I really didn’t want to have to write this post. When I heard late last week that actress and author Carrie Fisher, best known as Princess Leia from the Star Wars saga, went into cardiac arrest during a flight, I prayed she’d get better and that she wouldn’t join the list of the many icons who have passed away in 2016. I’d heard some reports she was in stable condition, but she must have taken a turn for the worse. She passed away today at the age of 60.
Princess Leia is one of the most iconic film characters of our time, and Fisher brought her to life with spunk, determination, and courage. As a young girl, it was exciting for me to see a princess who was no damsel in distress and didn’t need rescuing. She was a respected leader in the Rebellion and never backed down from a fight, even though the odds were stacked against her. Luke Skywalker may have been the main character of the original trilogy, but Princess Leia was just as important. Although the character has taken on a life of its own in countless spin-off novels, none of that would have been possible without Fisher’s original performance.
One of the details I appreciated most about “The Force Awakens” was how J.J. Abrams brought the original trilogy’s primary players — Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford — back to the saga. It was like reuniting with old friends, and it took us back to the franchise’s roots. Leia didn’t necessarily get her happily ever after: by the time we met up with her in the film, her relationship with Han had fallen apart and their son had been seduced by the dark side. But Leia was still leading, still fighting — she was unwilling to give up on the cause she had sacrificed so much for.
The real-life Carrie Fisher battled her fair share of demons, which she spoke publicly and frankly about. Years of substance abuse took their toll. Yet she was also a passionate advocate raising awareness about issues like addiction and mental illness and, like her character, she spread the message that there will always be hope.
That galaxy long, long ago and far, far away is a lot lonelier today, but Fisher’s legacy will live on as new generations of fans discover the films. She will always be Princess Leia, a beacon of hope to those whose backs are up against the wall but keep on fighting despite the odds.
May the Force be with you, Carrie.