Commentary: Why I Mourn Princess Leia

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In this Oct. 5, 1978 photo, from left, actors Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew take a break from filming the Star Wars television special

So yes, there is Elsa and Ariel and Belle. But if you grew up in the 1970s, like I did, there was really only one princess, and that was Princess Leia.

Leia was badass. She was tiny and fierce and not afraid of anyone. She gave orders. She killed bad guys. And — she cared. She had a mission and she was determined to fill it.

Leia was the princess I wanted to be. Elegant, but not fussy. Loyal to her friends. Happy to fall in love — but it wasn't the central goal of her life. Leia didn't doubt herself, but she'd change her mind if the facts changed.

Princess Leia was not only the hero of her own life — she was the hero of the galaxy.

Carrie Fisher died Tuesday. I met her once and found her tart and funny — she was working pretty hard to distance herself then from the princess she played. And I get that. An actor is not the roles she takes on. No one wants to be pigeonholed.

So I mourn Carrie Fisher, with all her talent and flaws and big personality. But even more, I mourn Princess Leia, feminist icon, who encouraged generations of girls to believe that they could say what they thought and be celebrated for it, that they didn't have to hide their intelligence or strength under a bushel; that they could be sexy AND strong, scared AND sassy; that they could take a stand and never, ever back down.

I mourn the Princess Leia who taught me that you could wear a dress and have awesome hair and yet not simper or flutter or pretend to be less-than. She expanded my idea of what it was to be a girl — to be a woman — in a world where men think nothing of blowing up whole planets to show their power. She showed me that one tiny, fierce person could make a difference.

There is "a great disturbance in the Force," said Obi Wan Kenobi after the destruction of Alderaan. That's how life feels today, after the death of Carrie Fisher. But the rebels continued on — and so will we all, though our princess has died and we are bereft.