Randomness from Twisted Sister

Requiem for a Princess: In Memory of Carrie Fisher

Given the recent passing of Carrie Fisher, the actress behind Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, this is our way of lowering the literary flag to half-mast around Twisted Sister lit mag. Our Holiday Issue is still here.

 

I have to admit it – I cried when I saw a mature Carrie Fisher return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – graced with age lines, grey hair, and now a General of the ResistancePrincess Leia had truly reached the top of her game. And honestly, I’m crying now, because with her recent passing, an era has ended.

Carrie Fisher’s career is much more than Star Wars (in addition to acting, her impressive credits include consulting on various other films, repairing scripts, advocating for mental health, and writing novels and memoirs), but, the child inside me is crying because Princess Leia is gone.

I know there’s been endless discussion about the sexualized role of Princess Leia in Star Wars (she doesn’t even get to use a light sabre, and those skimpy outfits are pretty tricky to fight Stormtroopers in); so, what’s the big deal about everybody’s favorite slave-girl to Jabba the Hut?

She was one of the first.

She was one of the first, for me, and for a generation of girls and women glued to the screen in hopes that we could see a representation of ourselves in a dynamic space opera. Bursting onto the big screen in 1977, Princess Leia is a character of a complicated time, both a refined leader promoting intergalactic diplomacy, yet willing to give Hans Solo heck for a botched rescue, or responding to his brag ‘Sometimes I even amaze myself’ with a sharp ‘That doesn’t sound too hard.’

Princess Leia is one of the first strong women of fantasy to be part of popular culture (often satirized, but still there), and although the character was written for a mostly male audience, Carrie Fisher’s strength and humour come through in Princess Leia.

Years before, Star Trek (the original television series 1966 – 1969) had boldly gone where no one had gone before in portraying a racially diverse cast, and having a black female actor play a prominent role. (Nichelle Nichols, who originally played Lieutenant Uhura, turns 84 this week.) But, forgive me Trekkies, my heart is still with you, but Princess Leia kicks ass in a way a television show simply cannot portray.

Part of it is simply the big screen experience, and part of it is the fact that she’s a princess toting around a blaster and firing at bad guys. She’s a complex character who is good, and not-so-nice, and gets shit done.

She is who we want to be.

Princess Leia was one of the first, kick-ass characters who held her own with the guys on board the Millennium Falcon. Sure, romance is hinted at, and Princess Leia’s costumes may border on ridiculous, but she’s clearly no damsel in distress waiting for Prince Charming.

Let me take you back to the 1970s – where women’s rights were still unfolding. Women were reclaiming their sexuality, and gaining control of their bodies through greater access to contraception, and in Roe vs. Wade (1973), were legally entitled to access to a safe and medically sound first trimester abortion.

The 1970s was a place, in North America, at least, where increasing numbers of women worked outside the home, even juggling families and careers (commonplace nowadays, but revolutionary at the time). Yet, this was still a time of ‘the girls at the office’ and a woman could be fired for refusing to make a pot of coffee for her coworkers (The Secretary Coffee Protest of 1977), even though sexual discrimination had been considered a violation of the 14th amendment since (1971).

The 1970s was still a place where women were considered homemakers stuck in the suburbs, or, were expected to be subservient to men in the workplace (hence The Secretary Coffee Protest), all before they were considered to be people with rights to their own finances and freewill.

Although television and movies of that time portrayed strong female characters (Maude, Mary Tyler Moore, and the (heavily sexualized) Wonder Woman and Bionic Woman), we still lived in the land of the Brady Bunch, All In The Family, Three’s Company, and the Jeffersons. Women on screen for the most part still retained traditionally defined roles (sexual object, mother, daughter, career girl in office administration, and yes, there’s a coffee-making episode in Mary Tyler Moore).

And in the genre of horror and fantasy, with few exceptions (Shirley Jackson, Tanith Lee) women were depicted as screaming in hysterics, as victims of untold forces, or they were victims to be saved (or both).

The woman of horror and fantasy couldn’t save themselves and there were no princesses doing battle in deep space.

What we, women, or girls, wanted, was simply to see ourselves represented as we understood our own truths – that we could be a princess and still do battle, and that we were capable of much more than our administrative or coffee making skills.

We wanted to see ourselves.

Strong female characters (Sigourney Weaver as Ripely in Alien or Loretta Swift as Margaret Houlihan in the Mash television series) were far and few between – what a young girl growing up in this time needed was ‘A New Hope’ – what they needed was Princess Leia.

And it is in part that because she brought us Princess Leia that Carrie Fisher will be sadly missed.

XO,

Twisted Sister

Given the recent passing of Carrie Fisher, the actress behind Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, this is our way of lowering the literary flag to half-mast around Twisted Sister lit mag. Our Holiday Issue is still here.

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