Picking Up Our Fallen HeroesRachael Berkey

I saw a great letter online the other day that Carrie Fisher wrote to her iconic character, Princess Leia. Her message itself is a little sad, a little poignant, and snarkily funny. Much of the tone is of a “It’s called aging” variety but it struck a cord in me regardless. Obviously, her letter was to a past role that has made her an icon rather than a letter to a fallen hero but some of the same ideas were the same to me, and it got me thinking. .

What does it take to lose faith in your heroes? Is it the moment you realize your parents have been lying to you about Santa? Is it the moment a writer kills off a beloved character? Is it the scene where a filmmaker takes a sequel (or prequel) so undeniably off-canon that you are tempted to go RiffTrax on them just because?

I have lost faith in almost every hero at some point or another.

There was Alanna, the kick-ass heroine of Tamora Pierce’s YA series, who switched places with her twin brother and became a lady knight. Faith died when I realized that there comes a point in boob size where no amount of binding is going to contain them. I would never be a lady night because my genetic make up said, “you will have curves whether you like it or not,” and there was no shutting her up. Obviously, this is a problem not every girl has, but it was the definitive moment of giving up on the dream for me.

There was the moment I groaned aloud when Padme died right after Luke and Leia were born. How does Leia remember her “beautiful, sad” mother, George? HUH? I get that there are aspects of the Star Wars universe that I may not know about. It is a voluminous world built in books, film and TV. I can’t know everything. But this is kind of a big deal. If the mother Leia remembers is not her biological mother, I should be told so. But whatever. That is a different argument for me to have with myself and the universe at a different time.

At some point, we have to forgive our fallen heroes and move on with our lives. What? Were Mom and Dad not going to tell us about Santa? That doesn’t work. Seriously. Ask Julie Sweeney.

It’s not Alanna’s fault that she can pull off the “I’ll cut my hair, bind my breasts, and be kick-ass, and no one will think I’m a girl for years” look. It’s really not. Also, I read those books in the 90s. There was no way I was going to be a lady knight with a telepathic cat and a loyal horse and a bevy of hot, powerful, heart-of-gold men at my beck and call anyways. It was the 90s. I’m lucky I escaped Beverly Hills 90210 fashion and love mistakes.

And George Lucas wasn’t out to get me with his rewriting of what I considered Star Wars cannon. I mean, yes, I’m going to spend the rest of my life hunting down digital versions of the original trilogy because Hayden Christensen DOES NOT belong at the end of Return of the Jedi, but what else can I do? Of all the VHS tapes my parents unearthed from our storage space this year, Return of the Jedi was not one of them. And I don’t have a VCR anymore anyways.

Star Wars is a universe that Lucas created, and he can do with it what he wants even if it drives me completely batty.

But I will judge him and his artistic decisions forever. Don’t even get me started on the inserted scenes with Jabba the Hut and such.

That said, we have to forgive our heroes at some point. No one can be all the things to one person. It just is too much to expect. No book can be perfect. No character enough. No song will illustrate perfectly the feelings of our hearts. We must keep reading, viewing and listening so we can have more and more ways to connect with others, even when we feel like no one gets us.

Image via Shutterstock

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  1. I’ve heard that Princess Leia was adopted by a woman who couldn’t get children of her own. That’s why she was sad, she wanted to have children but couldn’t. But you’re right: we should have been told that (if it’s true) somehow in the movies.