Beyond Star Wars: Why Carrie Fisher's legacy is important

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May the fourth be with you! In honour of Star Wars Day, here are just a few reasons we’ll always admire Carrie Fisher.

It’s not hard to understand why audiences loved Princess Leia. For the first three instalments of the Star Wars franchise, she was the only female character. But even though her very first scene ended in her being captured, it was clear from the moment Leia spoke that this was no ordinary damsel in distress. And while some of that credit has to go to George Lucas, who created Leia to be as much of a hero as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the character’s iconic status is really all down to Carrie Fisher.

Let’s get one thing straight; the writing in Star Wars isn’t very good. The first film especially suffers from painfully bad dialogue, and is only saved by the chemistry and charisma of the central cast. That is made no clearer than in the case of Fisher’s Leia, whose ballsy performance makes up for some of the tin-eared things she has to say (and according to Hollywood rumours, Fisher rewrote some of her own dialogue in later instalments).

As the trilogy progressed, we got to see more of Leia — both literally and figuratively. In The Empire Strikes Back, we saw her fully in charge of the Rebel Alliance. And in Return of the Jedi, we cheered as she strangled her captor with the golden chains he had used to shackle her; about as transparent a feminist metaphor as you can get. Not to mention the nifty reversal in that same film, where it’s the princess who comes to the rescue of the male hero.

Writer Daisy Buchanan describes Leia as “a feminist Trojan horse”; little girls are encouraged to seek out and emulate princesses in pop culture, which often means following old-fashioned expectations of what it means to be ladylike. But in Princess Leia, girls found somebody who was intelligent, resourceful, and single-handedly leading the resistance movement that would save an entire galaxy.

What’s more, Fisher never got tired of talking about the role that made her famous; for years afterwards she would gamely quote her “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi” monologue during interviews. She even playfully parodied herself in a memorable cameo in Scream 3 as Bianca, a faded starlet who looks just like Carrie Fisher and bemoans the fact that she “could have been Princess Leia… but I didn’t **** George Lucas.” Fisher once joked that if she ever wanted to get a good table in a restaurant, being Princess Leia was the card she’d play.

But there was so much more to Fisher’s legacy than Star Wars. She basically originated the “wise-cracking best friend” rom-com trope in When Harry Met Sally, and she made my ten-year-old self howl with laughter in Drop Dead Fred. As a Hollywood script doctor, she lent her considerable writing talents to some of the most iconic movies of the 90s; Sister Act, Last Action Hero, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, The Wedding Singer, and So I Married An Axe Murderer.

Then there were the books; Fisher’s semi-autobiographical debut novel, Postcards From The Edge, received critical acclaim and was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine. She published a handful of other novels, as well as the memoir Wishful Drinking (based on her award-winning play), and The Princess Diarist, a collection of journal entries from her time working on Star Wars.

As recently as last year, Fisher was still winning new fans; she had a minor but significant role as Mia, Rob Delaney’s outspoken mother, in hit comedy Catastrophe.

Fisher was also vocal for years about issues which many other stars would treat as taboo. When she lost friends to the AIDS crisis in the 80s, she wasn’t silent. When she became addicted to drugs, and struggled with bipolar disorder, she wrote about her experiences with searing honesty.

But what I loved most about Carrie Fisher was that she laughed at her demons, and at herself. Throughout her novels, memoirs, her one-woman show, and pretty much every interview she ever gave, Fisher demonstrated that the most important thing a human being can have is a sense of humour.