“It was raining in L.A. and I was Princess Leia. I had never been Princess Leia before and now I would be her forever. I would never not be Princess Leia. I had no idea how profoundly true that was and how long forever was.” — The Princess Diarist
What is a legacy? Hamilton taught me “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” But I believe some people—if they leave the right kind of mark—live to see at least a small portion of that garden. And I think Carrie Fisher was one of those people.
She got to see the little girls dressed up as Princess Leia. She got to hear stories of women who were inspired by the character she brought to life. And she’d be the first one to tell you that she also got to hear stories of men who were inspired in their own way by the character, too.
Princess Leia is a huge part of Fisher’s legacy. She will live on forever in that character—forever our Princess, our General, our trailblazing badass.
I’ve written so much already about what Princess Leia has meant to me (and I’m planning to write much more in the future), so I’ll just say this about Fisher’s most famous role: I have no idea who I would have become if I never saw Leia shooting her blaster, kissing her pirate, and commanding her troops as a kid, but I do know that woman would have been a lot less confident, independent, outspoken, and happy.
I was introduced to Princess Leia at the ripe old age of five, so it took a while before I understood that she wasn’t real and that a woman named Carrie Fisher played her in the movies. But once I could grasp that concept and I learned about Fisher’s life, I became incredibly intrigued by her writing career. Even as a kid, I knew I loved to write, and upon learning that Fisher became a writer after her time in that galaxy far, far away, it occurred to me that maybe if I couldn’t really be a Princess/Rebel, being a writer might be the next best career path.
Princess Leia is my hero, but so is the woman who played her. And as I’ve gotten older, my admiration for Carrie Fisher beyond her job of bringing Leia to life has only grown. Her ability to be unapologetically, unashamedly, unrelentingly herself in a world that constantly tried to make her feel bad about that is something we all should strive to channel in our own lives. And her emotional honesty and openness—especially in her writing—represents the kind of bravery I can only hope to achieve.
I try to be like Princess Leia every day; I have since I was in kindergarten. I do that by standing taller than a 5-foot-nothing girl has any right to stand, walking with purpose, speaking with conviction, and fighting for what I believe in. But now, I am going to try to be like Carrie Fisher every day, too.
How am I going to do that? I’m going to work on embracing my imperfections and accepting myself for the eternal work-in-progress I will always be. I’m going to write with honesty and openness—even when it’s hard (especially when it’s hard). I’m going to speak my truth more and beat myself up less. And I’m going to remind myself and everyone else who needs it that sometimes just getting out of bed, standing on your own two feet, and fighting back against your own Dark Side is a victory on par with destroying a Death Star.
Carrie Fisher was as much of a fighter as the princess she played on the big screen. She fought back against mental illness, addiction, body shaming, ageism, sexism, and a celebrity culture that wants women like her to just shut up and look nice when they’re young and fade into the background as they age. And she fought back with humor, fierce intelligence, and the kind of openness only the bravest possess.
I’ve spent so much time hoping I was living a life Princess Leia would be proud of. Now, I also want to live a life Carrie Fisher would be proud of. I want to stand in my truth (my loud, messy, sometimes uncomfortable truth), own my shit (because if she taught us anything, it’s that we all have our shit to own), and write my own story without fear (or with a lot of fear—but still doing it anyway).
Carrie Fisher once said that she wasn’t a damsel in distress, she was a distressing damsel. I think I speak for all the distressing damsels out there when I say thank you, Carrie, not just for being Leia, but for being you. Whether it was seeing you onscreen as small, smart-mouthed girls or reading your brilliant words as complex, complicated women, you taught us to love ourselves for exactly who we are.
That’s Carrie Fisher’s legacy—and what a beautiful garden it has made.
Edited to add:
As I was writing this post, I learned of Debbie Reynolds’s passing. Her performance in Singin’ in the Rain taught me that girls could tap dance just as well as boys could, and that lesson has stayed with me for my entire life. It seems fitting that mother and daughter both left such an indelible mark on my life as a girl for roles in which they held their own alongside two men when they were just teenagers. It also seems fitting that this mother/daughter pair is reunited once again, never apart for long. Rest in peace, ladies, and thanks for bringing joy, inspiration, and fun into my life since I was a little girl.
This my friend, is perfection. Nothing to add but gratitude to you for putting it out into the world.
Thank you so much. I almost gave up when I couldn’t find the words, but I knew I owed it to Carrie to write what I felt as honestly as I could. ❤
Katie, I wept reading this. Plainly. Simply. Beautiful tribute, my friend. The force is most definitely strong in this essay. The heroes would be proud of you. I have no words.
“The heroes would be proud of you.” – I’m not crying (again). It’s just raining on my face (again). That means more to me than I could ever really say, Giss. So thank you—a million times thank you.
Beautifully written! A wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady. Carrie had such a profound impact on me, not only through Leia, but through her advocacy for mental health. Reading this made me smile. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my sadness and it’s also nice to see what a mark she made on the lives of so many. Great job, Katie!
Thanks, Kristen! You’re definitely not alone, and if I could make you smile with this, then I accomplished exactly what I wanted to when I was writing it. 🙂
That was beautiful Katie. Carrie, I’m sure would love this.
Thank you so much! That is incredibly high praise. I’m just a Nerdy Girl trying to make Carrie proud.
