Tuesday, December 27, 2016
There is a terrible irony in Carrie Fisher's death almost exactly at the moment when the Star Wars franchise showed that it could do without her. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the last person we see on screen is a young Princess Leia, portrayed by a young actress wearing a CGI mask of a young Carrie Fisher. This came after The Force Awakens proved, for those who had not know from reading or watching gossip, that the years had not been kind to Fisher. It was just about impossible to imagine that film's General Leia having adventures like its Han Solo did, as played by a man more than a decade Fisher's senior. I suppose there's a gender double-standard behind that, that a septuagenarian accident-prone Harrison Ford should not seem more plausible in action than a Carrie Fisher then not yet 60 except that we've been conditioned to accept the one and not the other. That's where we are just the same, and while Ford can still make Blade Runner and maybe even Indiana Jones movies, Fisher died while promoting a memoir whose biggest selling point was her newly-disclosed affair with Ford. Despite all this, Fisher is assured of pop-culture immortality for the one big break she got. Princess Leia was a progressive figure in her time, less damsel in distress than leader and warrior, though her type had flourished in pulp fiction long before Star Wars. There's something compelling about her archetype that it took Disney to appreciate and exploit fully. Watching Rogue One, I thought it no accident that the Princess studio had made women the primary protagonists of its first two Star Wars movies. Thinking it over now, it seems as if Leia, rather than Luke, is their model -- the ideal type that would remain if you merged the Skywalker twins. You might imagine a young George Lucas today pitching his big idea to Disney and being asked why he even needed a Luke. The moral of this part of the story might be that Carrie Fisher and Star Wars were born too soon, but that doesn't really tell Fisher's story. She did a good job telling it herself, and it's arguably a tragedy that she, a proven writer, had to write about Star Wars to make money lately. For all we know she had other stories to tell, and not just about herself, but like it or not Star Wars is a defining part of her life, and when you see Princess Leia in her glory on the big screen you can't help thinking that Carrie Fisher deserved better from the rest of her life.