Thursday, December 29, 2016

Actually, Steve Martin's tribute to his friend Carrie Fisher was absolutely perfect

I never found the “Slave Leia” outfit arousing. This despite the fact I was about nine or so when that particular Star Wars movie was released, and I suppose that all heterosexual boys who liked SF were supposed to fantasize about it. I didn’t. This is mostly because I never found Carrie Fisher to be particularly attractive.

Just not really my type. Not only that, I never particularly liked the Star Wars movies as entertainments. To me, they were most effective as extended commercials for the toys, which I collected and, more importantly, played with.

I loved those toys. I can’t remember if there was a “Slave Leia” Kenner action figure. That I would have been interested in, probably.

Anyway, the Slave Leia outfit apparently made a big impression on a lot of boys my age. Who are men now. I know that it’s a popular look— I’ve been to enough conventions to see the cosplayers.

Does the fact that I never particularly cared for the Slave Leia outfit make a feminist? Or is my potential feminist status mitigated by the fact that I never found Carrie Fisher all that attractive anyway? If Lynda Carter had played Princess Leia, this might be a whole different post.

What if I said, “Carrie Fisher was physically unattractive, but she was a decent actress and writer?” Is that problematic?

The Slave Leia outfit has been perpetrated by a lot of women, many of them allegedly feminists. Olivia Munn and Amy Schumer, for instance.

Here we see Amy Schumer and Olivia Munn perpetuating the objectification of Princess Leia, a piece of Intellectual Property portrayed on screen by Carrie Fisher.

I say “allegedly” because the Slave Leia outfit is apparently horribly problematic and even triggering. A writer at New York Magazine was sent into PTSD conniptions by Steve Martin’s touching tribute to his friend Carrie Fisher, and a “think” piece ensued.

You’ll notice that Mr. Martin only says that he found Carrie Fisher— a real live human being that he actually personally knew— attractive. He didn’t mention the Slave Leia outfit at all. This writer simply jumped on the tweet and went to her own private little hell. (How they got through the entire piece without using the word “cisheteronormative” is beyond me.) Immediately after posting Mr. Martin’s tweet, the writer says this:

But that characterization of Leia — as a wet dream for prepubescent men — is something Fisher spoke out against her whole career. She addressed Leia’s role as a sex object in a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone. “Let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies,” she said. “So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”

What’s that got to do with Mr. Martin’s own personal reflections on the death of his friend, who was a real live person? She wasn’t something to be objectified as nothing more than a feminist symbol, as the writer of this piece is attempting to make her.

Ms. Fisher was a funny, complicated human being with an extremely let’s say earthy sense of humor. As Penn Jillette said on an episode of his “Penn’s Sunday School” podcast (sorry I can't find the exact episode; I've listened to so many!), she collected horribly sexualized, vulgar, depraved, and pornographic portrayals of Princess Leia, and often forwarded them to her friends. What would the New York Mag writer have made of that?

In the final paragraph, the writer instructs the reader on the acceptable ways of remembering Ms. Fisher:

So remember Fisher for her immense talent, her outspoken feminism, and her moving commentary on mental health — not for the way she looked onscreen.

Why can’t people remember an actor for the way they looked onscreen? That’s how I remember Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Lon Chaney, John Wayne, etc. As for Ms. Fisher’s “outspoken feminism”— well, Mr. Jillette met Ms. Fisher at an awards ceremony for pornography. How would the New York Mag writer feel about this feminist icon validating pornography by appearing at such an event?

Remember Carrie Fisher the way you want to remember her, and don’t let any judgmental bullying hack tell you differently. Especially if you were her friend, as Steve Martin was.

Carrie Fisher was a lot more interesting than Princess Leia. But you should remember her however you want.

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