The end of 2016 was a particularly difficult few weeks for nostalgia driven pop culture fans. Alan Thicke of Growing Pains fame passed away on December 13, George Michael on Christmas day, even on New Years Eve, William Christopher who played Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H failed to survive 2016. It seemed like the waning days of the year continued to give fans one gut punch after another but the hardest blow came on December 27 when Carrie Fisher died four days after going into cardiac arrest on a flight. It seemed unthinkable that only days after a new Star Wars film was released that an integral piece of the story’s fabric would be extinguished.
Like most fans, I was introduced to Carrie Fisher through her most iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy. However she also appeared in another one of my all time favorite films; the cult classic 1980 hit The Blues Brothers. It’s always difficult news to absorb when a childhood icon passes away, but for millions around the globe the news of Carrie Fisher’s death carried even more weight since she played such an important part in our childhood development.
Up until this point my only mention on this site of Princess Leia has been through the infamous 1995 Power of the Force figure known as “Monkey Face Leia” which was clearly inaccurate as it resembled Susan B. Anthony far more than Carrie Fisher. I certainly do not want that abomination to be her lasting legacy on my website so I’ve decided to tell a brief story regarding a different Princess Leia figure.
It was January of 2002 and I was at home watching the NFL playoffs. Despite living in St. Louis I had always primarily been a Green Bay Packers fan as I began following the team before the Rams had relocated to our city. That day the Packers were playing against the Rams in the playoffs, and the Rams were heavy favorites. Despite this I had made sure to brazenly wear Packers apparel to school all five days that week leading up to the duel. When game day came the Packers weren’t just getting beaten, they were getting smoked. The final score was eventually St. Louis 45, Green Pay 17 but I couldn’t stick around to the final gun. Upset and knowing that I faced quite a bit of ridicule the next day I decided I needed to leave the house to clear my head.
To get my mind off of the beating the Packers had just received I decided to drive to a local Wal*Mart in search of Star Wars figures. Just a few weeks prior Hasbro had released some deluxe figures in their Power of the Jedi line that I hadn’t found yet, and I decided that this would be an excellent time to toy hunt since most of the local population would be in their homes celebrating a Rams victory. Much to my surprise Wal*Mart had freshly stocked all four of the deluxe figures which I eagerly snapped up. Among the assortment was an upgrade of Leia as Jabba’s slave which came packaged with a very large sail barge cannon and fabric accents to her costume.
Although the accessories were cool the biggest selling point of the figure was that it was actually a good likeness of Carrie Fisher dressed as Slave Leia. Hasbro had continued to refine their designs as the years went on and by the turn of the millennium they had finally begun to produce toys that actually resembled the actors they were based on. The fan-sites in those early days of the internet were in a frenzy over this figure. For me personally it helped ease the needless frustration that pro sports had given me.
It was also cool to have a competently produced figural representation of Carrie Fisher in arguably her most symbolic outfit from Star Wars. True the flowing white gown and cinnamon bun hairdo of the 1977 film has been referenced countless times through the years but the metal bikini from 1983’s Return of the Jedi has gained a notoriety and following all it’s own. Although one might say that Carrie Fisher is best known for her iconic appearance in the 1977 movie, I suggest that her Slave Leia outfit is just as iconic and this was an excellent representation of 1983 Carrie Fisher.
As for the actress herself, fans around the world will be fortunate to see her appear in a Star Wars film one final time in 2017 as her scenes for Star Wars Episode VIII had already been shot. How Disney will handle her character afterwards is still a mystery but I am convinced that Princess Leia will be handled with dignity and grace in a loving tribute to her fans. The force will be with you…. always.