I was shocked when it was announced that Carrie Fisher had died earlier this week. She was an icon, instantly recognizable all over the world, due to her role as Princess Leia Organa in five of the Star Wars films. She turned a damsel in distress into an intelligent and resourceful leader of the Rebellion, and everyone I know fell in love with her character.
Beginning with that role, Fisher set a new standard in science fiction film for female lead roles. Instead of the helpless arm ornament, Princess Leia knew what she was doing, knew how she wanted to accomplish it. She worked toward that goal regardless of anyone else. She wasn’t afraid to ask for input, and also wasn’t afraid to make the decision and stick to her guns.
The only time her role as Leia felt off was when she wore the fan-favorite slave girl outfit in the scene at Jabba’s palace. To me, it made no sense. Why would a giant slug have her dressed that way? I’m probably one of a very small crowd that felt uncomfortable seeing her dressed that way. Not because she didn’t look amazing (she did). Rather, it felt forced into the story for no reason other than marketing and pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Regardless of that, Fisher carried it well (see what I did there?) and the rest of her time in the film was spent in more practical outfits. She was able to play a strong character that was also vulnerable, which made Leia feel very real. I loved how Leia showed that a woman could be strong without being an overbearing jerk (as some other films depict “strong” women).
Fisher’s other speculative fiction roles were never quite as big as Leia. She played a crazy housewife well in The ‘Burbs, a fun horror film which also starred Tom Hanks. Fisher played a number of small roles in Amazing Stories, Smallville, and Scream 3. She even voiced Thumbelina in an episode of Fairy Tale Theatre.
And who can forget the Star Wars Holiday Special? She was only in a couple or three brief parts, but those parts were far better than the rest of the special.
Carrie Fisher will forever be enshrined as portraying one of the most beloved characters in science fiction film. Her influence will be felt for many, many years to come. I look forward to seeing her last appearance in Star Wars Episode VIII in about a year. May she rest in peace.