Happy birthday, Carrie Fisher, and thank you

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Oct 21, 2017

Today, October 21, would have been Carrie Fisher's 61st birthday. We're all still feeling the disturbance in the force that is life in a Carrie-less world. And while she keeps giving us these precious gifts from beyond the grave (that cow tongue story is nothing if not proof of a higher power as far as I'm concerned), it's hard not to feel denied of her responses to Hollywood sex abuse and Donald Trump's daily goings on (at least she was spared). 

On her first birthday since her passing in December 2016, several of us on Team FANGRRLS wanted to pay our respects, and thank Carrie. For everything.

For me, Carrie Fisher was just woven into my very existence. My younger brother and I shared a lot of interests, especially in moves and TV, but I struggle to think of anything we watched together other than Star Wars that gave me a a girl, a woman that gave me someone to aspire to be like. I could love Back to the Future and Ghostbusters and care deeply about Marty McFly and Peter Venkman and company, but Leia Organa was the first time I remember feeling like a girl could be a bigger part of the story. And in a sea of Disney movies, she was the princess who could fight and be smart and talk back to these men, these men who got to be her peers, and I'd never seen anything like it. 

As I got older, Carrie meant something else to me. As I struggled with depression and anxiety and navigated my relationship with someone who, like Carrie, has both bipolar disorder and addiction issues, she was there through her own personal story. She never once shied away from or seemed ashamed of her illness or who she was, something I desperately needed to see in another person with mental illness. She showed me mental illness could be funny, that it could be part of me without defining me, that I could use these weird brain powers for good. 

I'll always miss Carrie Fisher. And I'm grateful we had her at all. - Courtney Enlow

Carrie Fisher was my first princess. I don't remember the first time I saw Star Wars. It's just always been there. Which means I've always had a princess who was unafraid to fight for what's right. Who was unafraid to be her own hero. She shaped so much of who I was as a little girl. But because Carrie Fisher did that in her own life, I never stopped learning from her. Her unabashed honesty concerning her mental health, or political views, or even just her ability to laugh--I cannot say how much it meant to me. She's my princess. And she'll continue to be my general. - Preeti Chhibber

Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by the idea that we all wanted to be princesses when we grew up. All my little girl friends had princess parties. They all had princess dresses and pink dolls. Not me. I was a tomboy. All I wanted was to climb trees, catch frogs and bugs, and do everything the boys were doing. Princesses to me were a fun, faraway fantasy; something to look at and enjoy from a distance, but not anything I really wanted to be. Until Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia.

Princess Leia was a princess I could get behind. She was tough, she was spunky, and she didn’t need rescuing. This was a princess who could shoot, swear, and fight just as well as any man, and who knew her worth extended far beyond her bronze bikini. I’m older now, and my family has expanded to include a niece. She’s a rough and tumble little tyrant I’m proud to say is my mini-me. She’s out there digging mud holes, climbing trees, and filling her pockets with rocks. My niece is growing up in a world where princesses aren’t just pretty pink fluffy things, but fierce rebel fighters who are brave, loyal and proud to stand up for what’s right, and we have Carrie Fisher and Leia to thank for that.  When my niece tells me she wants to be a princess, I know she’s not talking about the quiet, dainty kind, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Tye Rannosaurus

When I was a kid, I loved Carrie Fisher because she was Princess Leia. As I got older, my love for Leia remained, but it was joined by my respect for her as an actress, a writer, and as a daughter to a mother like Debbie Reynolds. Someone who could write Postcards From The Edge and ultimately find the love in that sort of mother-daughter dysfunction.

But it was Carrie in recovery who touched me the most. Carrie who talked openly and honestly about her mental health, who laughed about shock treatment, who loved her service dog Gary, and who returned to her most iconic role with a whole new level of grace. Leia bookends all my memories of her, but it's who she was that made a difference. - Shana O'Neil

In an era and a genre where female characters--even ones in leading roles with first and last names--were expendable, easily replaced and forgotten in sequels, Leia Organa wasn’t. She stuck around, and more importantly, she was essential to the plot. She was the toughest fighter, the general, the one who walked into Jabba’s palace in disguise, carrying a thermal detonator in order to save her Han-sel in distress. She commanded troops, she rewarded successes, and she held up even under the torture onboard the Death Star. And she stays. Leia is as vital to Star Wars as Luke, Vader, Yoda, and Chewie, and that matters a whole bunch. At an age when I was still trying to figure out my own womanhood, Carrie Fisher helped me to understand that I could have it and still belong in the world of geekdom just like she did. - Riley Silverman

Carrie Fisher represented everything I wanted to be as a little girl. Funny. Smart. Living next door to my mother forever. I was a late-comer to Star Wars and Leia, but I feel like I knew about Carrie Fisher for much of my life. Like I had always known her.

When I finally saw Star Wars, I was an adult woman having lived through many experiences where men thought they knew better than I did. So Leia’s smarts and leadership spoke to me in a way I hadn’t felt many characters before. Something was missing and I didn’t know what until Leia and Carrie were there to show me what it was. And for that, I’ll always be grateful. Happy birthday, Carrie. - Heather Mason

Princess Leia was the first fictional hero I ever had. As an 11-year-old watching the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time on VHS (remember those?!) I was immediately struck by her unapologetic fierceness, her bravery and her unwillingness to comply in the fight against the Empire. I might have had a crush on Han Solo, but Princess Leia was who I wanted to be.

Carrie Fisher was one of the first real heroes of my adulthood. She moved through life with a frank honesty not very far off from her fictional counterpart's. Where Leia was commanding and strong, Carrie was disarming and vulnerable--especially when it came to sharing stories about her life, her mental health and her relationship to the Star Wars franchise. Leia was who I wanted to emulate as a girl, but Carrie was who I wanted to model myself after as a woman. We lost her all too soon, but every time I started to get sad about missing her I remember how her co-star and on-screen twin Mark Hamill told us to picture her: looking down from heaven while lovingly extending the middle finger. Happy birthday, Carrie. We'll always love you. - Carly Lane