I didn’t know what Star Wars was for a long time, but I’d been watching it. Way back when, when my mom was divorcing my dad she’d take us to his apartment for Saturday visits, but he often couldn’t be bothered to spend much actual time with us. Sometimes this hurt a lot. But it wasn’t all bad, because it was the most free, unsupervised time I ever had. He didn’t care what we did as long as we didn’t wake him up. (she would drop us off at 6 am. He would go back to bed until non or one–at the earliest.)
And he had cable. So I’d watch my Saturday morning cartoons with no worry that my mom would find out and disapprove. Then, after those were over I’d look through his VHS tapes (we did not have VHS at home. Tv and movies were not encouraged at all. I only begrudingly was allowed Saturday morning cartoons, and sometimes I wasn’t allowed to watch certain cartoons, like She-Ra or Jem. Apparently they were ungodly, something I really do not understand as an adult because She-Ra was a hero who helped everyone and Jem and the Holograms ran a freakin’ orphanage.) He didn’t have a lot for kids. There was The Smurfs and The Magic Flute, which I watched almost every week.
And there was this tape that had “From Star Wars to Jedi” an HBO special about the making of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I didn’t actually see Star Wars until it was remastered and released in theaters again. That’s probably why it is my least favorite of the original trilogy. But I watched the making of special almost every week. And I watched Empire occasionally (it was dark and scary and so sad. Darth Vader wasn’t the scary part. Luke finding out that Vader was his father, that the force he’d been fighting this whole time was his blood…that was scary. Being tempted by the dark side was scary. Han being frozen and everyone being upset and sad. That was depressing.)
But Return was…I adore that movie. Luke finds his footing, his calm center and tries to save Han. But, and I can’t even tell you how much I loved this, Leia was already there, SAVING THE MAN SHE LOVED. Whaaa? Women aren’t supposed to save the men. But she did. She was strong, smart, lovely and didn’t depend on anyone else to get things done. And yeah, she gets captured, but she’s irritated by that, not scared. And, as I’ve said before, the penultimate scene where she kills Jabba, she has been stripped of her weapons, her clothes and he attempted to strip her of her dignity but she never gave in, and in the end killed him with the very chain he tried to contain her with. That was amazingly powerful to me. (Clearly I was not raised to believe in a woman’s independence and agency over her own body and life.)
When I got older, after my mom had died and we were living full time with my dad, those feelings stuck around. I had a complex mental relationship with Leia because while I adored her strength and cleverness, her determination and fierceness, I also struggled with the ideals my mother and extended family had tried to instill in me and felt like I *shouldn’t* be so attracted to Leia (she was another Jem, a She-Ra for sure, and my very literate, always reading mother once threatened to cut up my library card for checking a She-Ra book out of the library, so surely there had to be something very wrong with strong, clever, independent princesses, right?)
Also, there might have been a bit of burgeoning self awareness because I was actually ATTRACTED to Leia as well. I imagined being Luke, but I wanted to be with Leia.
I got bits and pieces of who Carrie Fisher herself was. But there was always a bit of self distance there, because I WANTED, desperately, to maintain my idolization of her, and I needed her to remain the luminous, beautiful person she was. She was bold, in her personal life. She never seemed to let aging or the crush of reality, or Hollywood culture rule her life. She never obeyed. She was always bold and clever, strong and beautiful.
She was and always will be one of my few lifetime idols.
Rest, well Carrie.