Among the many celebrity deaths that overwhelmed us in 2016, Carrie Fisher’s passing is the only one that truly hurt me.
Muhammad Ali and David Bowie’s deaths, while sad, didn’t throw me off. People die. Some people die sooner than others. And when you spend your years indulging in copious amounts of cocaine (such as Bowie) or having your skull hammered by world-renown heavy weights (such as Ali), it’s a wonder some of these people lived as long as they did.
My only remaining grandparent died in 2016 as well. Marion Kokoska died at the age of 95 alongside family members in Augusta, Maine. I was upset, but I could keep the lump in my throat at bay. I knew it was coming. So did my family.
“Death and taxes,” as the saying goes.
But Mrs. Fisher, or rather, Princess Leia, transcended that world.
…Those characters to me were heroes in the classic sense. They inspired my imagination, not my ambition, which, to me, is more important…
The sudden passing of Mrs. Fisher left me overwhelmed with loss, just two days after Christmas. Pieces of my youth, imagination and inner rebelliousness (things central to my deep love of science fiction) were suddenly shaken.
I wasn’t a huge fan, to be honest. I never saw her as an outspoken proponent for people with mental illness, a female role model, or even as an accomplished actress, writer and comedian (and for many she was all of the above). To me, she was always Leia Organa, the princess of the lush planet Alderaan, an Imperial senator and an agent of the Rebel Alliance; sassy, intelligent, beautiful and ready to kick ass. What more could you want?
Though “Star Wars: A New Hope” was first released in 1977, the film series has always been symbolic of youth, not just because it made an impression on my own childhood, but because it is silly. Despite my efforts as a teenager and later as an adult to grow out of silly things, science fiction is a habit I just can’t kick. For all of its utter goofiness, it is completely serious in its defiance of the commonplace.
When I was first exposed to Star Wars as a child I didn’t understand the mechanics of the Galactic Senate or the correlations to WWII and Homer’s “Odyssey,” but I was fascinated by the characters, the creatures and the apparently vast societies and cultures that inhabited that “galaxy far far away.“
I didn’t idolize Luke, Han or Leia the way I idolized my favorite comic book artists or athletes as a child. Those characters to me were heroes in the classic sense. They inspired my imagination, not my ambition, which, to me, is more important.
Mrs. Fisher’s passing is a somber reminder that no matter how much we wish to escape, no matter how big our imagination is, the Reaper ultimately catches up. And that ultimately, the science fiction genre, which I love so much, is just that: Fiction.
So it goes…
It’s hard to follow this note with anything positive. Is there a silver lining to the death of fantasy? I don’t know.
What I do know is that she inspired millions of people’s imaginations and helped launch a franchise that will undoubtedly inspire millions more. Despite my sadness, I am at least grateful.