It’s Star Wars day again and it is the first one without Carrie Fisher. It’s safe to say that Princess Leia (the true people’s princess) was the first love of my life, in that weird, fuzzy, muddled, way that seven year olds have crushes on character from films, television or baby sitters, I absolutely adored Princess Leia. As for Carrie Fisher, I had know understanding of who she was but I can’t help feeling that being attracted to the woman who became such a wonderful spokesperson for the mentally ill was an omen for my future.
As she cheerfully acknowledged herself, around the time of filming Star Wars, her life was a complete mess. It was a way to get out if her environment and away from all the triggers that set her off. I can see the beauty of that right now, the way the world changes but doesn’t until it all becomes too claustrophobic to bear.
There is this great myth that surrounds mental health problems and women, the Betty Blue, Ophelia, Sylvia Plath romanticism that goes on. It’s patronising in the extreme. I’ve met as many absolute life destroying horrors of women with both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health problems, wreaking a trail of havoc through the world as I have mentally ill men who are the kindest, most gentle people you could meet. I have to state that I also know absolutely lovely crazy women and awful men too. In short, I’ve met people.
Hollywood has been guilty of perpetuating so many negative stereotypes of the mentally ill, from Jack Torrence and his axe, Norman Bates and his mommy issues, the bunny boilers and single white females all add their weight to the myths and misnomers around mental health issues. Carrie Fisher became such a fantastic spokesperson for the mentally wobbly for all her honesty in dealing with what became all too public health issues.
The problem that anyone who has, for the want of a better phrase, gone a bit mad is that however crazy you get and however far from normal you get, the world is a lot madder. So much of living is about spending all your time doing things you don’t want to do, like going to work in fundementally pointless jobs to be given bits of paper in return with a promise scrawled on them so that we can give that promise to other people for things we mostly don’t need and to do things we don’t want to do. Society is an organised form of collective madness that we are obliged to buy into and once you have deviated from that norm it is so hard to find your way back to it as, from the outside, it is as clearly as bonkers as anything your wildest imaginings could cook up. Just imagine how bad it must be trying to find where normal is in somewhere as fake and transient as Hollywood, where imaginary is everyday, where rampantly inflated egos are tolerated and drugs are commonplace.
Sixty seems so awfully young to loose someone so vibrant and with so much to contribute as Carrie Fisher, someone so honest and who did so much genuine good for others, but then the ways of the force are elusive and mysterious. May the fourth be with those of us left for many years to come.