As the sun rises over a new year, we all are taking our moments to look back at 2016 and the absolute devastation that it wrought to the legends of Hollywood and North American culture. Just about everyone mourned the death of at least one of these icons and for me, the biggest blow came towards the end when we lost Carrie Fisher.
Let me preface this with a few facts about my upbringing. I grew up in a very loving household but not an especially happy one. My parents had to take care of both sets of my grand parents and so we all lived together. Between their age and my dad’s heart condition we faced a lot of hardships growing up and that more than anything is probably what pushed me into nerdom. To have an escape. To have a world that made sense full of other fans who I could share with since no one in my peer group at the time had gone through what I was going through. Star Wars was an ongoing civil war on a galactic scale but home was chaotic so it was in a galaxy far far away that I took solace. Carrie Fisher played a big role in helping me cope. It was not just her acting, but the work she did beyond her best known role in Star Wars.
I was introduced to the land of Lightsabers by my mother.
Yup, that’s her. A short Pakistani woman who had grown up in Canada from age 8 who had an unshakable faith in her own abilities and strength. At age six, she sat my younger brother and I down and watched as a movie night engulfed and completely took over the minds and imaginations of her children as it had decades before to her and her brother. In this my brother and I were very fortunate. Our parents were willing to share aspects of their own childhood with us and where my mom saw Leia as an older sister she never had, my relationship with her was a little different.
Like most young lads Luke was my hero on the school yard, but the pressures of elementary school social lives being what they are, I couldn’t admit the greater truth of my obsession. Princess Leia was amazing. At age 6, the early 90’s were not a great time for inspiring female characters in media. They were either prizes to be won or the object of rescue with very little in between. You had bits of standout but the vast majority was pretty vacuous. And then there was Leia. A woman who after days of torture still protects the Rebel Alliance and even after watching her home world be destroyed, her reaction to her rescuers is to make sarcastic comments and openly mock their lack of planning. Into each of the films featuring her character she is a woman in charge leading from the front and never stopping in her forward movement. She reminded me of my mom. This tiny woman taking on insurmountable weight and responsibility and not once quitting or flinching away from it.
As I grew older I came to pay greater attention to Carrie Fisher’s seeming disappearance from the limelight. Her substance abuse and issues with mental illness. But my love for her just grew. Watching this woman be unflappably hilarious while knowing that she was dealing with bipolar disorder as well as her history of cocaine and alcohol abuse. And then I joined Twitter. That’s when our Princess became a Queen in my eyes and it takes only a moment of cursory reading to realize why.
So here’s to you Carrie. I wish I could have met you, told you how you helped inspire me while you entertained millions. That your life meant so much to so many for various reasons. For me, you’ll always be my space mom and the example that I hope more young women aspire to.