Carrie Fisher, passionate fandoms and the galaxy in between.
Contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and contemplations on the plot of The Last Jedi.
The Star Wars marketing machine went into high gear recently with the release of the greatly anticipated full-length trailer for The Last Jedi. The online reaction to the awe-inspiring footage was, to say the least, feverish. Helmed by Rian Jonson, a creative wild card after the market-friendly choice of J.J. Abrams for The Force Awakens, the eighth film looks set to uphold the classic tradition of a dark middle chapter of a trilogy. Despite all the beautiful vistas, mysterious narration, character reveals and the undeniably adorable Porgs—a few seconds of footage in particular manages to absolutely devastate the viewer, a brutal reminder of inevitable, looming tragedy.
It’s a relatively quiet moment—buried amid explosions and frantic cross-cutting that otherwise dominate the tone—but one that sparks far more fear than any supreme overlord ever could. Antagonist Kylo Ren and a squadron of Tie-Fighters wreak havoc on what we assume to be a fleet of rebellion ships, before finally locking onto his target—the bridge of the command ship. You can feel the anticipation in him; this single shot will guarantee him the head of the beast, a chance to completely cripple the ones who threaten to overthrow his work. As the mechanics of the rebellion’s demise fall into place, he pauses. A shift in the Force is felt as his mother, General Leia Organa. reaches out—letting him and audience know she is on the very ship he is about to obliterate. Leia stands on the targeted bridge, chaos erupting around her as Rebellion ships are torn apart and her cause crumbles, solemn in the knowledge that her end may be nigh.
It’s a staggeringly dark scene to drop into a trailer; a son contemplating murdering his mother, an iconic character at the complete mercy of the new villain. Of course, it’s given all the more gravitas by the sudden passing of Carrie Fisher in December of 2016. For Star Wars as a whole, the concept of death suddenly became stark reality, not just a narrative device.
The quintessential Hollywood baby, Fisher was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (think Brad and Angelina of the 1960’s) and subsequently lived her entire life in the public eye, with exhaustive results. While she may be General Organa to you, to me she’s entertainment industry royalty, with a career that spanned way beyond blockbuster sci-fi movies.
She was notably known for her words, both written and very loudly spoken; from award-winning stage shows to outlandishly honest tell-all books, Fisher tended to dominate whatever she set her mind to. Her transparency about her struggles with mental illness and substance abuse would make her infamous, living with the kind of unmarketable honesty that Hollywood typically frowns upon. Despite at times outright rejecting her, the industry is undeniably a better place because of her; between the eccentric award ceremony antics, the heart-warming kindness, the very good doggo and the recently exposed courage in the face of sexual abuse, Fisher stood unique among her peers.
Star Wars was, of course, no exception to this, her portrayal of the Rebel princess resonated through the decades. Sex symbol turned feminist icon turned matriarch, Leia Organa/Skywalker has been a quintessential part of the saga both on and off the screen. Which is why her passing is about to be experienced all over again as The Last Jedi is practically required to end her story.
In-universe death is hardly a new concept for the franchise though; Force Awakens saw the demise of loveable rogue Han Solo, the first instance of death touching the original trilogy’s beloved heroes. Struck down by, again, son Kylo, it was a scene that reverberated through the films, solidifying not only the darkness of the new antagonist but also give real stakes to the new trilogy. No character, no matter how iconic, was safe anymore.
There is a tragic tandem to this with Fisher’s death then, the unstable nature of it all reaching beyond the screen and ripping away an icon. Fans have been given ample time to grieve her passing, but the inevitable death of Leia reopens those wounds, a fresh pain that pulls the warmest childhood memories of the original films out into the cold, uncaring light of reality. To many fans, myself included, death was never even something I had considered would touch my heroes, but I was wrong and now Star Wars had forever changed. It’s obvious of course, it’s something we all know but to have that franchise of all things remind you is particularly brutal.
Everything, even the things you love the most, will end.
It’s a lot to invest in a movie, I know.
The kind of fandom inspired by nerd culture has been greatly dissected lately and rightfully so, it has spawned both incredible love and irrational obsession all at once. Take the phenomenal Rick and Morty for example, a show which actively rips into consumer culture, the emotional void and everything in between, has been unjustly branded with the mark of an insanely rabbid fan base. This, in a turn of events so ironic it almost feels like something out of the show, culminating in large swaths of adults screaming down McDonald’s workers when told they couldn’t get a specially branded line of dipping sauce.
It would be disingenuous to claim that Star Wars doesn’t also have its fair share of irrationals amid fans. The reveal of the new sagas leads, a black man and a woman, sparked a firestorm of noxiousness. George Lucas, the driving force behind the franchise existence, has been infamously, relentlessly criticized over the years for his wacky handling of the prequels. No modern fan base seems beyond reproach here but through all of it, the special kind of hope Star Wars inspires still persists.
I have no problems admitting that I got misty-eyed during the trailer for The Last Jedi, not just because mortality was in such sharp focus, but because it was as if a million voices cheered out at once. Star Wars, for all of its flaws, remains a hopeful beacon amid an industry steeped in cynicism and controversy. It’s the sound of the first teaser clip being shown after the poster reveal fake out at Star Wars week. It’s the unbridled joy of returning to a galaxy that was once far, far away but now feels more like home than ever.
For Carrie Fisher. We never met, we never will, but I fucking adored you.
You’re my last Jedi.