Regarding the General
In the galaxy far, far away where most of us first encountered the truly unique and ethereal Carrie Fisher, it is possible to feel loss from lightyears away, across planets and systems. Through the mystical Force that binds the characters of Star Wars lore, one’s connection to another person can signal them of the pain, danger, and terror that their loved ones are facing at any given moment. In a strange case of life imitating art, I felt that “Force bond” when I found out that the light had gone out from within our Princess, our General, and for many of us, our inspiration. I didn’t know her, and I never even had the great fortune of meeting her, but for a reason as powerful and indescribable as her impact on the world, she felt like family. I walked around my place of work feeling empty and sad. I was afraid to talk about it. It’s a feeling unlike anything I’ve experienced. This formative figure in my life was simply gone, just like that.
Like so many others, my earliest memories are intertwined with images of a royal adventurer sporting her curiously styled hair confidently talking back to an intimidating masked man. Of course, being born almost twenty years after the saga began meant that my first meeting with Ms. Fisher happened long after she attained legendary status. The thing is, I hadn’t yet grasped the concept that I was watching people frozen in time. The brave princess had been presented to the world time and time again in multiple films, comics, novels, and games, but to me, this was a chance meeting that would change everything. Meeting Leia, and therefore meeting Carrie, put me on the path in a lot of ways. The path to my goals and dreams, the path toward many awesome memories with friends and loved ones, and the path, unfortunately, to this time of pain.
Essentially, my experience was not unique. It is for all intents and purposes the “This is what Star Wars and its characters mean to me story” that you’ve heard a million times. And as I see the way the world is reacting to this devastating loss, my sadness is also not unique. How could it be? But that’s the interestingly selfish thing about the death of such a massive and influential figure. For better or worse, it becomes personal. Some people rally against those of us that express our hurt for these people, once characters stuck in time or artists on a stage. But hopefully, being the advocate, writer, and role model she was, Ms. Fisher would understand my typing away about what she meant to me. She had a way of grasping and embracing the inherent contradictions and quirks in this sometimes askew journey we call life.
Carrie Fisher was a woman of unparalleled authenticity and candor. She was a battle-scarred champion wielding a saber of humor and self-deprecation. She was a pioneer and an unwavering hero in so many ways. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the true depth of her influence and the full range of her talent. It’s downright baffling to see her list of credits as a writer and script doctor. From punching up the dialogue in The Empire Strikes Back while being a part of those iconic scenes, to polishing the scripts for films like Hook and The Wedding Singer, Fisher also served as an inspiration to writers. It’s amazing that she had such a grasp of the craft in front of the camera and on the page. Aspiring creatives such as myself can only hope to leave behind a minuscule fraction of what she’s left us.
Through Leia, she was able to revolutionize the way female characters are treated in fiction. It would be impossible to trace back the debt that modern female protagonists owe to the unknowing daughter of Vader. I know that in my personal experience, seeing the way Leia handled herself in the films was almost a complement to my own upbringing. The incredibly off-base and sexist perceptions of women that so many people grow up with didn’t even have a chance to spawn within my mind because while I was being raised by a ridiculously strong and classy woman, I was witnessing this princess handle herself with more capability and power than either of her male comrades. It speaks volumes that as an actress and a person, she became an exemplary figure of strength. It is nothing short of awe inspiring to see how her example transcends generations. People that don’t particularly enjoy genre fiction feel the importance of Leia, my own mother being one of them. And then very recently in my own life, I’ve seen my girlfriend’s daughter become keenly aware of Leia and her adventures. The joy is impossible to extinguish and I imagine it always will be.
And over the course of my twenty-one years, I’ve witnessed her bring the same capability and power she brought to her performance to the fight for mental health awareness. It is nothing short of incredible to see the stories of how Ms. Fisher’s writing helped people through their dark and uncertain times dealing with various problems from depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, etc. She was able to bring grace, simplicity, and even joy to the descriptions of her struggles and through that she gave a face to the idea of overcoming mental illness. It’s beautiful to see how many people are now coming forward and just sharing their experiences of being comforted by Carrie. It’s more evident now than ever that her most Leia-level efforts were here in the real world. It’s strangely poetic that I myself, a person who battles with depression and anxiety, feel this immense dread because of losing her while at the exact same time gathering hope from her story. Carrie Fisher brought us hope. She served as a beacon of light, right here, in this galaxy. Through learning more about her life and her struggle, it made dealing with my own issues seem more possible. Carrie Fisher made a lot of things seem possible for a lot of people.
I’ve been consistently going over things in my head ever since I found out that we’d lost her. It’s heartbreaking because it feels like the world is a less creative place without her. The world without her is startling less candid, less entertaining, and less accepting. For the first time in my life, I returned home in tears. And the entire time I was just wondering “Anyone else? Can we please talk about this friend that we all didn’t know and yet somehow adventured with?” As absurd as it sounds, I was brought to that point by thinking about her famously charming dog, Gary Fisher. What will he do now? Who will take care of him? Is there any way that someone can help him deal with this surely confusing and saddening time? I’m grasping for straws like this person, this creative force, was my personal friend and it feels insane. But her impact was insane. Her life was insane. This nineteen year old girl that’d come from Hollywood royalty became royalty for all of us. The only monarch I’d bow to, surely. The only General I’d serve under. In a lot of ways, I’ve been serving under this General for as long as I’ve been making long term memories. Carrie Fisher, in the form of a blue hologram, was the catalyst for my love of storytelling. Her call to action to Obi-Wan and Luke was her call to action to us all.
So where do I go from here? What do we all do? Well, we mourn of course. But I think the next thing to do is what she would probably want all of us to do: To take life by the horns and kick it in the balls. To live fearlessly like she did. To laugh at misfortune. To be quick and sharp while owning our shit. To stick up for others. To create and never stop creating. And in December of 2017, we’ll see her one more time in the next installment of the saga. I imagine that it’ll feel like visiting an old friend. We’ll be getting one last glimpse into an incredibly honest and astonishing legacy. She lived a life that changed other peoples’ lives and I can’t believe she’s gone. This is a blow I don’t think I’ll get over. But I don’t think that’s the point. Carrie Fisher wanted us to grasp the idea that we don’t have to overcome obstacles in one move or one day or in one grappling hook swing. She taught us that life isn’t always kind. It isn’t always regal and glamorous. It can mess you up left, right, sideways, and leave you cold and alone. But it can also be a beautifully hilarious ride. We have to hold on to what she said about the humor in her own life: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” So from now on, when I’m down, I’ll do my damnedest to laugh or make someone else laugh like she would have. When I’m deflecting an uncomfortable topic, trying to lift someone else up, or just trying to one-up another friend’s comedy, I’ll do it while remembering everything I learned from her. I would like to believe, as I sit here typing away to deal with the reaper, that she would want all of us to become blue holograms for others and rebels in our own ways.
We’ll always love you, General. Thank you for your service.