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Of the three of them, Carrie Fisher was the one we loved the most. Sure, Mark Hamill was the Jedi — and someone who shared our love of the material — and Harrison Ford was cool, calm and detached from the whole thing, but Carrie was the sarcastic one who nonetheless cared, and that was why we fell for her.
It helped, of course, that she was always the underdog in the original Star Wars trilogy: not because Princess Leia was perpetually in need of being rescued or protected in each movie. Leia repeatedly demonstrated that she was as capable as the male heroes. After all, she was the one who killed Jabba. No, she was the underdog because she was almost the only woman in those movies, and certainly the only one with any appreciable focus.
As a character, Leia proved to be so important — as an example of female agency and power, as so many people’s first crush, as the butt of too many jokes about her kissing her brother — that it’s no surprise that she shadowed Fisher for the rest of her life. Even as she went on to appear in other movies we loved (The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally … and don’t pretend you don’t like it!), to become a successful writer and generally just … move on, she was still Leia, somehow. The character lingered like a welcome ghost.
It was clear that she had a lot of affection for the role, and for Star Wars in general, although that didn’t stop her poking fun at it whenever possible. (She famously joked about the shift in her accent in the movies, as well as her costuming, saying at one point that “there is no underwear in space” while complaining about her outfit in the 1977 original.) She stayed close to the franchise, working uncredited on the screenplays for all three movies in the prequel trilogy at the invitation of George Lucas.
When Fisher returned to the role in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was something magnetic in her performance. Despite having very little screen time and wrestling with some heavily expeditionary dialogue, Fisher managed to give Leia a presence that seemed both stronger and more exhausted than the earlier version of the character — someone whose heart had been broken, but who fought on despite that, because there was no alternative. It made it easy to remember why we loved her the first time around.
Her promotion for the 2015 movie helped cement that love: She took to Twitter to address those talking about her appearance, writing “blow us.” She made jokes about merchandise while telling Daisy Ridley to fight against wearing slave outfits. She seemed to understand what it was that the audience loved — and loved to make fun of — about the whole phenomenon on some primal level, and that made it even better: even though it was Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia herself, she got it. Somehow, despite all odds, she was one of us.
That’s likely why her passing feels so impactful, so wrong; the news, last week, about her heart attack felt impossible, the very idea of her death being something fans reacted to as if she were a family member. In many ways, she was; this is a woman so many of us have grown up with, wanting to be friends with (or woo, or simply wanting to be). Like Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill — and C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader, although they were more abstract concepts, characters instead of actors as we thought of them — Carrie Fisher was someone we’ve “known” and loved for most of our lives. Of the three main Star Wars actors, she was the most human, the funniest, the snarliest. The one we loved the most.
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