I love Carrie Fisher. Not because she was Princess Leia or excellent in When Harry Met Sally, The ‘Burbs, and Hannah and Her Sisters. It’s also not only because she’s hilarious when Drop Dead Fred sinks her houseboat. I love Carrie Fisher because she’s crazy, the result of being Hollywood royalty, and isn’t afraid to admit it.
Last week I was sitting around Orlando International Airport with almost three hours to kill before my flight. Like always, the books I brought along didn’t suffice and I ended up looking through the bookstores for a new read. Orlando International has two bookstores: one mediocre and the other worse. At the mediocre one I ran across a copy of Fisher’s 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, which is a transcript of her one-woman show of the same title (it was also made into an HBO special). Enticed by the cover (left) I bought it, finishing it well before landing at LaGuardia and trekking to Midtown for my bus.
Arriving at Port Authority during the height of rush hour, I decided against standing in line with hundreds of angry commuters and ventured over to Midtown Comics. Looking through racks of new releases I cam across a Carrie Fisher bio-comic (with a poorly drawn Fisher staring at me like a twin brother waiting to be kissed). This badly rendered version of Debbie Reynolds’ daughter was asking me to buy it. I did.
The book reminded me of Rock ‘n Roll comics, which appeared in the late ‘80s. As a kid I remember reading the Guns ‘n Roses one and another about Bon Jovi. The only difference was Rock ‘n Roll Comics were better, containing superior artwork and writing. Nothing contained in Carrie Fisher (original title, right?) was new, unless you’re unfamiliar with whom Fisher is in the first place. But, it did make me think about what I’d read earlier that day while 20,000 feet in the air, flying at around 500 mph in what could’ve potentially been an aeronautical coffin (I always think things like that while waiting for takeoff). I also couldn’t shake the coincidence.
I was too young to see Fisher as a sex symbol—I was still in preschool when Return of the Jedi hit theaters. At that point I didn’t realize my penis was also for procreation and still thoroughly enjoyed making toilet islands with my pee and then demolishing those continents with even more urine, acting like a bizarre anti-terraformer (men, you know you’ve done this too!). Did I think Princess Leia was beautiful? Yes, but I didn’t think her sexy, as ideas about sex were still a few years off. It wasn’t until I was around 11 or 12 and saw The Blues Brothers for the first time that I realized Fisher’s attractiveness. In that film Fisher plays a woman obsessed with Jake (John Belushi), blowing up buildings and stalking the sewers to get her revenge against the fat musician. Nowadays I think she was doing the right thing—trying to eliminate white, talentless blues musicians—and I think Fisher’s character was misunderstood. She was providing a cultural service.
But these aren’t the reasons I love Carrie Fisher; it’s not because she’s attractive (even at 55 she still looks great) or because she’s crazy or Hollywood royalty. It’s an amalgamation of all of this, combining to create a mental condition so dissimilar from the average person that it’s baffling. Fisher even admits this in Wishful Drinking, saying she saw her father, crooner Eddie Fisher, on television more than at home. Her parents were regularly in tabloids and famous people were plentiful during her adolescence. In short, she didn’t grow up like the majority of us, with parents working shitty jobs and watching the rich and famous from afar—she was the rich and famous, the recipient of a famous coupling. Fischer doesn’t know what it’s like outside that bubble. She lived in a peculiar world through her formative years and she’s never ventured far from it, always residing somewhere in the entertainment business. That can’t be good for one’s mental health.
Does this mean she’s a spoiled brat because she rebelled, did a ton of drugs and had mommy issues (see Postcards From the Edge for an dramatized example of this)? Possibly, and instead of trying to leave the family business she followed in her mother’s footsteps and ended up in film, starting with a small role in the Warren Beatty comedy Shampoo before becoming Princess Leia. At 21 she was a household name and pubescent boys across the nation (both cool and nerdy) were dreaming about her. I’m fairly certain that’ll mess with you. No wonder she did so much dope and married Paul Simon.
A few years back Fisher started electroshock therapy, believing this was the only choice to combat her mental issues. It’s possible it worked but Fisher never denies that she’s still crazy or had a rollercoaster life, doing more drugs than your average Haight-Ashbury hippie, or your average Andy Dick. She embraces her shortcomings, her neuroses, and her addictions, turning them into fodder for her writings. Is it because she’s rich and famous that we pay attention? Of course, but that doesn’t negate Fisher’s talent and ability to transform this into entertainment.
Fisher has said she regrets playing Princess Leia, commenting that if she’d known Star Wars would become such a cultural landmark she “never would’ve done it.” Yet, without that role the world wouldn’t have Postcards From the Edge or Wishful Drinking. I guess playing the would’ve-could’ve-should’ve game is useless, like Susan Atkins says about the Tate-LaBianca murders, but one thing is certain: Fisher’s involvement in the Star Wars franchise crafted her into a brash, hilarious woman with a penchant for sharing her experiences in a fun and clever fashion. It helped her become a successful writer and script editor (editing scripts for films like The Wedding Singer and episodes of George Lucas’ The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles). If anything the Star Wars movies made it so her other work is noticed, helping to create her distinct voice. And that voice, with all the accompanying baggage, is why I love Carrie Fisher. She’s a feisty old broad; she speaks her mind and holds back nothing, demonstrating she’s both transcended the Princess Leia typecast while benefiting from it. Good for her.