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Beyond Princess Leia: Carrie Fisher Remembered

Image via Rolling Stone
Carrie Fisher, dead at 60.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Without a doubt her most famous role, Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series made her a lot of things. 

A sex symbol, with the image of her in a gold bikini becoming a staple of teenage boys bedrooms in the ‘80s. A Hollywood “It Girl,” one of the most in-demand actresses of the moment thanks to her charming mixture of beauty and brains. A quintessential sci-fi heroine who managed to be the biggest badass onscreen, no easy feat in a film featuring Harrison Ford. 

Which is why when she passed away on December 27 at the age of 60 after going into cardiac arrest several days prior, the response was global and immediate. From her debut in 1975’s Shampoo to her most recent appearance in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, generation after generation grew up on the image of Fisher’s bright-eyed smile.

And there’s certainly a lot to admire about Fisher’s acting. Even aside from Star Wars, she built her career on a diverse array of supporting roles on screens both big and small. Everything from When Harry Met Sally… and The Blues Brothers to 30 Rock and Soapdish are especially worthy entries in her filmography, with the latter providing her with one of the best cinematic introductions of all time: “I’m Betsy Faye Sharon, and I’m a bitch. Now get out of here.” 

But to truly understand and appreciate Fisher, you have to realize that she’s so much more than the white dress and bun-head hairstyle that would come to define her. 

From her wild beginnings as the child of one of the most famous couples in Hollywood (singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds), Carrie’s life was notoriously messy from start to finish. Her love affairs were notorious and bombastic, from her marriage to Paul Simon to her fling with Dan Aykroyd to her recently-divulged affair with Ford. She’s been just as vocal about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder (“I feel very sane about how crazy I am.”) and longterm addictions to prescription medication and cocaine. 

It’d be easy to write Fisher off as a cautionary tale, a by-product of Hollywood excess and carefree ideals of the ‘70s. But she was never one to turn down a fight, and Fisher managed to go through hell and come out with her most powerful weapon intact: her sense of humor. Can you imagine anyone else having multiple near-death experiences and recounting them by saying “You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses? Well, I took masses of opiates religiously.”

While her writings are not nearly as popular as her acting, they’re where you can truly see Fisher for the extraordinary talent she is. Fisher was an actress, for sure, but her work as a screenwriter, author, and memoirist best display her wise - and wicked - take on the world around her.

Take Postcards from the Edge, her debut novel about a movie star trying to get her life together that was inspired by a real-life incident where Fisher was rushed to the hospital after accidentally overdosing on the set of The Empire Strikes Back. When asked why Fisher didn’t take on the role of the main character Suzanne Vale in the film adaptation, whose screenplay Fisher also wrote, her reply was simple: “I’ve already played Suzanne.” 

If great art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, Fisher performed the ultimate self-catharsis with her writings. Shockaholic and The Princess Diarist are all candid, no-holds-barred looks into the worldview of one of the prickliest minds to ever grace entertainment. Her one-woman show Wishful Drinking is just as crackling, packed with all of the puns, one-liners, and deadpan wisecracks you’d expect from a writer as sharp as Fisher. 

But even outside of her creative work, Fisher proved herself as the ultimate role model in the way she lived her life free of any reservations. “I am mentally ill,” she said when discussing her bipolar disorder. “I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.” 

As one of the first public figures to speak out about the disease and champion public discourse on such issues, Fisher made an impact bigger than just Hollywood. Her activism and fearlessness in discussing her addictions and mental illness managed to advance these issues with creativity, empathy, and a whole lot of brutal honesty. Celebrity convention couldn’t interest Fisher less when there was so much passion and intelligence brimming beneath her surface.

Her role as Princess Leia made Fisher famous, her wit and attitude made her a legend. She may’ve overthrown an evil dictatorship onscreen, but it was her words and genuine spirit that ended up being the real force for good in the universe.

May the force be with her, forever and always.  

The Witticisms & Wisecracks of Carrie Fisher

1. On past regrets: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” 

2. On following your dreams: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

3. On ageism: “Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all three of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us. Youth are beauty are not accomplishments.” 

4. On dating: “It’s hard to date once you’re a big Star Wars star, because you don’t want to give people the ability to say, ‘I had sex with Princess Leia’.”

5. On her legacy: “Oh! This’ll impress you - I’m actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind, though, I’m a PEZ dispenser and I’m in the abnormal psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?”

6. On being asked to lose weight for Star Wars“They want to hire part of me, not all of me. They want to hire three fourths, so I have to get rid of the fourth somehow. The fourth can’t be with me. I made a joke!”

7. On her future obituary: “I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

8. On Star Wars: “Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story, carrying you rollicking along to the end, then releasing you back into your unchanged life. But this movie (Star Wars) misbehaved. It leaked off the screen, affected a lot of people so deeply they required endless talismans and artifacts to stay connected to it.”

9. On finding happiness: “Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.”

10. On wisdom: “I basically consider myself street smart, but unfortunately that street is Rodeo Drive.” 

11: On acting: “I’m not really one of those actresses like Meryl Streep. Those actresses travel outside themselves and play characters. And I’m more of an archaeologist. I play what I am. I dig what I can. It’s a character that’s not too far from myself, except I don’t have any laser guns.”

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Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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