A tribute to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, the mother and daughter who changed the galaxy

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Carrie Fisher

If “Star Wars” is about family, then Carrie Fisher’s passing bears additional weight. Her passing is a death in the family and it feels personal because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Leia Organa was. Everyone always says that they grew up with “Star Wars,” but it really is true. From my childhood to today, her presence was a palpable one. For me, Fisher’s portrayal of Leia just was. She was always the galaxy’s greatest leader, a strong female character when my toddler self didn’t know what constituted such a thing. She just was. So when I rethink what Leia represents, the character Fisher beautifully brought to life, it really is mind-bogglingly incredible.

Carrie Fisher embodied the greatest warrior-politician of any star system. The Empire never stood a chance, not with a fleet of X-wings at Leia’s beck and call. Though Leia was a Skywalker, we never got to see her wield a lightsaber onscreen. But that’s because she never needed one: Her sass was just as incisive.

In fact, Leia was the most capable character in the Original Trilogy. Everyone loves Han, but he nearly abandoned the Alliance in “A New Hope.” Luke is cool, but he came this close to joining the Dark Side in “Return of the Jedi.” Leia was a force for good at every turn, even after the fall of the Empire. You can’t see it through their helmets, but I can guarantee that every stormtrooper that crossed Leia’s path was terrified of her, the fearless Princess of Alderaan. “Behold my affinity for E-11 blaster rifles, and tremble! Witness my cinnamon buns and quake!” she seems to say. In the end, no character compares with someone whose nickname is “Huttslayer.”

At the start of “The Force Awakens,” Max Von Sydow’s character isn’t quite used to General Leia’s new role as leader of the Resistance. “Oh, the General? To me, she’s royalty,” he says. General or royalty, princess or Huttslayer, Carrie Fisher will be remembered as many things. She brought down an empire, but also the stigma around mental illness. Fisher owned her bipolar disorder; “Bring it on,” she would say in regard to the disorder, in true warrior-princess fashion. She was a brilliant writer too, the surgeon general of script doctors, who was sworn to making “the women smarter and the love scenes better.” The “Star Wars” prequels, “Lethal Weapon 3,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Hook” have her to thank. Film in general, and “Star Wars” as we know it today, owes a great debt to Fisher for paving the way for great female characters. We owe Rey and Jyn Erso to her.

Hell, we owe the galaxy to her.

— Harrison Tunggal

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds was a shining light on both the bright stage of Hollywood and the bright stage of the world. In her breakout role as Kathy Selden in the all-time classic “Singin’ in the Rain,” Reynolds blew the world away with a vulnerable, powerful and terrifically fun performance that has inspired women for decades. That film defined the genre and, thus, Reynolds helped to do so. In an industry filled with gross sexism to this day, Reynolds stood incredible ground next to the actor-singer-dancer giant of Gene Kelly. It’s hard not to feel stunned, absolutely joyous and as though she steals the scene in the performance of the classic song “Good Morning.” Her vibrant smile and immense dancing talent continue to light up hearts across the world.

Her career was extensive. On top of that role, she was nominated for an Oscar in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” voiced Charlotte in the animated classic “Charlotte’s Web,” led her own comedy TV show and kept acting until as recently as four years ago.

But Reynolds’ life is not contained to simply her acting career. Many don’t know that she was a prominent film historian and preservationist, collecting and showcasing an array of film memorabilia and prints. Many also don’t know of her business ventures. Expanding her light of fun in the world, she owned a dance studio and a casino. To cap it all off, she was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award just this past year.

Through and through, Reynolds was an inspiration. Many looked to her as a woman who persevered and succeeded, as a woman who young girls across the country could look up to, as a woman with hilarious wit and unmatched style.

But perhaps one of the most touching sides of Reynolds was her as a mother. Throughout Reynold’s life, her relationship with Carrie Fisher was unbelievably vibrant, captured beautifully in the upcoming documentary “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.” One can only tear up at the beautiful picture of Carrie looking on at her performing mother. Together, their wit and personalities were absolute forces to be reckoned with. They are a mother and daughter who genuinely changed the galaxy, a mother and daughter who represent the truest of loves.

— Kyle Kizu

Contact Harrison Tunggal at [email protected].
Kyle Kizu is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @kyle_kizu.