Renowned mental health advocate, author and ‘Star Wars’ actress Carrie Fisher died Tuesday morning, having been drowned in moonlight and strangled by her own bra. She was 60.
Carrie Fisher was best known for her role as Leia Organa, the feisty rebel princess from Alderaan whose boldness and mystique inspired millions around the world. As CNN noted, “the role positioned Fisher in the decades that followed as something of a feminist icon.” This reflected Fisher, a candid woman who broke barriers and never let anyone tell her the odds.
“Although Star Wars is about space wizards, knights and an evil empire, she defied her stereotype as a damsel in distress,” said Noah Buttner, assistant culture editor of the Stony Brook Press. “I went in to watch her defy Han, kiss Luke (ew), rescue her scoundrel, and defeat an empire. She was a hero to me.”
“To me, Leia/Carrie Fisher was the reason I got into Star Wars,” said Mike Sheng, a Californian Star Wars fan and roleplayer.
Beyond the core Star Wars films, Fisher had roles in films like “When Harry Met Sally…”, “The Blues Brothers,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” and dozens of television spots. Fisher was also an acclaimed author of eight books, including “Postcards from the Edge,” a semi-autobiographical novel which tackled the topic of drug addiction and was later adapted into a film, “Wishful Drinking,” and “The Princess Diarist,” the new release that revealed her affair with ‘Star Wars’ co-star Harrison Ford.
“Carrie Fisher went out the way most of women would want to: after telling the world she f*cked Harrison Ford in his prime,” wrote Twitter user and self-described ‘book and movie geek’ Alison in Wonderland. “I want to cry and I want to laugh because she was the type that’d tell us to lighten the f*ck up, then give us hugs.”
In person, Fisher consistently displayed a talent for wit, one liners, and bravery. In 1976, for example, she noted that when planning on delivering her infamous first line to Governor Tarkin, she wanted to sound “like an actual human, but not serious. Ironic. Some chick from Long Island who’s not scared of you or anyone you might know.”
Later in life, Fisher opened up about her struggles with bipolar disorder, depression and addiction. Fisher was told that she was bipolar at 24, but did not accept that until she nearly overdosed at 28. It was a lifelong battle she approached with both strength and humor.
“I outlasted my problems. I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that,” Fisher said in a 1995 ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer. “I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
Fisher said she has “always been sane about being insane.” She noted her mental health struggles in her books, namely in “Wishful Drinking” and “Postcards from the Edge.” While most people rarely considered it possible to have a mental disorder and succeed, Fisher challenged that notion and encouraged people to talk about their illness. Fisher also gave speeches and wrote advice columns for The Guardian on how to cope with mental illness.
“Carrie Fisher did more to combat mental health stigma by being open about her struggles with bipolar and addiction than did most politicians,” comedian and artist Sara Benincasa said on Twitter.
Much like Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher was also akin to Hollywood royalty. She was born on October 21, 1956, the daughter of 1950s movie star Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, who would divorce Reynolds in 1959. As noted in an interview with the Telegraph, she “hid in books,” but her acting career, beginning with “Irene” (1973) on Broadway, consistently interrupted her education. Her film debut was “Shampoo” (1975), an award-winning satirical film featuring Academy Award-winning actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty.
“Two years before her explosion in Star Wars, Carrie held her own against the likes of Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn and Lee Grant,” said Jon Friedman, an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University who has written extensively about the media and pop culture. “She was a total original, burning with intelligence and playfulness.”
Despite this status at “Hollywood Royalty,” Fisher knew how to stand up for herself. Take this, for example: The limited budget forced the ‘Star Wars’ cast to fly economy rather than first class. When Fisher’s mother realized this, she called George Lucas to complain that her daughter wasn’t flying first class.. Fisher then asked to take the phone, before saying “Mother, I want to fly coach, will you fuck off?!” and hanging up.
Indeed, she has often had strong rebukes to critics. “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well,” she wrote on Twitter to those criticizing her appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where she plays General Leia Organa, leader of The Resistance. “Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”
Maddy Marcus, 23, a lifelong Star Wars fan and Stony Brook alum, once got to meet Carrie Fisher at New York Comic Con. Fisher, who had earlier been drizzling people online with fairy dust, had been triple booked at the time. She stayed two hours longer than necessary. When Marcus got up to her, the situation was so rushed that she couldn’t say much more than “how are you, ma’am?”
“She looked me dead in the face… She just stared for a minute and said ‘I am exhausted,’” Marcus recalled. “I think that was the moment I fell in love with her again. She showed me just a little bit of humanity. She was exhausted, I was exhausted, Gary [the bulldog] was exhausted—poor pup.”
“When I was 12, I was much more like Leia. Now I’m 23 and feel more like Carrie Fisher because, like, I am exhausted,” Marcus added with a laugh.
Fisher is survived by her daughter Billie Lourd, her brother Todd Fisher, half-sisters Joely and Leigh Fisher, and her beloved dog Gary.
“You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do, you just have to do it. You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. But you reached out to me – that took courage,” Fisher wrote in her last column. “Now build on that. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do.”
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