Princess Leia Made me a Feminist – A Personal Message About Carrie Fisher’s Impact

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Here on Cinelinx we don’t do much celebrity news posts, which means we rarely do posts regarding deaths of which we’ve seen an abundance of within the past year.  Our mandate on the site has been to stick within the entertainment world and keep away from celeb/gossip style stories.  That said, when a particular celebrity death has impacted us on a personal level, we’ve made exceptions.  As such, I’m not here to do a top list of her movies and what not, but more to explain the personal impact Carrie Fisher had on me throughout my life, and why this loss is a painful one.  

Everyone knows I’m a Star Wars nut, and the films have had a significant impact on my life overall, since childhood.  Had it not been for those films, I wouldn’t have pursued an education/career in the entertainment industry, nor be doing what I do now.  While some may find it silly, the ideas, characters, and themes within the Star Wars saga are things that shaped my view on the world as a kid.  More specifically, Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia taught me to be a feminist.  

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As a kid in the 80s, so much of the media consumed portrayed men as the be-all, end-all, heroes of the world and princesses were meant for saving and love interests only.  For me, that perspective shifted entirely upon seeing Star Wars: A New Hope.  Not only did it change how I looked at heroes in movies, but how I percieved the world and how things should be.

Leia wasn’t some damsel in distress who needed rescuing, she was a take charge heroine who stared, unflinchingly and defiantly back at Darth Vader in the most dire of circumstances.  As everyone else ran and cowered in fear, she refused to back down.  She withstood his torture aboard the Death Star, unwilling to give up her friends.  Even when faced with the impending destruction of her home planet and everyone she cared about, she LIED to the two highest ranking Imperial Officers.  

Her strength in the face (literally) is the basis of her character going forward.  Even when Han and Luke came to her “rescue”, it quickly becomes clear that she’s about the only one who knows what’s actually going on.  While they let Leia out of her cell on the detention block, she quickly takes charge, helping Luke and Han to eventually escape.  Her wit and demeanor made it clear, this wasn’t your typical movie princess.  She could be snarky and strong, while also having softer moments.  She wasn’t limited to a single defining characteristic, but many.  

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It’s something that stuck with her character throughout the next two Star Wars films and has influenced her character throughout all the comics, books, video games, and new material over the last 39 years.  As a young boy, watching Carrie Fisher battle alongside Luke and Han (oftentimes making them look like amateurs) made me realize how powerful females could be.  They didn’t have to sit and wait on the hero to save the day, but could be heroes themselves in a variety of different ways.  It’s a lesson that’s stuck with me through the years and with every viewing of the movies.  

While many remember her appearance in Return of the Jedi for her golden bikini, I remember cheering as she strangled Jabba the Hutt, a big time villain who not only had a hand in Han Solo’s detention, but managed to capture the last Jedi as well.  Not to mention the fact that as Han and Luke were captured and being prepared as a meal for the indigenous Ewoks on Endor, Leia had already made friends with the creatures!  

Sure, you can chalk up some of this to the script writing, but the reality is, Princess Leia’s ultimate impact as a character comes down to the fearless portrayal by Carrie Fisher.  So much of her own personality is infused with the Leia character.  Anyone who’s been on set with her has frequently noted that Carrie Fisher’s personality on screen is largely how she was off-screen as well.  Never afraid to speak her mind, she always trying to buck the trends in Hollywood.

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In her very first role, a minor part in Warren Beatty’s Shampoo, within the first scene, she casually asks the other character, “You wanna fuck?”  It’s meant to be a jarring exchange, as fitting within the context of the movie, but it set a precedent for the strong-willed actress who refused to play to the norms.  Her cameo in Blues Brothers (my favorite non-Star Wars role of hers) shows her as a badass, fearless, woman who isn’t afraid to take matters into her own vengeful hands.  

Fisher didn’t fit into any previous Hollywood stereotype for women and it’s something that’s had a lasting impact on later generations of actresses.  Of course, I haven’t even mentioned how impressive it’s been to see her overcome addiction and continue to try and be a positive force for others, advocating the normalcy of mental illness treatment.  She was a remarkable human being for a number of reasons.  

Still, so much of my views on strong women and equality were forged within her role as Princess Leia in the original films.  While Luke taught me about the value of faith (in yourself and something greater), Leia taught me the best way to combat evil is to stare it down, refuse to look away, and always fight back against injustice.  It’s a powerful message that still rings true today.  Everyone can benefit from “acting like a Princess”.  

We’ll miss you Carrie. 

-Jordan

Side Note: Sorry for the more rambling nature of this post.  It wasn’t an easy one to write and my MANY thoughts on Carrie Fisher’s impact on the world kept coming all at once.