Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Carrie Fisher: Hollywood In-Breeding and the Velocity of Being

Photo by Dylan DeLoach | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Dylan DeLoach | CC BY 2.0

There was always going to be a good deal of thick drama around Carrie Fisher, by her own confession, a product of Hollywood in-breeding.  Her parents, Debbie Reynolds and the crooner Eddie Fisher, provided ample material for the gossip columns in a marriage breakup after Eddie sped away with Elizabeth Taylor.  This was the background of an “unfilmable Dynasty”, one featuring “blue-blooded white trash”, mother’s milk for American curiosity.

At 15, Fisher, having dropped out of high school, was already working alongside Reynolds in the 1973 Broadway revival of Irene as a chorus girl.  Then came her movie debut in Shampoo.  There were to be busy years ahead, sharpened by training obtained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama.

While some had a habit of stepping into the limelight, Fisher was conceived in it.  “Early on, people used to ask me, ‘What’s it like to be Debbie Reynolds’ daughter?’ And I would say, ‘You mean compared to when I wasn’t?”[1]

That limelight, beamed out by the vicious factory of show business, was not always kind.  It was rough, its nastiness having “beat up” her mother, as she explained to the New York Times in 2006. “I had a front-and-centre view of how that hurt her. I understood that when they were done with you, they were done.”

Few other single cinematic events have sealed the recognition of one actor.  With Star Wars (1977), which was merely episode four (subsequently titled with some bombast Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) of the Lucas bonanza, Fisher was dissolved in the blaze of white and parted hair, touched off with bun spirals.   There was only Princess Leia Organa, member of the Imperial senate, leader of Alderaan, and, of course, resistance leader.

Efforts have been made to see in Star Wars an inter-galactic Homeric gravitas hovering over the exploits of recent Western civilization. That is the sort of overview that deserves generous mocking, and Fisher happy to do so.  The first film was merely meant to be a “cool little off-the-radar movie directed by a bearded guy from Modesto.  A thing like that wasn’t going to make people want to play with a doll of you, was it?”[2]

Her opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, when she hosted it in 1978, is filled with biting self-deprecation. There are stabs at the Star Wars lingo.  She is suitably attired.  The wheels of showbiz do turn at various speeds, but they do to the tunes of muddling fiction. Star Wars, for all its cultural clout over the years, remains the space variant of High Noon.

What of George Lucas himself? “George is a sadist,” Fisher proclaimed before an audience gathered for the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.  “But like any abused child wearing a metal bikini, chained to a giant slug about to die, I keep coming back for more.”[3]

Unlike other Hollywood figures trapped at the surface, Fisher had several strings to her extensive bow.  For one, she could write with penetrating self-examination.  The semi-autobiographical Postcards From the Edge (1987) sold well, and the theme was familiar – struggling thespian, overdose, and the restoration efforts.  Her memoir, Wishful Drinking (2008), had most things (manic depression, drug abuse, the death of a good friend from an overdose on painkillers beside her) other than drinking, but was a suitably wicked account she converted to a successful stage act.

Fisher may well have been the figure of sickly adoration and sexual mystification for nerd central, but she was also high priestess of the confession, notably on drug addiction.  “It’s very good,” she told Esquire, “to get through them while you’re young, and then talk about how great or bad they were for the rest of your life.”

The psychological self-portrait would also be disturbed.  She saw herself as a clinical combine, both doctor and patient, “but a lot of the times the doctor isn’t in.  I operate at such a level that sometimes it feels dangerous.”

As with anyone worth their salt in recounting the drug experience, from Thomas De Quincey to William S. Burroughs, coherence in the moment, identifying the slide to the precipice as it is happening, is seminal.  “People think that I’m on drugs because of this velocity of being.  And at the same time it is slow enough for me to be aware of it.  Like when I just said ‘velocity of being’, I liked the sound of it.”[4]

With that velocity of being, she also managed to carve out a field of advocacy which shed her cinematic skin, probing the taboos of mental health, notably in an environment indifferent and remorseless to the casualties of the mind.  While the Daily Mail proved with characteristic life-imitating-art idiocy that this was always difficult (“Princess Leia dead at 60” went its headline), others preferred the Fisher of mental health activism.

Even there, she could be witty with the very idea that she had been named Bipolar Woman of the Year.  After suffering a manic episode in 2013, one which found its way to social media, that new grinder of reputations and souls, she was ready with the response.  “My medication had a little problem with itself.  It’s a balance, and I went out of balance in public.”[5]  Sharp to the last.

 

Notes.

[1] http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a51869/carrie-fisher-may-1985/

[2] http://qz.com/873113/carrie-fisher-the-novelist-and-memoirist-also-was-an-unsung-genius-script-doctor/

[3] http://www.theverge.com/2016/12/27/14092556/carrie-fisher-george-lucas-criticism-video-star-wars

[4] http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a51869/carrie-fisher-may-1985/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/culture/commentisfree/2016/dec/28/carrie-fisher-bipolar-dies-mental-illness-princess-leia

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail