In a world where girls had previously been trained to swoon at the feet of the men in their lives, whether because they were impressed by their incredible intellect or their incredible muscles, came Princess Leia Organa.
OK - not just Princess Leia Organa but the incredible Carrie Fisher, who died today (December 27) at the too-young age of 60. She had made her film debut in 1975's Shampoo, but it was as the young senator from the soon-destroyed planet of Alderaan that she truly shone and became a part of history. Never mind the hair that she herself often made fun of - those buns are a part of history themselves - but Leia became a part of the foundation of strong girls everywhere.
In Leia we saw a woman who could stand up for herself and while she might struggle with fear within her core, she was ready to fight for everything she believed in, without compromise or reliance on a man to save her. Sure, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo came into the picture and rescued her, but she did not plan on them coming, and seemed to merely face her fate with a stiff upper lip and willing to fight the evil that surrounded her with every fiber of her being.
We also saw Leia as a woman who was unapologetically sensual while being strong, and that became cool for girls, too. We learned that part of who we could be could be both strong and desirable at once. We learned that we could allow ourselves to stand on our feet and still allow ourselves to be loved and cared for by the men in our lives.
What About Carrie Fisher?
Carrie Fisher became as unapologetically human as Leia was strong. Once Return of the Jedi bowed, and Fisher was able to return to whatever is deemed a "normal" life for celebrities, we followed her as she went through the ups and downs of life. Postcards From The Edge - the thinly disguised autobiographical look into her own life - was wildly revelatory and successful, and everyone came to realize that Carrie Fisher, as a person, was as human as the rest of us.
We listened as she was open with her struggles with both drug abuse and mental health challenges. We realized there was a hell of a lot about her that connected with each one of us, and that she represented a different sort of strength to us, one that may have been afraid to discuss the same things we kept in dark closets and only allowed to whisper through our heads on occasion, but did anyways.
She let us know that bipolar disorder and drug abuse are really hard topics to talk about but that in talking about them, you became stronger because you chose to surround yourself with likeminded people who held you up rather than pulled you down. Carrie Fisher told us through word and deed that it was okay to have those moments when you felt weak or you faltered. Somehow we knew it was going to be all right, regardless of whatever trials we might be dealing with, because in Carrie Fisher we saw a strength and a dignity there that we clung to.
She acknowledged her past struggles with drugs and let us know that you could grow from bad times. She told us that while dealing with mental health issues is challenging and not a good time, there were ways for us to rise above and survive, and even thrive. She made us laugh at things that we may not have otherwise laughed at, and she made it okay to know that we need help at times to move through our struggles.
While we are all grieving her loss, it's important for us to hang on to the strength Carrie Fisher gave us all. We could talk about how sad it is that she is gone, and the loss is terrible, but Fisher showed us that we could overcome any challenge life chooses to throw at us and stand tall while doing so. She was, and is, an incredible woman whose life and words will continue to resonate for as long as the Force does.