I was born in 1980, three years after the world fell in love for the first time with Carrie Fisher. My earliest memory is me watching “Return of the Jedi” in 1983 with my mom in the front row. I couldn’t even read yet, so she had to narrate the opening crawl for me. That is literally the earliest moment in my life that I can actively and easily recall. If you know of my satirical work on “The Political Garbage Chute,” you know that the “garbage chute” part comes from Fisher — as the eminently perfect Princess Leia — commanding Han Solo (my favorite character in the “Star Wars” galaxy) to get “Into the garbage chute, fly boy!”

All this is to say that Ms. Fisher was a bright star for me in my life. I am one of countless millions of men who had our very idea of sexual attraction turned on by Princess Leia, which I give quite a healthy amount of credit for turning me into the eventual feminist that I would become. Leia Organa was a ballsy, take no bullshit woman from the moment you met her in the first Star Wars film. She was the first character to go toe to toe with Darth Vader, and unapologetically insult him to his face…and she lived!

Leia Organa was a powerful figure in my life. She taught me, simply through her existence, that the woman I wanted to partner with was the one who wouldn’t suffer my bullshit just because I’m a dude. She taught me that in a pinch, it’s not just brash, masculine bravado that can win the day, it’s cunning female guile too. Then again, you can ask Jabba the Hutt how much you should discount sheer, feminine brute force.

I can say with pretty much full confidence that I’m among tens, if not hundreds, of millions of men who became pro-fem because of Fisher’s portrayal of the coolest fucking princess in the galaxy. I know this because I’ve talked to a whole lot of men, and even the ones who claim to be “traditional” speak of a soft side for Princess Leia, which of course means deep down they get what made Leia so goddamned cool and sexy — she was every bit as strong and heroic as Han and Luke were — and that very subtle, subversive messaging impacted a generation of men, I am sure of it.

But Carrie’s brilliance didn’t start and stop with “Star Wars.” If all you ever learned about her was that she was Princess Leia, you’d miss so much more about what made her such a fucking pluperfect badass of a human.

Fisher had deadpan perfect comedic timing. For evidence of my claim, see “The Blues Brothers.” She amasses all of a handful of minutes of screen time in that classic, and yet she manages to steal nearly the entire picture. Carrie’s moments with the iconic John Belushi should be shot into space so aliens know we’re capable of some pretty hilarious shit. In reality, Carrie’s role in “The Blues Brothers” was another link in the chain she built which will stand as a testament to her bold, beautiful, independent spirit.

There was also Fisher’s role in “When Harry Met Sally” that proved she could keep up with the funniest men of her time. Playing opposite Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and the late Bruno Kirby, she played the flawed and funny Marie with a quiet wit and charm that she seemed to just naturally exude even off screen.

That wit was never more apparent than when she’d write. Whether it was “Postcards from the Edge” or any of her other truly insightful and hilarious novels, Carrie Fisher was one of the best authors of our time. Again, this theme of naturally occurring feminism is present. Fisher seemed to be able to make a claim for gender equality simply by being the warrior goddess she was in all regards.

There are some celebrities who just feel so personable, so relatable, that you start to feel a kindred connection to them. When they pass on, we feel that loss personally, as if we were related to them ourselves. Carrie Fisher, for me, is one of those celebrities. Her impact on my life, as I stated earlier, is pretty much fundamental. I know that if she influenced a bunch of men to be more open to a strong, brave, vocal feminine voice, her inspiration to a generation and more of women must be exponentially greater.

Ultimately, that’s what Carrie’s gift to the world will be, I think. She inspired millions of girls to be badassses, and she taught millions of boys to not be scruffy looking nerf herders about it. Years from now, humanity will still owe a debt of gratitude to her, for making us all better people, simply for believing that a girl, shock of all shocks, can be a role model for other girls and other boys too.

This year has just been an absolute and utter bastard. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, the names just keep piling up. No one lives forever, obviously, but to lose so many bright, shining luminary people in one year is just almost too much to take. It’s up to the rest of us to keep what these people stood for alive, no matter what the world throws at us.

Carrie Fisher was fucking awesome, and I will miss her enormously.

Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.


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