More Than Leia: We Should Remember Carrie Fisher For Being Outrageously Honest And Hilarious
"No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra."
“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”
– Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking
Carrie Fisher was most well-known for playing a badass princess. But my favourite thing about Carrie Fisher was that she was a hilarious, self-deprecating, bare-all storyteller.
It’s a trait many of us share in common with Fisher: taking our anecdotes, our tragedies and our mishaps, and spinning outrageous yarns out of them.
“It’ll be a great story for my memoir,” I like to reassure myself, when things turn to shit. Fisher, though, with her strong voice and remarkable wit, was better at it than most.
“A product of Hollywood inbreeding”, Fisher likened her parents, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, to the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of the late ‘50s. And it ended just as badly, in a high profile Hollywood affair (just replace Angelina Jolie with Elizabeth Taylor).
Throughout her life, Fisher went on to deal with drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, a close friend dying unexpectedly beside her in her bed, affairs, divorce, finding out that the father of her child was gay, and an unwanted-but-unshakeable sex symbol status. All of which, rather than hiding, she turned into fodder for the interviews, memoirs and one-woman stage-show that were the focus of her later life.
Fisher managed to lay it all out with hilarity and intimacy. In Wishful Drinking, her stage-show-turned-memoir, she was brutally frank about her mental illness, her electroconvulsive therapy, her struggle with addiction, and her at-times lack of will to live: “I didn’t necessarily feel like dying — but I’d been feeling a lot like not being alive,” she wrote.
She was sardonic about her father’s affair with Elizabeth Taylor: “He first dried her eyes with his handkerchief, then he consoled her with flowers, and he ultimately consoled her with his penis. This made marriage to my mother awkward.”
Ever provocative, her most recent book The Princess Diarist made headlines for revealing the affair she had on the set of Star Wars with a married Harrison Ford. Even Ford’s threat of a lawyer couldn’t keep her from sharing her skeletons with the world.
Fisher, with her in many ways charmed but very painful life, knew that the ability to laugh at yourself, to put a humorous slant on tragedy, could prevent it from hurting so much; something that gets so many of us through our darkest moments.
“Let’s say something happens and from a certain slant maybe it’s tragic, even a little bit shocking. Then time passes and you go to the funny slant, and now that very same thing can no longer do you any harm,” she wrote in Wishful Drinking.
Trump speaking his mind isn't refreshing, it's appalling. Coca Cola is refreshing…
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) November 6, 2016
Fisher was resigned to the fact that she would always be defined by the fierce yet fetishised Princess Leia. She wrote that her iconic Star Wars role had “ruined” her life, although she was always up for some self-deprecatory parodies.
But she seemed far more interested in being defined as the hilariously provocative Carrie Fisher. And to those who knew her, she was. If there’s one word that links together many of the celebrity tributes rolling in, it’s funny. Fisher’s wicked sense of humour clearly left her mark on everyone she ever met, and not just because she delivered her Leia lines acerbically.
She lent her hand behind the scenes to doctoring comedy scripts such as Sister Act and The Wedding Singer. She nailed the hilariously-cynical best-friend role in the best rom-com of all time, When Harry Met Sally, and hilarious bit parts in shows like 30 Rock and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.
And she was damn funny in real life:
My god she loved that dog.
Carrie Fisher once recounted Star Wars director George Lucas telling her she would have to go braless under her white dress, because in space a bra would “strangle” her.
“Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
So there you have it: Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.
She died with the same humour, poeticism, poignancy and provocativeness she lived by. And it’s this infectious, warm, no-bullshit wit that we’re all the poorer for losing.
You can watch Carrie Fisher’s full one-woman show on YouTube here:
Rachel Withers is an Australian political junkie living in New York City. She blogs about women and politics at anastywomansblog.wordpress.com, and tweets when she gets upset at @rachelrwithers.