Carrie Fisher and the ageless princess

Curator's Note

The long awaited comeback of Carrie Fisher in "Star Wars - The Force Awakens", in 2015, was greatly celebrated by the fans of the saga, however some of them seemed to get sort of astonished at what they saw on the big screen: a 59-year-old actress playing a mature version of the young character that she was best known for. It should sound as something normal, but when it comes to Hollywood and its youth culture, reinforced by mass media, the shocking is inevitable. Princess Leia is no longer a sex symbol. She is now a general and also a regular middle-aged woman whose remarkable struggles can be found in every inch of her body, such as Carrie Fisher herself. 

After "The Force Awakens" premiere, columnist Kyle Smith wrote an article to New York Post criticizing Fisher's looks on screen and her complaints about those saying "she did not age well". According to him, since Fisher was a public figure, she should put up with the judgments on her looks or quit acting, in fact, she must also be grateful to Disney for being forced to lose weight for the role. In sum, Hollywood double standard was nothing but foolish. Fisher, on the other hand, used her Twitter account (@carrieffisher) in order to contest Smith and make several statements about the subject: "youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they are temporary happy biproducts of time and/or DNA", she tweeted.

Female body has always been an enigma to society as it arouses different kinds of issues: object of surveillance, dispute and power. In the movie business, age seems to remain a ruthless value, among others like race and gender, that can define whether you are interesting or profitable enough to the industry. By standing up against Smith's words, Fisher helped to increase the aging debate on the media and extend it to the audiences as well.




I know Carrie Fisher encouraged Daisey Ridley to "fight for her costume" to make sure that she was comfortable in her outfits, and in control of her representation within the franchise. How do you think Carrie (and other women in Hollywood) are helping younger generations (both actress and audiences) gain more control over their image, whether as a sex symbol or as a general, young or aged?

Tanya, I think Princess Leia's character herself is already a great contribution to the women's representation in sci-fi movies. After The Force Awakens premiere and the event I just described in my piece, I feel that Carrie's reaction was very positive to the discussions on ageism, although, as an actress with few opportunities in Hollywood, she could not avoid Disney's pressure under her weight, for instance. She was very outspoken, and that was nice of her, and very opened to discuss how uncomfortable and humiliating, to say the least, was the body shame culture in industry, but ultimately she was never really able to escape from that. For many reasons she had to give in somehow. Even so, both Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia, whether as a sex symbol or a general, gave us the chance to bring this subject to light so that we can rethink the double standard imposed by Hollywood and how it affects our own perceptions and consumption as audience. We can no longer ignore the aging process in pop culture.

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