It is a time of personal unrest. A brave band of Spirits, operating from the no-longer-secret base of the 5′ 1″ Italian woman they oft-inhabit, have gained their first victories in this small graphic design business. During this ongoing battle, said 5’1″ Italian woman has done her level best to stay out of the way and out of the fray, for the sake of her own sanity.
Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away: Princess Leia became One with the Force.
It’s time to pop my head in…..It’s time for the teeny tiny Italian woman (and sometime Twi’lek) who often serves as the Rebel Secret Base to open her mouth (and use her typing fingers)….
Thirty-eight years ago….
Most of my little friends saw Star Wars: A New Hope at it’s original release in 1977. I was the kid who hid behind the couch every time the commercial would air because it terrified me. What was I afraid of specifically? Well, let’s have a go at that first commercial, shall we?
I was afraid of the Jawa. That’s right: the Jawa. Potentially the most innocuous thing in that entire trailer for the “average child”, right? I mean, when compared to Darth Vader and a Tusken Raider, a Jawa’s just a comical little critter that makes silly noises and has a penchant for droids. But at the age of 5 in 1977, I was, in many ways, just as “weird” as I am now. I have had abilities my entire life, as discussed in previous posts (before we went the graphic design track), and even at the age of five, I saw things no one else could (and by this, I mean spirits/non-corporeal entities). It just so happened that it was around that age that we were living in an extremely haunted house, and the figures which stalked me even to school from that house were robed, faceless figures. Hence, Jawas freaking me out completely.
So I didn’t see Star Wars until it’s re-release in 1978. By that point, in order to function in elementary school society at all, you pretty much had to see this film. So I went with my Mama and my Mema. And thus began a lifelong love affair.
Princess Leia wasn’t a Disney princess (she still isn’t, regardless of who owns the rights!). I was a six year old girl who had been confronted her whole life with the paradigms of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and I was none of them. I wasn’t blonde. I wasn’t beautiful–people often mistook me for a little boy–and I definitely wasn’t into the concept of simply occupying myself with singing to the local wildlife til some dude showed up on a big white horse. (I was way more interested in the horse than the dude!) No, I wanted to play with Matchbox cars, and dinosaurs, and toy bows and arrows and toy swords and toy guns. And now, suddenly, here was a princess who did all those things! (Okay, maybe not the cars or the dinosaurs, but droids and wookiees are close enough!) Not only that, but when faced with the concept of a “mystical energy field” (i.e., The Force), she was not only perfectly okay with that, she saw that only the guy who knew about that stuff could save the entire Galaxy! And she didn’t flit around singing to the local wildlife waiting on some dude to come rescue her: she grabbed the blaster herself and yelled at Han Solo: “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” I found who I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be Princess Leia.
Thirty-six years ago….
Two years later, I got a very special present for my birthday: the release of The Empire Strikes Back. (Released on May 21, 1980; for those keeping score, my birthday is May 24, and I would’ve been 8.) The first and second grade had been turbulent years for me. I had a nightmare teacher in the first grade which led my Mother to have me tested for being Academically Gifted (turns out I am). That also almost led to my Mother seeking psychiatric placement with a group rate for the both of us, because I nearly drove her insane. We continued to live in that extremely haunted house through all of this as well; believe me, that didn’t help. Something repeatedly pulled me out of bed at night and under the bed. I was already having night terrors from the teacher predicament. My Mother didn’t sleep very much at all, nor did I. I lived in a constant state of terror. The second grade was a wee bit better, apart from frequent arguments (and threatened full-on fist fights) on the playground when someone refused to realize that I was Princess Leia at recess. At the beginning of the third grade, I met my future best-friend-for-life: you all know her as Wilde Dandelion. But we were quickly separated, as our teacher ended his tenure at the school, and his class was shuffled off to numerous other classrooms. We would see each other often at recess–she always understood that I was Princess Leia, dammit!–but apart from that, we didn’t get to really develop the bond that we so craved. At the end of the third grade, it was announced that my family was moving to a different school district, and that her family was moving even further away. The only thing that saved that summer (and that rescued me in the subsequent fourth grade) was the release of The Empire Strikes Back.
There was my Princess again! Only this time, she wasn’t some woman in need of rescue in a diaphanous white gown and ridiculous hairdo; this time, she was a Rebel Commander in a distinguished military position, calling the shots. Even when she did “girl it up” on Bespin, after kissing Han Solo, she was clearly in command. As a little girl who felt completely out of control in her own life at the time, once again Princess Leia showed me not only who to be, but how to be.
Thirty-three years ago….
