Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Leia exits, and I’m sad

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 28, 2016

I had to limit my time to the Internet when I heard the news. Carrie Fisher, the woman who played the princess that my generation fell in love with, had died. Way too young… her mother had tweeted about her status only a day or two before. I saw her at Salt Lake Comic Con last year, and of course we all got to enjoy her reprising her role as Leia Organa (“call me General”) in The Force Awakens last year. She’d recently finished filming for her role in Episode VIII.

And then she drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. In a year where the entire Internet took notice of celebrity mortalities, this seemed like a particularly grim capstone. It hit me pretty hard. Yes, I’m a geek. My course through life was tugged in its direction by the gravitational force of those three movies in my formative years. And as much as I loved Fisher in When Harry Met Sally and The Blues Brothers, the big deal for me was the iconic role she played in Star Wars.

While the credit may be due more to George Lucas than Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia left a significant impression on me. Between having a hard-working single mom for several years, and watching Princess Leia in action, young Jay learned a few things about a woman’s role in the universe. See, Princess Leia needed to be rescued. Popular trope, right? Heroes need to save people, and she needed saving. Of course, when they got to her, her first words were, “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” Seconds into the rescue operation, she’s taking charge in her own way. Not all the time, but it’s obvious that this was a competent, confident young woman who was believably a thorn in the side of the Empire. Even she needed rescuing. We all do, from time to time.  She was in a jam and needed help, but it wasn’t because she was a helpless damsel in distress. It’s because crap frickin’ happens when you are out there kicking butt and taking names. Don’t forget that fought against a team of stormtroopers and took one of them down when they captured her.

Later movies cemented her character. She got to reciprocate and rescued Han Solo, but then got herself captured and enslaved by evil Jabba the Hutt. Once again, she was apparently in need of rescuing… but that was really just an unfortunate variation of a plan B. Jabba the Hutt may have degraded her, but when things went down, she was the one who killed him, strangling him with the very chains he’d placed on her.  Yeah, Lucas had a knack for visual poetry. I thought she was still great in The Force Awakens, now a grizzled veteran of the Rebellion who has abandoned the title of Princess for the one she earned for herself… General. (And at the risk of being spoilery… Mother.)

So yeah, I loved Princess Leia. I married a girl who was like Princess Leia in the right ways… confident, competent, capable, and while not nearly as hot-tempered, she’d strangle Jabba the Hutt to protect herself and her family, too.

Now, Carrie Fisher played the role, and infused it with a lot of herself, but she wasn’t Princess Leia. The actress lived an often hard life plagued by her own addictions and mental illness, but she still managed to be funny and inspiring. Proof that you don’t need to be perfect in this life, you just have to keep showing up. A trifle more ordinary than a spacefaring princess who shoots stormtroopers and strangles monster gangsters, but worthy of admiration for her simple victories. While it may have just been a job (that turned into something of a part-time career for her), the stories she helped tell influenced me. For that, I’m grateful to her.

As a fictional character, Leia Organa can live forever. But the actress who helped bring her to life is gone, and that hit me harder than I thought it would. It’s weird how media can make you feel a link to someone you don’t really know. But the thing I’m learning is that there is a connection, even if it’s tiny and indirect. It’s a human thing, and a good thing.

I’m sad she’s gone. Farewell, Princess. You’ll be missed.

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