Until a little over a year ago, I didn’t know that Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia.
Let me clarify.
I was unaware that the woman in the GIFs on Tumblr that linked to a Carrie Fisher talking about mental health with the adorably weird looking dog, and the Carrie Fisher that played Princess Leia were the same Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia had a weird kind of British accent, the woman in the dark glasses sitting cross-legged across from important interviewer did not. Therefore, they were obviously not the same person, because Princess Leia’s accent is ridiculous and no one would ever fake such a ridiculous accent. I mean, it’s super obvious– because, you know, they have the same face– but I’ve never been known for being incredibly observant about the world in front of me. I’d be a terrible eyewitness to a crime. I mean, I’m super good at solving TV crime, but real life stuff– an oblivious mess.
I didn’t see Star Wars until December of 2015. It was another thing that my good friend Jen decided she needed to get my obsessed with. I should make a list of things Jen has suggested that I watch or read or whatever, I’ll call it “101 ways my very good friend has ruined my life by greatly enhancing it” or something equally ridiculous.
Anyway, I didn’t see Star Wars until The Force Awakens was released, and in that moment when General Organa appears on the screen for the first time, I had a weird gasp-worthy moment when everything in my idiot-brain clicked together. I imagine it was a lot like when it was discovered that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s dad in 1980. So, like I should have done before, I googled Carrie Fisher and found out that she was also an author and I decided that I had to read those books. Flash to a year later when I got an audible account, and her three memoirs were the second purchase I made, after, of course, the Biography of Alexander Hamilton. I did not expect to be listening to this woman telling me what she remembers of her life after her death, but as it turns out, that is what happened.
Wishful Drinking is so funny and thoughtful; full of all those witty stories that you would expect from the life of Carrie Fisher, the daughter of old Hollywood royalty. I found myself pausing the book before I got in trouble for giggling at my desk at work listening to Carrie’s delivery of the anecdotes. She was remarkably self-deprecating and knew that she has lived a life like no other person has ever lived. As the daughter of someone as well known as Debbie Reynolds, her childhood wasn’t exactly the average American childhood. The way she talks about her normal is just… well, there will never be anyone else like her.
Shockaholic also held some of that wit, but much of it is about death. Being so close to the death of the author and person reading me the story was a little awkward, but it was still beautiful and amazing. The way she speaks about Elizabeth Taylor, Micheal Jackson, her father Eddie Fisher, and several of her personal friends– their lives and their deaths– is done so well and in a wonderful tribute to each person that she discusses.I found myself teary-eyed at moments as she talked about her dad, as flawed as he was, and how much their relationship when she was an adult was fulfilling and loving. Not making up for the fact that he was mostly absent from her and her brother’s lives as children, but fulfilling nonetheless. My favorite story was about the pinkie ring that Eddie Fisher wore. That is so exactly the person that Carrie describes that it’s hilariously brilliant.
The Princess Diarist is about Star Wars. She talks about her film career before– all of one movie– and the audition and parts the of the filming of the first movie (Episode four). However, a big part of the book is about her affair with Harrison Ford, which she talks about in a way that reminds me of every crush I have ever had on an inappropriate person– many of them weirdly enough the Han Solo character-type. The middle third of the book is Carrie’s daughter, Billie, reading Carrie’s diary entries from 1976 during the filming of what would eventually be called A New Hope. Having Billie read the diary entries was such a great choice. It gives the writing a youthful voice that Carrie’s gravely voice wouldn’t have. It would have been great if she used a weird pseudo-British accent, but it’s nearly perfect the way it is.Carrie talks about her relationship with Leia and Star Wars. This thing she never saw coming, that she never imagined–that no one imagined.
I’m not going to pretend that I have been a huge fan of Carrie Fisher for a long time. As I mentioned before, I didn’t see Star Wars until a little over a year ago, and that woman with the dark glasses and the weird looking dog with the same name came onto my radar not too long before then. However, in those short years, I learned so much about her and her work for erasing the stigma around mental illness. As someone who suffers from extreme anxiety and the occasional dark periods listening to her talk about her bipolar disorder in those interviews where she sat cross-legged in those big uncomfortable looking chairs she became an important person to me.
She talked about it a little bit in the third book, how fans see her as something bigger than Carrie, something bigger than Leia. That the characters from those movies are like family. They are real even though they aren’t real. They share your living room through a screen and impact the person watching as much as the person who acted in them. Carrie Fisher was what many I follow on Tumblr have come to call “Space Mom.” She got it. It took her a little while to get it, but she got what fandom is. She really understood what those movies are and will continue to be for many decades to come. Toward the end of her life she, from what I got from her book, learned to live with what Leia was to so many people– inside and outside that terrible bikini.
After Ms. Fisher’s heart attack in December, I started to see a lot of stories on Tumblr about her. One was about someone who was working at a Con where Carrie was doing a signing. Carrie approached, stopped at this person and, for a reason only Carrie Fisher will ever know, covered half of this person’s face with glitter. I have no idea if this story is true, but it seems like something she would do. The day after she died, I went out and bought some glitter eyeshadow. I can’t, you know, wear a ton of glitter at my grossly adult job, but I can add a little to eyelids. So I do, every morning. I wear glitter in tribute to my Space Mom. It’s a small gesture, one I’m sure no one notices, but I know.
Now that I’ve listened to her books, her memoirs anyway, she has a handful of novels that I have added to my TBR pile; I feel like I know a part of the Space Mom that makes me feel closer to her. I’m sad that I waited until she died to read them, but I, like so many, thought I have more time with her, and that she made more stories left.
Unfortunately, we will never get to hear the rest of them. Maybe some long lost anecdotes from people she worked with or her friends, but they won’t be told in Carrie’s voice. And amazingly sarcastic and witty voice. No, unfortunately, all we have left unseen of Carrie Fisher is General Organa, fighting the Empire in Episode Eight later this year.
She’s one of the few celebrities that I felt a physical ache in my heart when I heard she’d passed. The hole she has left here is a big one, it’s going to take a lot to fill it, perhaps no one ever will.
Until next time Internet,