Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Felt a Great Disturbance in the Force

This year, this year, this horrible year! With the death of Carrie Fisher yesterday, this time it's personal. Like most people in my age cohort, male and female, I developed a crush on Princess Leia, the now iconic character played by a nineteen year-old Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia was a strong female character in an action-packed genre that usually relegates women to passive roles- she was a young senator risking her life (and undergoing torture) to overthrow a government devolved into something evil, a general in a galaxy-wide resistance movement, and one hell of a snark-slinger:

It's a bit of a shame that she had to be saddled with the 'Princess' moniker, though the word doesn't necessarily connote helplessness. She was the feisty action Princess who could even snark out on her rescuers:

And bravely confront the captors who ordered her torture:

For the record, my favorite 'Star Wars' anecdote involves that scene- contrary to the line of dialogue that she delivered, Carrie noted that Peter Cushing smelt of elderberries linen and lavender.

For the first two movies, Princess Leia was portrayed as a no-nonsense, competent leader, and while a romantic interest for both of the male leads (until the truth about the cute girl who kept kissing Luke was revealed), she was never overtly sexualized. Then, in the third movie, the producers ill-served the character by ditching the tame Ralph McQuarrie conceptual images for a sweaty, libidinal Frank Frazetta look (for the record, I am an unapologetic Frazetta fan, and an unapologetic ass man, though I recognize the cheeze factor in his art). While the adolescent me, like most of my peers, greeted the Dejah Thorisfied Princess Leia with a 'Christmas came early' attitude, the mature me thinks that it was an unfortunate misstep in the franchise, and, even though the sexualized Leia killed her misogynistic captor with the chain used to confine and humiliate her, the whole 'sexy slave girl' Leia detracted from the saga... also, why the hell would a giant slug-thing-with-cat's-eyes-and-Donald-Trump's-comically-small-mitts put a member of a totally different phylum in a sexually revealing outfit?

Looking back, I have to say that Carrie was overshadowed by the character she played- how does a nineteen year-old star of a mega-blockbuster escape from the shadow of a character who is so iconic that even her hairstyle is recognizable around the world?

I was vaguely aware in my younger days of Carrie's struggles with addiction and mental illness and looking back, I admire her candor in confronting and addressing her problems. She was as tough as the iconic character she portrayed, and as funny. She didn't shy away from her problems, writing about them with humor and humanity. When an idol can talk frankly about these issues, attitudes change- if the beloved Carrie Fisher can talk about her bipolar disorder, so can her fans.

As much as I crushed on Princess Leia as a kid, I came to crush on Carrie Fisher as an adult... she was a talented writer, with much of her work done behind the scenes, and a fearless advocate for people who are often marginalized. Her initial scene in last year's 'Star Wars' sequel was a welcome return, and provided one of the funniest lines in the film:

Here she is discussing the need for candor and the use of humor as a coping mechanism:

This video features Carrie in full-on raconteuse mode with an interesting round-table:

Leave it to a talented scriptwriter to give the funny line to a co-star.

At any rate, it's tough to lose Carrie Fisher, she loomed large in the culture of my peers and people younger than ourselves, and she modeled a candor, toughness, and grace that we all should aspire to. Here's a video of John Williams conducting an orchestral rendition of the lovely theme he wrote for Princess Leia:

I know that there have been a myriad of memorials to Carrie Fisher's memory, but I think the best commemoration of her memory would be making December 27th Bipolar Pride Day.

Damn, as if this year weren't bad enough, Debbie Reynolds lived just long enough to survive the death of her daughter... sometimes, it seems as if there really is a Dark Side.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Just wanted to note, in defense of Frazetta (as if he needed defending), he depicted male characters in states of déshabillé and even his unclad ladies were tough and competent.

As far as my continuing status as the internet's number one ass man, I think ass is something we can all get behind.

Emma said...

Debbie Reynolds :[

I know this is a somewhat-embarrassing cliché these days, but — & assuming we can avoid a global apocalypse in the next 72 hours — I'm dancing on 2016's motherfucking grave on Saturday night. Goddamn shithole of a year. DIE FASTER, 2016.

As for the feminism re: Princess Leia, I mostly agree with you. I interpreted it a little differently, as a kid, actually — that only an exploitive scumbag would want to see a girl (or anyone) in a costume like that in public, and that the correct response to the situation is to choke the bitch out. I guess the spectacle of the thing is undeniable, though; like those dudes who champion boobwindows in comics because "empowerment."

Carrie Fisher was very brave, in a very specific way, and she made strengths out of weaknesses that might've brought down a lesser person. I try to not to be too worshipful of celebrities, but she was the best.


libidinal Frank Frazetta look
I looked at those pictures, and while I don't have any problem with their softcore porn aesthetic, I was worried to notice that some of the naked ladies seemed to have long bolts of cloth growing out of their private parts.

And nipple armor, I have to say, is an intense, person hatred of mine.

Leia's leitmotif is beautiful.

And now I'm sad again.

Emma said...

* personal

mikey said...

I'm not much of a star wars fan, but don't forget that Ms. Fisher played the delectable lolita-ish character Lorna Karpf in Shampoo - a harbinger of things to come...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Ms. Fisher gleefully pointed out that with the sale of the Star Wars franchise, at at 50+ she became a Disney Princess!

Anonymous said...

so this is where zombies hang out on new year's eve. Ms. Fisher was a year younger than me, so I was pretty much an adult when I saw her in Star Wars, and immediately fell in lust. I feel like we grew up together, each taking care of our own personal demons. she isn't gone, she's now part of the force.