best known for her role as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars, has died aged 60.
We’ve lost not just another pop culture icon, not just an actor, writer and mental health advocate, but a fiercely independent, individual and outspoken woman. As much a no-nonsense fighter against celebrity convention and expectation in her real life as she was the rebel and princess in her most famous on-screen role.
She died in hospital in LA following suffering cardiac arrest on a flight from London on 23 December, although as per her wishes we’ll let her obituary state she ‘drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra’.
Daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher she was born and raised around Hollywood, spending her life in acting and writing. She is survived by her daughter Billie Lourd.
Best known for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, a role she reprised in 2015’s The Force Awakens, Fisher became a pop culture icon through the films and it’s reported she had recently finished filming her scenes for the forthcoming Episode VIII in the series. Her other film roles included Shampoo, The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally but it is for Star Wars she found her way into the hearts, imaginations, and emerging desires, of a generation.
For many that depiction of Princess Leia marked their sexual awakening, an adolescent love they never let go, a woman held forever in time by the imagery captured on film. For me, and with hindsight, Leia was one of my first female role models, not a sexual but a feminist awakening, and a love which has only endured as Carrie aged and lived outside of this film.
Fisher was also a prolific writer, known for her novels Postcards From The Edge and Wishful Drinking, as well as her most recent book, the memoir The Princess Diarist based on the diaries she kept while working on the first Star Wars films in the late 1970s. Across her career Fisher also worked as a script editor working on Sister Act and The Wedding Singer as well as writing screenplays of her own novels.
A sharp wit Fisher spoke openly on living with bipolar disease, alcoholism and substance abuse. She had no time for the sexism or ageism levelled at her, unwilling to be defined by her gender or physical appearance, she would call out critics for their comments. During press for The Force Awakens she tweeted: “Please stop debating about whether OR not [I] aged well.unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasnt aged as well as I have. Blow us.”
Her honesty and work for mental health, including speaking about her own bipolar diagnosis, saw her honoured by Harvard this year, giving her their Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. They said, “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”
It was as a space princess and rebel fighter in a galaxy far, far away that Fisher found her way into our hearts, and secured her place as a pop culture icon but it is for her down-to-earth humanity, individuality and independence she should also be remembered. Perfect in her handling of her imperfections, honestly speaking out about areas of life which are still somewhat taboo, and necessarily calling out the patriarchal and out-dated treatment of women, and flouting the conventions of Hollywood to let her own personality shine through. Creative and talented Fisher found a way to live in very real ways beyond her screen image, while managing to preserve our favourite princess for us all too.
There is now a disturbance in The Force as we reel from her loss, the latest in what has felt like an unrelenting procession of departing icons over the last 12 months. But as with them all we should think not of what we have lost but of what they have given us.
Beverly Hills by birth, Hollywood by career but never anything less than herself; living alongside but never in the shadow of her iconic screen image. Carrie Fisher gave us a rebel princess to watch over and over but she also showed us an attitude to life and living which was far bigger than the role which dominated her career.