Carrie Fisher, who endured questions about a single costume from a single scene in a long career for over 30 years, had no qualms about making it clear that she hated that goddamned metal bikini you all got your rocks off to as horny teenage boys. Fisher died Tuesday at age 60 after suffering a heart attack over the weekend.
Fisher transcended her Hollywood career—impressive for a woman who spent the first part of her career in the shadow of her mother, Debbie Reynolds—by being an honest, seemingly accessible celebrity in the age of overprotection for the famous.
She penned eight books, including the semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From The Edge, which was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep as Fisher’s character. (Imagine Meryl Streep playing you in a film while you’re still alive!) That honesty carried on right until her death with the November 2016 release of The Princess Diarist, for which Fisher turned to the diaries she kept while filming Star Wars, and spilled the dirt for us on her affair with Harrison Ford.
All the while, she was real and honest about her former drug addiction and her struggles with bipolar disorder, making jokes through what was clearly a lot of pain. She shouldn’t have had to mask her struggles in flippancy—and she didn’t always do that—but she made her problems accessible, and in doing that, she made ours less scary.
During the press tours for The Princess Diarist and for her return to Star Wars in last year’s The Force Awakens, Fisher was inevitably asked about the legacy of the metal bikini she wore in Return of the Jedi. Not only was she gracious about the predictable line of questioning, she returned to it with a fresh perspective that led many of the women in my life to do a mental fist-pump.
Before The Force Awakens was released, some parents were upset about figurines and likenesses of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia wearing the metal bikini. Fisher was asked about this controversy in this interview with the Wall Street Journal:
There’s been some debate recently about whether there should be no more merchandise with you in the “Return of the Jedi” bikini.
I think that’s stupid.
To stop making the merchandise?
The father who flipped out about it, “What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?” Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.
(In that interview she was also asked about the weird things she hears from Star Wars fans: “Oh come on, that’s endless. It’s: ‘I thought about you every day, from when I was 12 to 22.’ Every day? ‘Well, four times a day.’”)
In an interview last month with NPR, Fisher made it clear that she turned her disdain for the bikini and the whole sex slave scene in general into inspiration for her killing of Jabba The Hutt:
When we first rehearsed it, [Han and Luke] are brought in front of Jabba. They talk to Jabba, Jabba talks to Harrison and Mark, and then they’re led off. They never say, “Hey, how are you?” So as they were being led off, I said, in the rehearsal, “Don’t worry about me! I’ll be fine! Seriously!” which I thought they should’ve kept in there.
It was like, “Where am I in all of this?” ... I have to stay with the slug with the big tongue! Nearly naked, which is not a style choice for me. ... It wasn’t my choice. When George showed me the outfit, I thought he was kidding and it made me very nervous. I had to sit very straight because I couldn’t have lines on my sides, like little creases. No creases were allowed, so I had to sit very, very rigid straight.
What redeems it is I get to kill him, which was so enjoyable. ... I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed him with. I really relished that because I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn’t wait to kill him.
Understandably, Fisher was pretty damn into her opportunity to kill Jabba:
And in this very good interview with Daisy Ridley before The Force Awakens came out, Fisher did her part as Ridley’s Star Wars predecessor, and pushed Ridley to push against any campaigns to turn her into another sex symbol:
FISHER: Well, you should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was.
RIDLEY: All right, I’ll fight.
FISHER: You keep fighting against that slave outfit.
That damn metal bikini will be at the center of many remembrances of Carrie Fisher today and after. She did us all a favor and embraced her Star Wars fame for the rest of her life instead of rejecting it, and us. But what I hope and believe Fisher knew upon her death was that the girls and women who watched the original trilogy knew her as more than some space slug’s sex slave. To us she was a female character we could dress up as for Halloween, or whenever. We could play Star Wars with our male friends and know we had a place, and an empowered one, among them. The metal bikini was for them, not for us.