Actor, writer, raconteur and all-round fierce woman: our writers pay tribute to Carrie Fisher, who died aged 60 on 27 December and is buried today.
Every girl needs a badass hero.
In a world bedecked with pink and princes, it’s hard for a little female to grow up without absorbing, unwittingly, the societal pressures to subscribe to the heteronormative princess fantasy. Then along comes a young woman in white. A princess but a warrior; a politician and a rebel fighter and latterly, a general. Played by the incredible Carrie Fisher.
It’s hard to separate Fisher from Leia but separate, we must. Leia showed us that you can fight battles while forced into some dinky contraption of gold, that you can defeat the patriarchally imposed norm where men get to decide what women should wear. Although I’m sure that strangulation of one’s oppressor with one’s own chains should be taken as a metaphor.
“For 50 hours, I was Carrie Fisher. I fell in love, I took drugs, and went to rehab (or sleep) for eight hours and came back a changed woman.”
Fisher, however, was a real-life hero. She was an outspoken mental health advocate whose own fight with her demons was a war that raged over many years. She never stopped trying to make mental health less of a taboo. By speaking out herself, about her own battles, she gave other people the strength to stand up and say, “Me too. I’m fighting as well.”
She taught us that it’s OK to be a multi-faceted, multi-flawed being. That those flaws aren’t, in fact, flaws but the effects of our experiences upon our psyche. By tackling the troubles in your soul and not allowing them to take you down while at the same time being able to have the vulnerability to acknowledge them, you win.
She had won but she was taken from us too soon. Her story was not finished. That’s what makes her loss all the sadder; like yellow words slowly scrolling upwards on a starry screen – but this time there’ll be no next episode.
Lili la Scala
“If my life wasn’t funny, it’d just be true. And that is unacceptable.”
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve repeated that quote by Carrie Fisher, not least in the last two months when a maelstrom of misery hit my family. A crisis we would never have got through had we not found the funny among the barrage of shit life has thrown at us.
Seeing the humour in the darkest of times was Fisher’s greatest gift. It made her a brilliant writer and one of the finest raconteurs the world has given us. And it made her an inspiration, not just to me, but to anyone who saw the sad death of her mother Debbie Reynolds and cracked a Postcards from the Edge joke about being upstaged. Bravo.
When I was 16, I started a new school. It was a boys’ school with girls in the sixth form and I was horribly excited – partly because boys, and partly because I was away from the prison of my previous school.
On my first day, standing in the queue for lunch, when Freddie (oh god, upper sixth, horribly good looking with his floppy blond hair and general just-not-a-girl-ness) yelled across the room at me.
“Is your name Leia?”
“Have you got a brother called Luke?”
“Are these the droids you’re looking for?”
Ohhhhh. Right. Obviously I then said nothing to Freddie ever. And I don’t think he said anything else to me. But I had a nickname for a day, and fancy dress for life.
And I was made up. Not just because a boy spoke to me, but because Carrie Fisher was my favourite woman. I loved her in Star Wars (the first film I saw was The Empire Strikes Back, aged four, when I fell in love with Han Solo for LIFE), but she was the best character in When Harry Met Sally, which I must have watched at least 20 times.
“He’s never going to leave her, I know, I know,” is a phrase my best friend and I have used time and time again. She’s so much better than Sally. She’s ballsy, she’s funny, she’s the antithesis of kooky. She’s the woman I wanted to be.
And in 2011, I got to be her for 50 hours, at the London Improvathon, where we improvise for 50 hours straight through. That year it was set in 1977, so here was my chance.
For 50 hours, I was Carrie Fisher. I fell in love, I took drugs, and went to rehab (sleep) for eight hours and came back a changed woman. I fell in love with Geekboy, but when I went to rehab (sleep) we broke up, and the audience made banners “Carrie and Geekboy 4ever” which they hung from the balcony.
When you are someone for 50 hours, a little bit of them stays with you forever, as you lose your grip on reality through sleep deprivation. A little bit of me will always be Carrie Fisher.
IT’S A TRAP! And it’s one I fell into. As soon as I heard Carrie Fisher had died, I tweeted, “Well, somebody has to save our skins!” And added something about her being my kind of princess. Because that’s the iconic image of her that so many of us grew up with. And while that’s a pretty cool thing to be, it’s not all that Carrie Fisher was.
She was an actor, writer, script doctor, mentor, landlady to James Blunt, director, ferociously loyal friend, but most of all for me, she was an advocate for mental health. She wrote and spoke fiercely and funnily about what it’s like to live with a misfiring brain that causes the world around you to seem distorted and how that causes you to self-destruct in all manner of spectacular ways.
People always referred to her as ‘brave’ for opening up and using her status of Hollywood royalty to bring the issues of bipolar into the spotlight, and unflinchingly examine herself publicly. But as she said herself: “If you claim something, you can own it. But if you have it as a shameful secret, you’re fucked.”
Fisher never saw herself as being brave: she saw it as her way of ‘sur-thriving’: flicking two fingers up at whatever adversity she was facing with a mind like a steel trap, a lacerating wit, and a command of words most of us could only ever dream of. And she usually emerged not simply triumphant, but stronger.
I didn’t realise how much she meant to me until recently. The attitude, the outspokenness, the honesty. She could have stayed quiet, she could have retreated into the shadows and become a recluse. Instead, she chose to fight. Carrie Fisher was, and will always be an inspiration.
Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.