Princesses and Wise Women

Jan 17, 2017

   It’s 2017, at last! I think we’re all relieved to see 2016 behind us. No one seems to be able to remember a year when there were so many notable deaths that made us all feel as if the world was a little darker for the lives that were snuffed out. We endured losses of our troubadours and musicians, our storytellers and writers, our thespians and actors/actresses that made us smile, think, and just brought happiness into our lives. When Carrie Fisher had a heart attack coming back from Paris but survived, I know that I breathed a sigh of relief. It was less than forty-eight hours from the end of the year, we’d lost enough. Our Princess who grew up to become a General in one of the most iconic and arguably most influential movie franchise of our times was going to make it to 2017; yay! Of course, we all know now that didn’t happen. Carrie Fisher died from another heart related issue. She left behind a mother, a brother, and a daughter, and millions of fans. Then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who was a bright star in her own right, passed away just a day after her daughter. I grew up watching Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and so many other wonderful films. I was honored to see her perform that last role on stage in a traveling production that came to the Muny in St. Louis. At first, I remember thinking she’s too old to be playing a teenage girl, which is where the character begins, but in a few minutes I forgot that this was a 60-70 something woman playing a teenager. She became Molly Brown at any age. Now that is stage presence! 

   I didn’t realize how much Carrie Fisher’s death had affected me until I watched one of the tributes and found myself far more upset than I expected. She was a writer, actress, advocate for mental health, and at the end she fought to be a woman in her fifties owning all of it and standing her ground in Hollywood. If they wanted her in the new Star Wars movie it was at the weight she was at, she would not lose weight for the role. Since I believe part of her addiction issues came from losing weight for Return of the Jedi, it was wisdom to refuse to go down that road again.  

   I sat in the theater when I was fourteen and saw Star Wars for the first time along with the rest of the world. I saw a princess that defended herself, and those around her. A woman that would endure danger, torture, and one of the most evil villains to ever be on film, and win. As a young teenage girl living in the middle of farm country in Indiana seeing a woman that was a major part of the action and gave as good as she got was important to me. I may have wanted to grow up to be Luke (though that may have been the huge crush I had on Mark Hamil), but Princess Leia Organa was a fully realized part of the story, not just someone’s girlfriend, sister, duaghter, mother, etc . . . There’s nothing wrong with being any of those things, but we can be people’s girlfriends, sisters, daughters, mothers, and still have grand adventures. Princess Leia helped teach the world that being a girl didn’t mean you had to stay home and wave goodbye to your knight from the casements. Leia taught the world that had never read Robert E. Howard’s, Red Sonja, or a book by Andre Norton, or Marion Zimmer Bradley, that girls can be the main character and go out adventuring with the boys. Star Wars taught that men and women working together can be daring, brave, bold, and victorious. I don’t think I realized until Carrie Fisher passed away just how important Princess Leia was to me, not just Star Wars, which I knew, but Leia. 

   I will mourn as a fan and admirer of her work, but my heart goes out to her family and friends that knew her best. I cannot imagine what Todd Fisher is going through with such loss so close together, but her daughter, Billie Lourd, who is only twenty-four, is the one that makes me feel the most for her loss. I know what its like to lose your mother and grandmother, but my losses were decades apart. I can’t imagine losing them so close together. My daughter is almost the same age. She calls me for advice or just to talk often. She still believes I can solve problems and help her think her way through life issues, and I do my best. I never had that kind of relationship with my grandmother, and my mother was long dead before I reached my twenties. My daughter and my close friends have taught me what it is to be close to your mother, or father, and to be able to rely on them for good counsel, or just a good cry. Mothers and Grandmothers, Fathers and Grandfathers, are supposed to be our wise ones, wise women and wise men. They bring all the experience they have that we don’t as younger people and they can help guide us through things so we don’t have to make the same mistakes. I am so sorry that Billie Lourd has lost her wise women all at once at an age when she will be making so many decisions that they could have helped her with. It is not just love that a good parent child relationship gives us, it is wisdom and guidance. I didn’t have it in my twenties, my world had diverged too much for my grandmother to understand and give advice, and I had neither father nor mother, so I had to find my wise women and men in teachers, or on screen, in books. I hope that in time Billie Lourd finds other wise council, because it’s not just love we get from our mothers and grandmothers, they are our wise women, and we need them in our lives.

