2016 has been the year of celebrity deaths and it’s now at a point where we’re not shocked as more and more actors, singers and authors pass away far too early. People say we shouldn’t mourn celebrity deaths as “real” people are dying and leaving sadness in their wake all the time and celebrity deaths don’t deserve any more attention than any other strangers’ passing. But they’re not just strangers and the grief we feel is real.
For some David Bowie was the immortal Jareth and his presence was felt in life as much as his absence in death. For some Alan Rickman is always going to be missed. For my friend Kylie the loss of George Michael has broken her heart. All these feelings of sadness are genuine and valid, and the pain we feel when someone who means something to us, for whatever reason, should be respected.
For me the celebrity death that has brought out such despair is Carrie Fisher.
Even writing this I feel such sorrow I could cry, though it would confuse and trouble my daughter so much that I’m holding it in.
I’m not the hugest Star Wars fan in the world. I’m a fan, I adore Leia, I’ve seen the movies several times and been to the One Man Star Wars Show (hysterically funny and very clever if it comes to a theatre near you). But there are certainly bigger fans than me, including me step son Z.
But still. Carrie.
It’s not all about Leia, though she was an amazing character. A female role model, strong, smart, fearless in a very male dominated franchise and genre. She never went to the dark side despite being surrounded by men who succumbed. She was a warrior. She beat the shit out of the monster who enslaved her and went on to become a general leading rebel troops.
People keep using the image of her chained up at Jabba The Hut’s feet in her gold bikini to memorialise her and it’s pissing me right off. Sure the scene is iconic but Carrie Fisher and Leia were both more than that scene. They were both worth more than being remembered as a sex slave. She choked the monster who enslaved her with her own chains for fuck’s sake! Use that image! Use her freeing herself with strength and courage not sitting at the monster’s feet! Use images of her as General Organa, that would be even better. But as a chained woman? She was a badass. You’re doing her a disservice purely for the titillation of men who get off on women being dominated.
Indeed, she said herself to Daisy Ridley, “Don’t be a slave like I was…You keep fighting against that slave outfit.” She would never have wanted to be remembered that way. Leia was worth more. Carrie was worth more.
Carrie herself is why I grieve. She is the woman the world has lost.
Carrie Fisher spoke openly about her mental health. She had no shame and spoke with pride about how she coped.
“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
She made it okay to be mentally ill and she made everyone understand how impressive it is to cope. Even now when people talk to me about how weak they feel for struggling, I remind them how badass they are for surviving. How proud they should be. How strong they are. Carrie knew that. Carrie told the world.
She spoke against body shaming and the way women are treated. Obligated to be young and beautiful forever to entertain the men.
“Am I obliged to entertain you with my appearance?” she asked.
“What I didn’t realize, back when I was this 25-year-old pinup for geeks… was that I had signed an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the next 30 to 40 years. Well, clearly I’ve broken that contract.”
It is okay to age and Carrie knew that and fought against those who tried to shame her for it. In a world, and industry, where women aren’t allowed to age at the same rate as their male counterparts, Carrie gave zero fucks and encouraged us all to do the same.
Carrie was an outspoken pissed off feminist in a way I aspire to. I am still too apologetic. I am still too anxious about offending. I want to be Carrie. Carrie said it how it is without apology. She was bold. She was strong. She was what I wish I was strong enough to be.
Another of my aspirations is to be a best selling author. She wrote fiction and non fiction, she wrote plays and screen plays. She was a highly respected script doctor. She was a respected best seller in a field I long to be successful and respected in. She was a master of the written word in a way I aspire to be.
Carrie Fisher has died. A woman I admire, who inspires me, whom I aspire to be. A woman who was strong, brave, smart, phenomenal.
My gaping celebrity wound of 2016 is Carrie Fisher.
I truly believed she’d make it. When news of her cardiac arrest hit I said no. She will pull through and we can start 2017 knowing she is still here. That good can come from fear. That the world isn’t doomed.
Now we enter saying goodbye to some amazing people and characters, and looking ahead to a Trump presidency. And that could mean we lose even more people and 2018 will start even gloomier.
Good luck world. Goodbye Carrie.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!