December 31, 2016

Connecting to Characters or, (Sh!t, Carrie Fisher Died)

As a teacher, I am always striving to help my students connect to characters. I have so many memories from childhood of curling up with books and diving into a different world. Suspension of disbelief came easily to me. It translated to film as well.

Princess Leia was the first character that I truly connected to. She was smart, strong, and sassy. I wanted to be her. I had hair long enough to not only make those iconic Princess Buns, but I could pull off the Ewok Village Headband Braid as well. 

Connections in childhood remain as we grow older. And, as we learn who the characters are played by, that connection transfers to the actual person. I never watched When Harry Met Sally and didn't think of Princess Leia, but I grew to appreciate Carrie Fisher's talent and impact on the entertainment industry.

Celebrity deaths are nothing new. But as I've grown older the impact has changed significantly. At four years old, I didn't understand why my mother was crying over Elvis Presley dying. But I get it now.

The loss of childhood connections can be an adjustment. Losing Roald Dahl in 1990 wasn't as tough for me. Although we lost an amazing writer, my connections to him remained safely secured in the books he had written. Richard Harris' death wasn't as difficult either because I had grown to love Dumbledore in the books first. My connection to Dumbledore was through J.K. Rowling; not Richard Harris.

For me, it's not grief insomuch that I knew Carrie Fisher and I will miss her personal connection to me. But, I do feel the loss of a piece of my childhood. A sadness that settles when you realize that Princess Leia is gone forever. No one will ever be able to replace her. She was the first Leia I knew and the connection is now gone.

Conversely, was I heart-broken when Kylo Ren put his lightsaber through Han Solo? Of course! But it wasn't the same level of grief because I knew Harrison Ford was still alive. Odd, but true...

Be still my Geeky Heart!
Lately, my connections to literature and film have begun to merge. The geeks out there know what the rest of us geeks want. My favorite Christmas gift this year was a hoodie my hubby bought me. Nothing beats a mash-up of Star Wars and Harry Potter!

I am not sure how my students will respond to Carrie Fisher's death when I get back in the classroom. For many of them, I imagine it's a small blip on their screen and won't be mentioned at all. But it will linger with me for quite a while. 

As the New Year begins, I will continue to encourage those character connections; keep guiding students to delve into their novels and find that character that speaks to them in a way no other character can. Hopefully, they will leave my classroom with at least one character that they will mourn the loss of later in life. But it does beg the question: Are characters in novels "safer" than those on the screen? Either way, there is no denying the deep-rooted connection I have to Leia and many other characters still "out there". Connecting to characters is an ever-evolving gift that I endure to share with my students.

I do have Episode VIII to look forward to next year. It will certainly have a much more meaningful impact knowing that it was the last time Fisher played Leia in real life. And, I have very strong feelings about what should be done with Episode IX (all Star Wars geeks do).

RIP Carrie Fisher, you will be missed.