By the release of Return of the Jedi on the day after my birthday in 1983, I was in the sixth grade, and things were actually looking up in my little life. I had a new best friend (with whom I’ve since lost touch over the years), I had begun to discover myself as a writer, I had my first boyfriend (also a Star Wars geek like me; he’s now very successful, a world-traveler, and soon to be married to an awesome gentleman), and I had decided that I wanted to go to Saint Andrews Presbyterian College when it came time for higher education. I had been selected to go to a special summer camp for the Academically Gifted–my first time ever away from home for any extended period of time–and I was very excited about what my future held. For the most part, by that point in my life, I had been able to “stick my head in the sand” when it came to any psychic abilities I might possess, and what made me weird was my intelligence and the fact that I was a total geek, before geeks were actually even a thing.
I went to see Return of the Jedi with my Mom, my Mema (who had a thing for Han Solo), and my best friend at the time–the one with whom I’ve lost touch. As I did before going to see Empire Strikes Back, I did careful research on the hairstyles of Princess Leia (not easy to do in that time before the internet!), and dressed as her to go to the movies (I chose the Ewok Village hairstyle, for anybody whose curious; for Empire, I did the Hoth hairstyle). And I was presented with yet more facets of my hero, Princess Leia: now, she not only held the rank of Captain in the Rebel Alliance, she was also an active spy running covert operations, a fairly decent pilot (speederbike scene on Endor), a sister to the “last of the Jedi”, and potentially a Jedi herself in the future! Here was a woman who could pose as a bounty hunter one minute, still have self-respect and power in a teeny tiny slave outfit the next, and then play with spear-toting teddy bears the next, all with grace, style, and empowerment. I could happily go off to camp, and away from my parents for the first time in my life, with her as my role model: who knew? Maybe there would be spear-toting teddy bears in the Appalachians….
During the long wait (thirty-two years, to be exact) between the release of Return of the Jedi and the release of The Force Awakens, I did what most young girls do: I grew up. So did Carrie Fisher. I remained a steadfast Star Wars nut–it’s practically a second religion for me, and that’s totally not an exaggeration. My love of Leia got me through a lot in those years: through the onset of disabling psoriasis at the age of sixteen; through my discovery of Paganism (which led to death threats against me, also around the age of sixteen); through meeting my future husband (who is also a Star Wars geek: I still squee every time I tell him “I love you” and he replies with “I know”). But, as I grew older, my focus switched, as it often does, from the Princess to the woman behind her: Carrie Fisher. And then she got me through even more stuff: my parents’ divorce; my realization that some parts of my childhood were not what I remembered but something far, far worse; my continued struggle with my disability and the depression that goes along with it, and the continuing fact that I am not like other people: I see and experience things that most people don’t even want to think might exist. Her forthright take on the world, her humor, and her in-your-face Selfness taught me that I could be all of those things, too: that I don’t ever, ever have to be ashamed of who I am, because who I am is me, and I am my own Princess!
One year ago yesterday….
We went to see The Force Awakens at the Imax here in Massachusetts. As I settled in to watch my Princess again for the first time in so long, I had no way of knowing that exactly a year later, I would be sitting here, feeling like this. There was so much excitement as that opening crawl scurried up the screen. Once again, my hair was as close as I could get it to the teaser shots I had seen from the film. Only, this time, I wasn’t just the Princess; I was the General:
The excitement I felt was colored by a tinge of sadness–for over the years, between college and marriage and moving to Massachusetts and that moment as the Star Wars theme boomed through the butt-kickers in Jordan’s IMAX theater, I had both gained and given up a lot. And one of those things was my “second life” as a little lavender Twi’lek named Hiraani Luna. You see, in those years at Star Wars Galaxies, for a brief moment of my life, my husband and I had finally gotten to live (albeit virtually) in that world where we actually belong: the world of Star Wars. And I had been a freedom fighter, and a High Priestess, and a freer of slaves, who sometimes had to act the part of the slave to get the job done (just like Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi). Now, sitting in that darkened theater was as close as I could come to living in that world again (SWG closed December 15, 2011).
Except it wasn’t. And it isn’t.
I am still that little lavender Twi’lek, and I am still Princess Leia, and I always will be. That little lavender Twi’lek came out to dance at Templefest this year (dancing, for Tyrian Twi’leks, which is Hira’s “type”, is the ultimate form of spiritual expression). And the General Organa in me put her foot down when I finally said “enough; I’m going to let my Spirits handle the business from now on and step back, and let the world deal with this is what I can do, and this is what they can do!” I am who I am because Carrie Fisher (and, subsequently, Princess Leia) is/was who she is/was. And I know I am one of millions of young women who can say that today. Thank you, Ms. Fisher…..and may the Force be with you…always….