Like millions of others, I was heartbroken and devastated to learn that legendary actress, screenwriter, and activist Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60. Reading the coverage and plethora of tributes from Fisher’s friends and colleagues was an extremely emotional experience for me, and I found myself fighting back tears as I contemplated a world without the grace and brilliance of Carrie Fisher. After the initial shock wore off and I reflected more on this tragic situation, part of me couldn’t help but find it a little strange that I was so upset upon seeing the news.
It was only natural to feel sad, but Fisher wasn’t someone I knew personally, met in passing, or even saw at a convention panel. My only interactions with her were through her films. So why was I crying like I had just lost someone close to me?
Stepping back and putting it all into perspective, I was reminded of the oddity of pop culture fandom. Through films, TV shows, music, and other mediums, regular everyday people grow attached to celebrities and develop some kind of personal connection with them. The movies we watch and the albums we listen to at a certain age can mold us into the people we are today. Through this art, we spend time with the artists, escaping from the trials and tribulations of the real world for a few hours, living vicariously through the characters and losing ourselves in brand new worlds that we can only dream of.
I think this is why Fisher’s death hit me so hard.
It’s no secret that I am a die hard Star Wars fan and I have been for most of my life. I first saw A New Hope in 1996 when I was a wide-eyed, 6-year old kid and it impacted me in a way no other film has. I constantly revisited the galaxy far, far away throughout my childhood, frequently watching the original trilogy and following the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and of course, Princess Leia (and creating my own with my multitude of Star Wars toys). I grew up with those movies, and as I got older I started to appreciate them on another level. Going beyond the spectacle and great storytelling, Star Wars was one of my first true introductions to the world of movies, and played a big role in establishing my passion for film. I know I’m not alone in saying Star Wars is a key reason why I work in this industry. Without it, there’s no telling where I’d be, but because it exists and is a meaningful part of my life, I have the privilege to do something I love on a daily basis.
It’s been mentioned many times before, but Star Wars has resonated in the zeitgeist for decades because of the memorable characters. All the X-wing dogfights and lightsaber duels wouldn’t have meant anything if we didn’t care for the people involved. Luke, Han, and Leia are all incredible characters, and a lion’s share of the credit has to go to the performances of the actors. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Fisher all embodied these individuals to perfection and made the audience fall in love with them. They were able to ground George Lucas’ otherworldly concepts and dialogue so it felt humanistic and real, forming a lifelong bond with whoever watched the movies.
Through five (counting Episode VIII) films, Fisher proved to be an invaluable part of the franchise’s legacy, lighting up the screen with her warm, vibrant beauty in one scene before shifting gears to the no-nonsense leader that’s gone down in history. Leia was the woman all girls wanted to be and all boys wanted to be with. It’s impossible to picture Star Wars without Fisher’s part in it.
To me, Luke, Han, and Leia are the trinity that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are to DC fans. Those characters had a tremendous influence on my life that I will never be able to measure. It was such a thrill for me when Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced there would be new Star Wars films with the original cast returning. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the nostalgia of seeing those three once more and watching Fisher share the screen with Ford again. I love these characters (and, the actors responsible for bringing them to life) in a way that’s difficult to describe. I’ve been with them for the better part of 20 years, and they shaped me in a profound manner.
It’s true I never met Carrie Fisher, but because of what she did in her illustrious career, the movie fan in me grew attached to her. I can’t shake the feeling I’ve lost someone close because of what Star Wars means to me. It makes me incredibly sad that Fisher is no longer with us, and I will be watching Episode VIII with a heavy heart, wishing she was here to see it and celebrate with everyone. It won’t be the same without her.
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. And thank you for everything.
Editor Note: We encourage Fisher’s many other fans to share their own tributes and memories in the comments below.