Excellent job, sweets. As I noted on your earlier post about Leia, I love the fact that she’s a truly competent person — she gets stuff done, she’ll help save herself (thank you very much and get the walking carpet out of her way), and she’ll protect those she cares about and those who need her. I love that Leia and Carrie are both (unapologetically) who they are. Sorry (notsorry) folks, right now, I REFUSE to use past tense. Through her movies and writing, Carrie Fisher IS not was. So yes, let’s be brave about who we are, especially when it’s messy; let’s own our messiness and strive for better; let’s WRITE!!! (Ok, sorry for all the exclamation points; I am all about the words. Feel free to insert your own method of artistic creativity and expression. I will virtually smack down anyone reading this who thinks — “oh, but I’m not creative.” Yes, you are. Find your creativity. Cook, decorate, build, write, dance, paint, sew, code, compose, garden, whatever.)
Along with what you mentioned, Katie, one of the things I love about Fisher is her intense loyalty and love for her mom. I was initially gutted that we lost Debbie Reynolds so quickly after Carrie Fisher, but then it seemed somewhat appropriate that they went together. These were two strong women who didn’t let life beat them down. So, let’s have loyal friendships and support each other. (Please tell me I wasn’t the only one who loved Hamill’s comment that he was even grateful for her “bratty, self-indulgent crap” along with the kindness, the laughter, etc.) I’ve been amazed at how many people have reported first hearing the term “bi-polar” from Fisher — and how many were people who struggled with that without realizing until she said something. Let’s be strong about our struggles.
Thank you so much, friend. I love everything you said here. I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding inspiration to write lately (hence my pathetically low number of posts around here in the past few months), but I knew I had to fight through the writer’s block and anxiety to get this one out there because, as you said, Carrie would want me to WRITE!!!
And you were definitely not the only one who love Mark Hamill’s comment; it was my favorite part of his tweet about his space twin. Their relationship—especially in recent years—has always made me smile.
Finally, I was one of those people who had no idea what bipolar disorder was until I read about Carrie being so open about it. She helped preteen me understand mental illness better and I think that had a profound impact on my adolescence—the knowledge that struggling with mental illness is not something to be ashamed of because someone who is a hero to so many of us was so open about it.
I am soooo glad you fought the writer’s block and anxiety to write this. (Honestly, bookmark this for those bad days when you wonder why you think you can put words together. This will help remind you of a small part of what you are capable of.) Fighting that fight to put words together really is one of the best ways to honor Carrie’s memory. Plus, we get all the lovely words. 🙂
Beautifully expressed, Katie! I admired just how brutally honest and open she was in “The Princess Diarist.” That takes bravery; I don’t yet have that kind of humility about myself and that’s something I can work on.
I was very young when I first saw Star Wars in the theater, and I think I took it for granted seeing a woman in such a strong lead role at the time. I loved how real she was. She didn’t act like she needed saving and that was striking.
Thanks for a lovely tribute!
Thank you, Jennifer! I’m about halfway through The Princess Diarist now, and I’m in awe of how honestly vulnerable she allows herself to be on every page—not just in sharing her diaries but in sharing her thoughts so poignantly and openly about a time in her life that is clearly still something she sees as deeply personal and intimate. It takes guts to be that open—especially about things you haven’t shared with anyone else before. And that openness is something I want to carry with me in everything I write.
Wondetful. I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you, Dez!
❤ beautifully written ❤
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A wonderful piece. I’ve not been around much this last year, as I’m not watching the shows you are commenting on, but I do drop by and reread old posts to reinforce the positivity that your site radiates. Without Princess Leia would we have seen or accepted characters such as Xena, Ripley, Sarah Connor, Buffy Summers, Kara Thrace, and numerous other strong female characters. I read a recent article that the original Star Wars there were female rebel pilots, but the scenes were cut. I guess in the 70’s the thought of women fighting on the front lines was something audiences would not have accepted, yet it still gave us Princess Leia.
As for hoping you are living a life that Carrie Fisher would be proud of, take a good long look at the site you’ve created here. Pretty much all of the qualities you admire in Carrie are embedded within NGN.
As an aside, Rogue One was awesome. I’ve only seen it once, but will need to watch again.
Happy New Year.
Thank you so much, Mark! It’s so nice to see you around NGN. Your kind words about my site have always meant so much to me, and it’s an honor to think that you see some of Carrie’s spirit reflected in what I do here.
Also, I totally agree with you about Rogue One! I loved it and wish I had some time to write about it. Like you, I’ve only seen it once, but I can’t wait to watch it again and take in all the details and themes I’m sure I missed in my initial excitement the first time around.
I hope you have a Happy New Year, too!
This was beautiful, Katie! I did not have as much of a connection in my childhood to Leia or Carrie, but as I grew older I admired them both more and more. You’ve wonderfully put into words why Carrie had such an impact on so many people. May we all be a little more like Carrie in 2017.
Thanks, Leah! I love that so many of us are resolving to be more like Carrie in 2017. It’s going to create a year full of fierce women who don’t take shit from anyone and who love themselves even while acknowledging their flaws and imperfections, and I think she’s somewhere smiling at this being her legacy even more than Princess Leia’s crazy hairstyles and gold bikini.