Carrie Fisher: A Woman of Many Parts

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On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died days after suffering a heart attack on an airplane flying from London to Los Angeles. She was sixty and known primarily for her role as Princess Leia and later General Leia Organa in the “Star Wars” movies. However, it is important to note that Carrie Fisher was much more than her portrayal of one fictional character. She was much more than a child of celebrities – Debbie Reynold and Eddie Fisher – living her life and, in the end, dying her death in the light of her mother’s star. (Debbie Reynolds died the day after Carrie Fisher.)
She was a woman of many parts, and she was more than the sum of those various parts.
In her one woman show – “Wishful Drinking” – she describes her birth. The hospital personnel were star struck with her movie star mother and her crooner father. They paid little attention to her.
She says: “When I arrived, I was virtually unattended.” She says she has been seeking attention from that moment. But Carrie Fisher was more than a Hollywood child seeking attention.
She started acting as a teenager with a role in the movie “Shampoo.” At age 19, she landed the role of Princess Leia in the movie “Star Wars.” These movies became cult classics, and people relate to Princess Leia as a brave warrior princess general, mother of a Jedi knight who has been seduced by the dark side of the Force, but even Princess Leia is more than that. She is the feminine divine in the realm of the Force.
In her most recent book, “Princess Diarist”, she writes about her experiences with fans who want her to still look like and to be a young princess. Yet, she is more than this. She knows after all these years that people see her and Princess Leia as one. She reflects upon this in the HBO documentary, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”
“They love her, and I’m her custodian; and I am as close as you’re gonna get. She’s me and I’m her. They talk to me like I’m Princess Leia who happened to have all these difficult experiences to go through and it’s like me fighting for the Force.”
She has had difficult experiences that many other people have also had except she spoke openly about hers. In the “Princess Diarist” she writes about her relationship with Harrison Ford when they worked on the early Star Wars movies. He was older and married and she was wise enough at that young age to know there would be no happily-ever-after with him. She writes about a love that takes her breath away and of wanting her breath back.
She writes: “If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumorously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire after life blushing.” I suspect that she will not be blushing, but laughing at her young self. I image her free of the pain and embarrassment and filled with nothing but joy.
Still, even as a young woman, she was more. She married Paul Simon while still in her twenties. The marriage did not last. She married again and gave birth to a daughter. That relationship ended when her child’s father left her for a man. She acted in other movies including “When Harry Met Sally” and the “Blue Brothers.” Her television roles include appearances on “Sex in the City”, “Entourage”, and “30 Rock.”
And she was still more. She faced the challenge of drug addiction and a near fatal overdose. She was bi-polar and once she learned of her diagnosis faced it with courage and honesty. In “Bright Lights” she says: “I went too fast; I was too much: I was embarrassed of it.” In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she spoke of electro-convulsive therapy and its calming effects.
And she was more than her drug addiction and mental health challenges. She was a novelist, a screenwriter, and a script doctor, a writer who makes screenplays better. The list of the movies she doctored include: “Sister Act”, “Hook”, “Last Action Hero”, “So I Married an Axe Murdered” “Outbreak” and more.
And she was even more than that. She and her brother were primary care-givers to their parents. She grew closer to her father in his final months, and she lived next door to her mother. These are the parts that we, her fans, can see from a distance. There is no doubt that her family and friends remember even more parts that she played, more aspects of a woman of many parts.
One lesson that we can learn from Carrie Fisher’s life is that we can face our challenges, call them by name, and do what needs to be done to manage if not to conquer them without allowing them to define us. She thought all the nice people who wanted her autograph and who wanted their picture taken with her saw her fighting for the Force. She was agnostic about the existence of God. However, I say: to the extent that we can understand the Force as the creative /destructive power of Divine Love that lives in us and around us and through us, holding all of creation in order, even when all we can see is incomprehensible chaos, and the dark side taking control of powers and principalities, the Force fights for us. It fought for her. It fought with her. It fought through her. It took her to hell and back just as it takes us all through our own personal hells, and when we go through we know that we are not alone.
Life and love will break our hearts, but it does not have to break us. Carrie Fisher’s friend, actress Meryl Streep in her acceptance speech upon winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th Golden Globe awards shared Carrie Fisher’s wisdom with us. So let this be her parting blessing:
“Take your broken heart; make it into art.”
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”