clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

To Carrie Fisher, a woman who knew the power of accepting yourself without apology

Carrie Fisher’s biggest legacy may be the unapologetic life she led.

Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' - Arrivals Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Carrie Fisher spent a lifetime fighting people’s expectations and found a new hope in not giving a shit what you, I, or anyone else thought of her — which is exactly why I’ve always thought the world of her.

My introduction to Fisher was the same as most people’s: staring up at a screen in wide-eyed admiration and wonder as her steely Princess Leia took Star Wars by storm and sheer force of will. She was a 19-year-old thrown into the twin chaoses of deep space and Hollywood, and she proved a shining star in both.

But as I grew older and dove deeper into Fisher’s history and ongoing career, I discovered a life overflowing with wit, advocacy, and incredible strength.

As she would be the first to tell you, Fisher’s life co-starred a devastating cocktail of addiction and mental illness. Thrust into the most competitive Hollywood echelons before she was 20 — and having grown up around it, being the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds — she absorbed whatever chemicals she could to get by, not believing the doctors who told her that her addictions were exacerbated by a form of manic depression. (She was later diagnosed as bipolar.)

In 1987, with the benefit of hindsight, Fisher wrote in her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge about the horrors of being trapped inside your own mind while outside pressures do everything they can to cave in the walls. “I shot through my 20s like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination,” she wrote. “Nowhere.”

But in real life, Carrie Fisher wasn’t just going somewhere — she was going somewhere meaningful and funny and relentlessly smart. She came out of her turbulent 20s determined to forge a new path, one that defied anyone to look at her and see a girl in a gold bikini while conveniently ignoring its accompanying chains.

(Fisher famously hated that stupid “outfit,” no matter how many adolescent fantasies it inspired. When promoting 2015’s The Force Awakens, she even made sure to remind everyone that the Slave Leia bikini was for a slave, “a prisoner of a giant testicle.”)

Fisher wrote her way out of her own horror, from Postcards From the Edge in 1987 to her wickedly funny one-woman show Wishful Drinking in 2006 to her journal compilation The Princess Diarist, published just a month ago.

All along the way, she was open about her struggles and mental health in a way that few dared — and she was funny while she did it. You don't have to look any further than her Twitter bio — "there's no room for demons when you're self-possessed" — to understand exactly who Carrie Fisher was.

She was crucially, completely unashamed of who she was, talking openly about her mental breaks, the psychotic episodes that would send her careening and land her in clinics. She made it clear that while she knew her brain could be an insidious Trojan horse determined to make her life hell from the inside out, she was able to persevere by accepting that reality as fact.

“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that,” Fisher told Diane Sawyer in a 2000 interview. “I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”

Carrie Fisher took on the dark forces inside and surrounding her by finding something precious to hold on to, something to humanize, something to laugh about. She stormed through her chaotic mind and world to forge an unapologetic life, inspiring countless others — like me, and maybe even you — to do the same.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.