Preparing for the D23 Disney fan expo in 2017, I’m designing my own version of the Star Wars Princess Leia–not the slave Leia of many geek fantasies, but the gutsy gal who smirked, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”
Princess Leia is now part of the progressive line of Disney Princesses, but in 1977, when the first Star Wars movie came out, Disney had three princesses: Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora. All were lithe, graceful women with modest ways and sweet voices.
Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia strode down the long corridors, growled with a gravelly voice and shot smart remarks at both the good guys (“You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought”) and the bad guys (“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognize your foul stench when I was brought on board”). She was a different kind of princess, one that didn’t leap out of Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” or the Disney classic era melodious damsels in distress. Never mind that questionable fashion choice of cinnamon bun hair, she wasn’t fettered by 1950s era fairytale fantasies. She wasn’t part of the Cinderella Complex–a woman waiting for a man to save her.
Finding her own path past the legacy of both her famous mother, Debbie Reynolds; her father, singer Eddie Fisher (not to mention her equally famous step-moms), Carrie Fisher schooled princesses everywhere how to reign with style and deal with setbacks and mistakes(“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo”). She dealt her mental illness and self-medication and her Star Wars legacy that ranged from Pez dispenser to sex doll with self-deprecating humor that should be a lesson to us all. You don’t have to be forever skinny or forever young with the aid of surgery (“When you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don’t”). In real life, Carrie Fisher was even wittier than the princess that she played because as she commented once, “I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.” Let’s celebrate the art that she left and go forth to make artful lives in her honor.