We lost artistic forces of nature in 2016. Those who died were people who lined the outskirts of music and expression, from David Bowie and Leonard Cohen to Patty Duke and most recently Carrie Fisher.
The rather mystical part of this is the feeling that we’ve lost people who were almost part of our family. We knew their imperfections and their struggles, and that endeared us to them further. The four I just mentioned all left a similar legacy in a way; None of them focused on or represented the frivolity that so often defines public figures.
Bowie had songs inspired by his brother being in a mental institution. Cohen wrote endlessly of spiritually romantic longings and disappointments. Duke was a famous advocate for those with Bipolar Disorder. Fisher, who died yesterday, touched on addiction and mental illness and the double-edged sword of unrealistic expectations in Hollywood.
Carrie Fisher turned 60 this year on October 21st, but perhaps she will remain forever around the age of nineteen to most of us who remember her primarily as Princess Leia.
For a woman who spent some documented time in a slave costume, Fisher was one of the most self-possessed women one could imagine. Both on and off the silver screen, her quotes are edgy and assured.
The Huffington Post posted an article with 13 of her most poignant quotes, ranging from the sentimental to the insightful to the just downright witty.
The same woman who stated, “No motive is pure. No one is good or bad, but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away” also said “So you have to be attractive to be groped uninvited by Trump. Finally! A reason to want to be ugly!”
Despite being a starlet by birth (or the result of Hollywood “inbreeding” as she herself called it), Fisher was not content to get by on looks. She had a love-hate relationship with the Hollywood lifestyle, which she admitted gave her permission to be more open to avoid letting people make assumptions as to flaws, but she voiced strong opposition to the stringent views of what constitutes an acceptable level of physical beauty in the limelight.
Her mother, Debbie Reynolds — who died just a day after Fisher — was likely a significant contributor to these views, as a younger Fisher felt that her mother was hardly even hers due to the fanfare and constant attention. And yet, the young star not only pursued a career in acting, but in writing as well.
Her novel, Postcards From the Edge, was published in 1987 and adapted for the screen starring Meryl Streep no more than three years later.
Words, Fisher stated, were her escape. She was labeled (rather derogatively) as a bookworm at an early age, according to various sources. The actress described her reading obsession as an attempt to please her father, musician and TV host Eddie Fisher, as well as herself.
Much like her most popular intergalactic protagonist, she was willful, intelligent, and above all a protector and advocate for those who had none.
In particular, she fought against the stigma of mental illness.
In one of her eight published books, Wishful Drinking (2008), she wrote: “One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”
Fisher wrote five novels, three nonfiction works, and was involved in the writing of six screenplays. She also, of course, acted in over 80 television and movie productions. Some of which may surprise you, as they include: Hook, When Harry Met Sally, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Blues Brothers, The ‘Burbs, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Austin Powers.
Part of her secret to such an extensive filmography was her willingness to be part of a project rather than “the star.” However, it was that humility and willingness to be both confident and self-deprecating that made her a star.
RIP Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Whether that’s Heaven or a Galaxy Far, Far Away. We’ll sure miss both of you in this one.
Top photo: Lucas Films publicity still from the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” featuring Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprising their roles as Princess Leia and Han Solo