12 thoughts on “Princesses and Wise Women”

  1. Lovely.
    I never realized how much Carries death would effect me either.
    I, too have lost my parents at a young age (6 and 15) and now only have an aunt and sister to help “guide” and support me through life. When they can be bothered, that is.
    So Carrie was like a dear aunt of some kind, her books and tv appearances gave me some comfort.
    She has shown me that I can be a little “crazy” and still be loved.

  2. Let me just say, as a fellow writer, female, and deeply devoted fan of Carrie’s…thank you. She’d been one of my top three heroines for the last 30 years (along with Nora Ephron, who we lost in 2012), and, despite never actually knowing her in the Webster’s dictionary sense of the word, I think those of us who found great strength in her courage, humor, and insistence on being herself DID know her in a way…because she reflected things in ourselves we desperately wanted to share with the world, but didn’t always know *how* to share. She was a voice for people (especially women) who sometimes felt powerless. And in that sense, she truly was a princess for all people.

  3. Two more bits of my childhood are gone. My adult life is richer because I saw Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher in the movies. I am 56 and still have my Mom, who loves Star Wars, and my 99 year old Grandmother, who can still sing beautifully.

  4. I was six, almost seven, when I saw Star Wars. I was in L-O-V-E with Peter Cushing from watching Hammer films with my father. I couldn’t wait to see him as Grand Moff Tarkin (Can you even imagine how blown away I was with Rogue One?!)
    However, I left the theatre that day in love with a woman. She was strong, and courageous, and filled with opinions, and she wasn’t afraid; and if she was afraid she fought anyway. She went toe to toe with evil, she lied to Tarkin and Darth Vader, lied right to their faces, knowing she was only borrowing time, hoping to think of a way to save her people. She was amazing.

    I’ve read articles on Carrie Fisher since her death, but your post has touched or moved something in me today. I remember now the energy of that small theatre in 1977. All of us watching Star Wars, the new Sci-Fi motion picture that wasn’t supposed to do well. I realize, happily, that the movie and Princess Leia aka Carrie Fisher, changed me in ways I’m still learning about. Now there’s a legacy to be proud of!

  5. I hope your 2017 is better. I think 2015/2016 was so bad for me personally, that losing celebrities impacted me less. The first week of 2016 my mother and law died of lung cancer. In April my father in law was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer with Mets to the brain. In June my father died, in August I almost lost my husband to lung cancer. Last weekend of December my father in law died. Really there was no room for the world out side to upset me. I’m hoping 2017 improves for everyone. Personally I’m running out of relatives. Now if I could just find a job that would give my 2017 a boost.

  6. I was devastated by Carrie Fisher’s death. My mom took me to see Star Wars for the first time when I was ten years old.My Mom was my first hero, Princess Leia my second. Both embodied so very much of what kind of woman I knew I wanted to be when I grew up. They were both very strong, intelligent, beautiful, fierce, loving, and loyal. I lost my mom 20 years ago. And now I have lost Carrie…and yes, though I’ve never personally met Carrie, I feel as if I’ve lost a member of my own family…again

  7. I still cannot believe 2016 took so many iconic celebrities from us. And it saddens me that the death of William Christopher (Father Mulcahy on MASH) on December 31st seems to have been completely overlooked.

    But though she will be best remembered as Princess Leia (and she will always be our Princess) and secondarily as a talented writer, the mentally ill in our country (of which I am a member) have lost a powerful advocate. She did so much to help increase the availability of care and funding and to help remove the stigma from having a mental illness. Most people will never ever know it. They’ll just miss her.

    1. This. Much as I love Carrie Fisher as an actress, writer and appreciate so much all she did for me by being such a strong mental health care advocate.

      William Christopher… Father Mulcahy was my favorite series regular on MASH. Which is odd as my sense of humor is much more like Hawkeye and his bunch. But his death quite reminded me of the passing of Mother Theresa, immediately after Princess Diana’s death.

      I was so afraid to check the news the last two months of 2016.

  8. This is a beautiful tribute to two amazing women. I don’t think I have seen it said better, thank you.

  9. Thanks so much for the great posts. I will miss them too. As an actress though it’s “role”, not “roll”.

  10. Thank you for your words of love for two of most wonderful women that I grew up with. I am a big fan of them both, They will both be missed.

  11. I always loved Leia and looked up to her. However if I am honest, the heroine hthat i looked up to the most and admired for speaking her mind and following her heart and gut instincts was Anita Blake. Corny as it may be, it is true. I’ve been reading the Anita Blake series since I was a teen and to this day I still think of the Anita Blake character as someone I look up to. So thank you for that!

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