There have been many losses this year, and today, we heard of the death of Carrie Fisher. As most of you who know me personally are aware, my family and I are huge Star Wars fans. The photo here was taken by my husband at Star Wars celebration in London in July. Our children adore the films, the stories and the characters. And Princess Leia, well, what better role model for my daughter could I ask for?!
We first meet Leia as a princess, being "rescued" ("This is some rescue!") but there is no doubt that she is a strong, independent character who can clearly hold her own. She is a politician and a General, as well as a princess. She is discreet and loyal. She is an effective leader and treated with respect by those who follow her. She keeps calm in the face of danger, remaining rational and logical, when others panic. She is funny and compassionate.
And yes, Princess Leia may be a fictional character, but Carrie Fisher did such an amazing job of bringing her to life, that I am grateful. Grateful that my children can see what a powerful yet compassionate female leader looks like. Asked who her favourite Disney princess is, my daughter now will undoubtedly say Leia.
And Carrie Fisher herself is an amazing role model to have in so many ways; she was open and honest about her mental health difficulties, writing novels and memoirs satirising and detailing the struggles she faced. She suffered with bi-polar disorder, and encouraged her fans to get help and support, when they wrote to her, sharing that they, too, had mental health problems. Earlier this year, Harvard College awarded her its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism: "her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy." She wrote that “living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls” and it's “something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
When interviewed for Rolling Stone magazine in December 2015, she was asked what she would tell her 19 year old self (when filming Star wars):
Just relax! That wouldn't be possible, so … something else. Oh, I know! What I always wanna tell young people now: Pay attention. This isn't gonna happen again. Rather than try to understand it as it's going along, have it go along for a while and then understand it.
She will be missed. May the force be with her.