Carrie Fisher died today. After suffering a heart attack on a United Airlines flight to LA four days prior, she never regained consciousness. It doesn’t seem real, honestly. In terms or celebrity losses, 2016 has been a brutal year.
Besides David Bowie, this might be the most painful loss for me. Like Bowie in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Carrie Fisher came into the lives of children with her most well-known role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Princess Leia Organa became a cult icon throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — she was also the catalyst for many youngsters’ raging hormones. Not only did she display heroic, independent characteristics, she was attractive in a naive, friendly fashion. Leia, along with a colorful cast of otherworldly characters, nurtured the imagination of all who watched. People of all ages and generations found comfort in Star Wars — even before it was cool to do so.
The incredible thing about Star Wars is it found life outside the three films that defined the saga in its infancy. From tabletop role-playing games to expanded universe novels, the characters grew without the actors having to lift a finger.
I first came to the world of Star Wars through Early Learning books. It was like reading classic mythology. The illustrations were vivid, beautiful, and I lived the stories of the original trilogy through and through. I wouldn’t see the films until my preteen years. Even in those easy-to-read books, Carrie was and is the face of Leia. Just as Mark Hamill will forever be Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford will always be Han Solo, and — whether you like it or not — Hayden Christensen will always be Anakin. The legacy those actors left with those characters will forever be frozen in time (or reanimated in the case of Peter Cushing’s Tarkin in Rogue One).
This legacy was (thankfully) one that these actors were able to carry on in last year’s The Force Awakens — a virtually fresh entry point for a new generation of fans, along with a satisfying next chapter for longtime viewers.
There was Harrison.
There was Hamill.
There was Carrie.
There was even Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Kenny Baker (R2D2).
The gang was all there.
It was a nice resurgence in front of the camera for both Hamill and Fisher. The former has enjoyed a rather fruitful career in voice acting (defining the sound of Batman’s Joker for the last two decades) while Carrie turned to writing; her latest book, The Princess Diarist details her time on set of A New Hope — back then, it was simply Star Wars. Though Harrison Ford never quite fell out of the spotlight, it was a delight to see him warm the seat of the Millennium Falcon one last time.
Carrie struggled with how the press reacted to her appearance before filming and after filming Episode VII. Some days, she’d talk about how they asked her to lose more weight — and she refused. Other days, she’d appreciate the diet and workouts whipping her back into shape. Her views and opinions would evolve on the daily, but she never once dropped that spunkiness that made her Leia a global sensation.
That’s the thing about the movies: Leia is immortal. Leia is timeless. She’ll forever be that fresh-faced 19 year old starving for success. She’ll forever have that graceful purity, dressed in that silky white robe. For years to come, her performances will be remembered, archived forever like that of a Greek painting. The only tragedy is in the future of Star Wars. The hardest realization for fans of the decade-spanning saga is that, regardless of how Episode VIII leaves us, it will be Fisher’s swan song — her final farewell to the world.
Not only have we lost Carrie Fisher, we have lost our dear Princess.