Christmas day I had breakfast with my wife’s family. Most of her family are Muggles. Nice enough people, but definitely not Geeks. One of them asked me about Rogue One. He asked if I like it and if it had a female lead. I explained that Jyn was one of the main characters, but that like all Star Wars films, she wasn’t the only main character. Then he asked how I felt about another female lead Star Wars film. My answer was immediate. I told him that I had no problem with it because that had always been the case. Princess Leia was always one of the strongest characters in the saga. Leia was always a match for any of the male characters, standing toe to toe with the likes of Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. Despite being one of the few prominent female characters in the Original Trilogy, she always felt like an equal, even when rocking the gold bikini. Rey wasn’t the first female badass in the Star Wars universe, Leia Organa was.
As much of a badass as Leia was, Carrie Fisher was every bit her equal. Carrie had a wild life and she never shied away from talking about it. Sex, drugs, mental health issues; nothing was off limits with her. She was as intelligent as she was beautiful. Always the Rebel, in recent years she had been very vocal about struggles with Hollywood and the standards of beauty that she didn’t fit. She joked about a portion of her being hired for the Star Wars movies. She was a hero for so many, including myself.
2016 has seen a rash of celebrity deaths. While the number of deaths is not statistically unusual, the deaths seem to be much more impactful, especially in the world of Geekdom. From David Bowie to Carrie Fisher, many celebrities that have helped shape our lives have passed this year.
Some people question why anyone mourns a celebrity death. I will be the first to admit that there have been many celebrities whose passing had little to no impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for their families and send them my love, but I have no reason to personally mourn them. After all, most of us did not personally know the celebrities that have passed. At most, we might have been lucky enough to see them at a convention, maybe got an autograph or picture.
For me, when a celebrity passes, I mourn them based on the impact they had on my life. Most of the time, this impact is based on the reason that they were a celebrity. Because of my personal interests, most of the celebrities that I have mourned this year have played characters that have been important to my favorite movies and television series. Alan Rickman was Severus Snape, Anton Yelchin was Pavel Chekov, Jerry Doyle was Michael Garibaldi, Kenny Baker was R2-D2, Gene Wilder was Willy Wonka, Ron Glass was Shepherd Book, and Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia. While all of these actors played other roles, and had many accomplishments outside of acting, these characters meant a lot to me personally.
These characters and the people that played them are a part of who I am. So when one of these celebrities dies, a small part of me dies with them. While I will get to see Princess (now General) Leia one more time, just as I got to see Chekov one last time, I know that those characters will have to live on in my memory. No more will we get to see the original embodiment of the character. And the world mourns the wonderful actors that brought these characters to life.
This is in no way meant to diminish from any other celebrities that passed this year. I did mourn for David Bowie, Prince, John Glenn, and many others. I know that there has been close to 150 celebrities that have passed this year, and I only mentioned a few that impacted me. Feel free to comment with the celebrities you will miss.
When people pass, whether celebrities or not, we are all impacted in a different way. Some deaths impact us more than others. We all deal with grief differently and there is practically no wrong way, short of hurting others or ourselves, of handling these feelings. If you find that you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call a family member or friend, message someone online, or find a mental health professional.
May the Force be with you.