Losing a Hero

Celebrity deaths always hit home in a bizarre and unsettling way. These public figures expose themselves with great vulnerability through their art, establishing a personal and unique connection with each member of the masses. 2016 has brought about a staggering amount of celebrity deaths, but this week’s news of Carrie Fisher’s death has been the hardest for me to bear. When I began writing this post, she was the sole subject, however my tone has changed profoundly since her mother, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, passed away the following day. Carrie and Debbie represent the drastic sides of lives in the public eye. Their personal testimonies — specifically Carrie’s through her writing — have educated and exposed the triumphs and struggles of mother/daughter relationships, substance abuse, and mental health, boldly disproving stigmas and barring their souls for all to see. Even more, their iconic roles are cemented in my heart as cinematic treasures I have revisited like old friends time and time again.

Debbie Reynolds’ performance in Singin’ in the Rain brings me so much joy: Kathy Seldon is sincere and resolute, all the while performing to an impeccable high standard no longer present in film (La La Land excluded). She is a light and a beacon of happiness in a world so often plagued with distress.

As for Carrie Fisher…she was more than just the actress who played Princess Leia. To me, Carrie and Leia were one and the same. Princess Leia is unlike any character in this galaxy (or those far, far away either). She is strong and courageous, sure. But she’s a leader who demands respect, a teammate who exhibits sacrifice and loyalty, and a literal Force to be reckoned with (see what I did there) who makes hard decisions with vulnerability and compassion. Princess Leia is as complex a character as they come, and for this pivotal role to be a female? Earth-shattering. Leia could have been the damsel-in-distress-love-interest and nothing more, but it was Carrie’s own talent and charisma that made her come to life.

When I was a kid, we didn’t own Singin’ in the Rain or the Star Wars movies. Instead, my mom would take me and my sisters to the library to check them out. A lot of the time they were unavailable, but the days when we got to take home those VHS tapes, Claire and Margaret and I were ecstatic. Little kids don’t think about how role models shape your future. They think about lightsaber battles and quoting Darth Vader and Ewoks. But when you do grow up and still watch these same movies religiously (no longer using a VCR, though), you take note of different things. Looking back, I see that Princess Leia’s acts of heroism have served as inspiration and sources of hope for me in times of trouble. While Carrie — and Debbie — departing us far too soon has left so many hearts broken, I carry their immortal lessons of finding joy and overcoming adversity with me always.

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