I am very saddened by the passing of Carrie Fisher. At sixty she had much more to give and with that said her legacy will always shine.
Fisher has said often that she is not famous but Princess Leia is… I had the privilege of seeing her comic stage show of her life in 2010 in San Francisco and she was amazing. Full of humour and wisdom, her life of course had surpassed her character Leia, but not able to leave her behind due to the millions of Star Wars fans around the world. I’m one of them.
When I was a young girl, the posters on my wall were of Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings fantasy art, rather than a band or pop icon. I never idolized a particular actor or singer, hunting for news of them in tabloids or other such media, instead I followed the stories they portrayed. I don’t wish to know the ins and outs of a public person’s private life; I appreciate the life they give to themes that are important to us as people. Sci-fi and fantasy is infused with hope, audacity, magic and dreams. After all, Star Trek gave us the flip phone! I know there were a few of us knocking around, dreaming of ‘beaming up’ to a brave new world. We can tell truths in fantasy that can’t otherwise be said.
I devoured the novel, Star Wars and actually typed out my own script at the age of twelve with grand intentions of launching a stage play. If you have a moment I recommend reading the introduction to the book that ominously hints at the downfall of a great civilisation that slid voluntarily into that of a dictatorship; words of caution and wisdom by the master of sci-fi storytelling, George Lucas.
My young neighbourhood friend Rhonda suggested none too kindly that I’d be better off as C-3PO as I was a good deal taller, just for starters, whereas Rhonda had the brown eyes and was petite. Whilst there was no way I’d pass myself off as a recognizable Leia, there was also no way I was going to put on a C-3PO suit! The project ended, but not in my imagination… I spent many hours listening to the music of John Williams and dreaming of galaxies filled with stars. I wore out the LPs to the New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. While Leia’s theme was romantic, no one can argue that Darth Vader has the best entrance theme in history.
According to the novel, Princess Leia was an elected sixteen year old Senator and of course a freedom fighter. Surly she was a true star child or what might be called an Indigo today with such abilities at a young age. Physically fearless, quick witted and lovely, she was equally at home wearing a state gown, practical flight suit, giving orders and expecting them to be obeyed! According to the book she was also a good pilot of her own accord.
Certainly Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia gave us a new kind of heroine; one that we as women wanted to emulate and were inspired by. Fisher gave Leia fire and life. At the release of the film in 1975 American women had only just three years prior won the right to own property without a male co-signer and won the right to their own credit card in 1974. As Leia said, ‘it’s not over yet…’
Princess Leia was a new breed of heroine echoing her sisters on earth. Rather than the object that had to be rescued, picked up and moved bodily, she participated at every level both as a leader and a team player. She never picked up a lightsabre but I don’t have any doubt as Darth Vader’s daughter, it would have suited her and we all would have loved seeing the sparks fly!
Though George Lucas’s intention had been for a Japanese cast, the studios did not think that it would sell to American audiences. It’s a bit of a shame as today I believe that prejudice has changed. However I’m grateful for the actors that gave us the famous core group we know so well. Lucas did manage to infuse the Samurai sword and Japanese costuming into the Jedi world which gave it an unmistakable priestly look and feel.
Lucas is the father of all modern sci-fi and fantasy films. Having developed cutting edge technology that lifted Star Wars out of the sniffy average B-Movie slot into ‘out of this world’ and ‘like nothing we’d ever seen’ phenomenon! Industrial Light and Magic is now the go to special effects company par excellence in the world and sci-fi is no longer to be sniffed at!
The flashing light sabres of the Jedi were startling, unique and harkened back to our collective conscious recognition of chivalry known in Japan as Bushido. The duels brought a sense of the medieval knight to a technologically advanced civilisation. One that felt both familiar and new, easily traversing the globe. I enjoyed the sabre duels so much that I could have easily watched only those segments of the original three films. I’m rather convinced that my love of a good sword fight harkens back to a past life. So much so, that I took fencing lessons over the course of a summer in my late teens. I even sent my resume to the casting director for Red Sonja, but I was too short and the role went to Brigitte Nielsen who is a good six feet tall. As they say in England, ‘never mind, have a cup of tea dear’.
Lucas had the good fortune of being a student of Joseph Campbell, the great revealer of mythology for the modern world. Campbell wrote the Power of Myth and how we might understand ourselves to greater levels by learning about the many faces of the archetypal hero within. Lucas infused his stories with those of our deepest past where magic was part of daily life and we collectively embraced his world as a result.
It is easy to see the correlation between the Jedi Knights and the betrayal of the Templar Knight Order. Though it may not have been the original intention of Lucas, the Jedi and the Templars are one in my mind. Highly dedicated, highly trained and carrying the weight of high expectations. Often termed as mystical magicians, the Templars hold Christ before them and the Jedi flow through the Force.
The Star Wars world is the result of one man’s dream and the many hands of a great and large team whose exceptional skills gave fans many hours of enjoyment, philosophy and great beauty through equal danger. I have found myself often repeating Yoda’s mantra, ‘do or do not, there is no try.’ I’ve often hoped at times when hardest pressed I might be as ‘cool’ as Princess Leia, I’m still working on that one, but there is always hope!
Rest well Princess Carrie and thank you for bringing Princess Leia to life –
May the Force Be With You, Always…