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The Princess

“We’re going to play war. You stay here, and wait to be rescued.”

“We’re going to play monsters — you stay here and wait to be rescued.”

“Stay here until we come with the army to save you.”

“You can’t have a gun, you’re a girl.”

“You don’t get a uniform, you’re not in the army.”

“You can’t jump out of the tower window or climb down, we have to come get you. That’s the rule.”

“We’re going to play Star Wars and–“

Hey. The princess carries a blaster.

I grew up surrounded by boys. I briefly had step-brothers, and do have a brother, and my best neighbor friend at the time was also a boy. Thus, when there needed to be a damsel in distress, it generally fell to me. While the boys played, I sat around and awaited rescue, which usually meant I was telling myself stories in my head. What else did girls in towers do?

I didn’t know, not until I saw Star Wars. Not until I watched Princess Leia shooting a blaster and confronting the bad guys. She seemed to have better aim than the boys even — they didn’t like that when I pointed it out.

“But she needed rescuing!” the boys told me. “Go sit and wait for Luke to show up.” (I had a fitted sheet for a gown, tied with a clumsy canvas belt.)

Well, okay.

But you know what happened after that, right?

I couldn’t believe what happened after that, the first time I saw it. She took his blaster! She fired it! She got them into the trash compactor and out of the line of fire!

And after that? She wasn’t just sitting around, no sir, she was like “you really should have had a plan, jackasses,” because what’s her life been about — resistance and plans, man!

Kidlet me couldn’t believe it. A princess had stolen the secret plans to the Death Star?! Girls did that?!

Yesterday, I saw a lot of posts that were critical about how others were choosing to remember Carrie Fisher. “She was more than Princess Leia!” they cried. Of course she was. None of us are ever only one thing.

For many of us, Princess Leia is how we first met Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia was our gateway drug. (Though I also saw Under the Rainbow at a very early age, and talk about drugs…)

Leia was the first heroine who made me sit up straight, who made me realize girls were more than their clothing or hairstyles. It did not matter if she was in a robe when she was shooting those stormtroopers. It did not matter if she was in a gold bikini when she strangled Jabba. Do the work — your clothes don’t matter. Do the work — the bad hair day doesn’t matter. And yet, those clothes also changed my young mind — when I realized Leia had not chosen to wear that bikini, but had been put into it.

Carrie Fisher wasn’t just a princess, no, but she taught a young girl that being a princess wasn’t a terrible thing. Who had the plans? The princess. Who got them out of the line of fire? The princess. Who killed one of the creepiest dudes in the galaxy? The princess. Who became a general and the head of the resistance? The princess.

I love you, Carrie Fisher. You changed my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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