As news of Carrie Fisher’s passing made its way around the world this morning, it became apparent just how much the iconic actress, comedian and writer meant to people from all corners of the globe. In particular, many women around the world are feeling her loss profoundly today, losing an outspoken feminist icon and mental health advocate.
Here, six women pay tribute to Fisher’s memory and consider some of the reasons she was so greatly loved.
Carrie Fisher was a brilliant actress, writer and advocate, and for many of us, she was the first female hero we ever saw battle it out on the big screen.
As Princess Leia Organa, Fisher shaped the minds of countless women and girls through the way she fought for that character both behind-the-scenes and on-screen. She played Leia as courageous, wickedly smart, fiercely talented and with a wry sense of wit that lit up the darkest corners of space.
In a male-dominated fantasy, the character of Leia, blaster in hand and leading the rebellion, rewrote what it was to be a princess, rejected the sex-symbol status and paved the way for a million more characters who would follow in her footsteps. She gave us a hero to follow, writing that made us laugh and look at the world differently, shone a light on mental illness and addiction, and showed us what it was like to fight against a different kind of darkness.
She changed the world and she will be missed.
- Laura Brodnik.
Carrie Fisher was, in Hollywood at least, one of the original 'fight like a girl' champions. To her, her gender wasn't a diss, but rather a flag she waved proudly for others. She didn't take sh*t from anybody, and she didn't apologise for it.
She spoke candidly about parenting, relationships, drug addiction, and mental health.
She was happy to be the butt of her own jokes and rarely used cruelty as a form of comedy.
She was imperfect and flawed and did all the things women aren't supposed to do and wore it all like a badge of honour, encouraging countless other women around the world to stand up and be proud for who and what they were. The world is sure to be an emptier place without her.
- Katy Hall.
Carrie Fisher's writing spoke to me in a way most writers fail to do.
She was unapologetically, unashamedly direct, honest, scattered, crazy and amazing. Her life was her life, her feelings her feelings, her experiences her experiences and she wrote with no apology. When you read her you get a sense that she had to write it all down, that she had to share it, that by writing she made sense of what was a crazy, insane life that lead to craziness and insanity as well as brilliance and joy. That's how I write. I have to be honest. I HAVE to share. I always felt there was something wrong with that, that I should hold back but she didn't, and neither do I anymore.
I am so sad she is gone, sad that I won't be able to read another book by Carrie Fisher or see another one of her insane interviews. She was who she was and we loved her for that.
- Jo Abi.
As much as anyone else today, I am mourning the loss of Princess and General Leia Organa of Alderaan. I am also, however, in mourning for Carrie Fisher, the brilliant woman whose recent advocacy for mental health helped me through some of my darkest days in my early twenties.
I first learned about Fisher's battle with manic depression via her appearance on Stephen Fry’s The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006. She described the ‘up’ feeling as "galloping along at a great speed, where you’re just so enthusiastic about everyone, and everyone must be enthusiastic about you," as well as the other side, where you wouldn’t be able to stop crying for hours after these incredible adventures or highs you had experienced only a day or even an hour earlier.
Carrie Fisher opened me up to the possibility that the feelings I experienced throughout my adolescence and adulthood weren’t simply bad behaviour; that it was a chemical imbalance that needed to be tended to just as any other illness. Through reading her many memoirs and watching all of her interviews, I discovered that it doesn’t get better, there’s no magic cure, you just learn how to manage it.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway," she said. "What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
- Sophie Hargrave.
Like most of the world, I was introduced to Carrie Fisher via Star Wars. She was a hero to me straight away, not because boys who barely looked at me lived for her youthful celluloid memory, but because it seemed like an unusual choice. Growing up you’re surrounded by intensely beautiful women who you’re told are goddesses. A small, kind of mousy teenager with a bit of a mouth on her was different. She was more like me, or who I hoped to be, than any princess I’d ever seen in the movies. I loved that not only was she a sort of awkward, rude, short girl breaking hearts, but she didn’t seem too moved by it.
As I grew up and learned more about her, my affections moved far beyond appearance. Much has been said already and hopefully will continue to be said, about her openness towards mental health and addiction. She was half a lifetime ahead of the mental health acceptance movement we’re currently pushing uphill. After years I’ve come to accept my own struggles as a part of my personality, as natural and worthwhile as being funny or good at karaoke. It blows my mind she came to that conclusion publicly in the '80s — a time when society was even more distrustful of unapologetically flawed women.
But finally, what I’ll value and remember about Carrie Fisher, and hopefully emulate for the rest of my life, is how out-and-out funny she was. Through the addiction, breakdowns and success she was funny as hell. Her ability to laugh at everything (including herself) seemed to be her secret power.
- Wendy Syfret.
I know you're not supposed to admit such sins on the internet, but up until this week, I'd never watched a single Star Wars film. It was just one of those things I'd never gotten around to, but for some serendipitous reason, it was only yesterday I saw A New Hope for the first time.
After countless pauses throughout to ask my boyfriend annoying plot line questions, the movie came to an end and he asked me what I thought of Lucas' masterpiece. My main observation was that for all of its accolades, there were just two women in the entire film, and one of them died off within the first 20 minutes. So for the hour and forty minutes that followed, viewers had only Fisher to rely on. But in those minutes, and in the years that followed, she didn't disappoint.
To the last, she was steadfast in calling out the obvious sexism. When asked by Stephen Colbert in a recent interview why Princess Leia never had a lightsaber of her own, Fisher simply responded, "Even in space... there's a double standard for women."
Someone who fought that hard and called out the bullsh*t when she saw is someone we can all look up to, and will miss dearly.
- Helen Rose.