Carrie Fisher

It’s a cliché to say of any actress that “you feel like you could be friends with her”. Usually, that feeling of accessibility is formulated as carefully as Coke: add two parts recipe- and lifestyle-focused magazine articles to one part romantic comedy lead role, season with one public heartbreak or klutzy episode on a red carpet, and boom. Instant celebrity friend. Jennifer Aniston is the ultimate celebrity friend; more recently, Jennifer Lawrence has taken her crown. Others have tried and failed: Anne Hathaway by being annoyingly perfect, and Reese Witherspoon by revealing herself to be a drunk-driving, tantrum-throwing terror. There are a lot of ways to fail at being America’s celebrity friend.

But Carrie Fisher succeeded where others failed, precisely because she went about it completely wrong: by going publicly crazy. By talking about her crazy, by owning it, by picking an unpopular and misunderstood therapy and then talking about that. By owning her family drama and talking about that. By owning her drug addiction, and then talking about that, too. In general, America does not like women who talk too much about themselves (other topics, such as holiday recipe traditions, are fine). But Carrie Fisher never stopped talking about herself—she wrote several books on the topic, and a one-woman play, and as she got older she talked about that, too. She was un-shut-uppable on the topic of her personal truth: what it was like to get electroshock therapy, what it was like to get collagen, what it was like to be manic depressive, what it was like to fall in love with Harrison Ford when she was nineteen and he was married. (When she told him she was planning to talk about that, he said, “Lawyer.” She talked about it anyway.)

Carrie Fisher owned her entire life, and thus got out ahead of everyone else who could have wished to own her. Which (given that she was the privately cherished first love of an entire generation of straight men and quite a few women) was a lot of people. Even Jabba the Hutt wanted to own her, and he was a gigantic slug. But Carrie Fisher was her own person, a real human being, flawed and aging and fragile in all the ways celebrity best friends aren’t supposed to be. Which made her more than our cocktail buddy, more than our shopping pal, more than our confidante. It made her royalty.

Long live the Princess.

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POEM LXIV: “TILDA SWINTON”

For a while in 1995,
you could visit the Serpentine Gallery in London and view
Tilda Swinton asleep in a box.

The installation was such a success they did it again
in Rome
and recently a third time
in New York City.

They never publicize it. Never print a schedule. You just show up,
expecting a nice afternoon of prints and photographs,
and she’s there,
asleep in a box, paralytically still,
her alien features smooth and cool and closed as a stone.

A stone, but still
you get the unsettling feeling that it’s
she who’s watching you
not the other way round.

The installation only really works if it’s Swinton;
if it were Lindsay Lohan or Dennis Rodman or Madonna,
people would come, and stare,
and speculate on the hair! The eyebrows! The subtle chinlift!

But they wouldn’t think.
Tilda Swinton makes you think,
the way a very large and beautiful snake,
draped artfully across your shower rod,
blocking all escape from your tub and blinking at you yellowly,
might make you think.

POEM LVI: “LINDSAY LOHAN”

In the old days,
St. Theresa, or Lida, or Lilith
played this role.

Vessel for pity and scorn,
an object both of lust and derision,
a goat with its back dripping red.

We used to have sculptures
and now we have reality TV.
The dynamic is precisely the same.

Observe her trembling lips,
her overflowing eyes,
her exposed breasts.
(Theresa’s were cut off,
and Lindsay’s grew overnight.
We stare all the same.)

I’m told Jesus once cast a demon out of a woman;
the demon needed somewhere to live
so it went into a herd of swine
who threw themselves off a cliff
because what was in them, was bigger than them.

So it is with Lindsay.

She is bigger than herself now
a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float of her
pulling her down a street lined with eyes,
pulling her with tethers and hooks,
pulling her towards that cliff.

Watch her go.