People around the world are saddened because of what a unique and vibrant personality she had in real life. She overcame addiction and mental illness to endure as one of Hollywood's most endearing and funny celebrities.
However, it's undeniable that the significant impact she had was due to her character in the Star Wars movies, Leia. This role model for generations of women is one of the most iconic female characters of all-time.
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Thanks to the newest Star Wars trilogy, starting with "Episode VII: The Force Awakens," her portrayal of Leia has undergone many transformations over 40 years. It is an amazing testament to the vision of George Lucas and to Carrie Fisher's abilities as an actress. I made the montage above to show how she and her role of Leia has transformed over time.
The character of Leia started out as a baby, in the prequel Episode III- the daughter of Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker & queen/senator Padme Amidala. After Anakin's fall to the Dark Side, Leia was secretly adopted by Bail Organa, of the royal family of the planet Alderaan. She was a princess and the youngest Senator in The Galactic Republic. This is how we see her in the original Star Wars movie, now called "Episode IV: A New Hope".
As Emperor Palpatine grew in power and replaced 'The Republic' with 'The Empire', young Leia was part of the Rebel Alliance to oppose the tyranny of this oppressive regime. After The Senate was dissolved and her home planet destroyed, she continued to be a leader of the Rebellion throughout the original trilogy.
After finally defeating the Empire & discovering that Luke Skywalker was her brother in "Return of the Jedi," Leia married Han Solo and they had a child. Years later, Imperial remnants would form The First Order. Leia became a general of The Resistance, a military effort to counter this danger that The New Republic's beauracracy was not willing to face head-on.
This was Leia's role in the most recent movie "Episode VII: The Force Awakens" where Carrie Fisher and other original cast members reprised their classic roles. Luckily, she was part of the filming for Episode VIII, which has been completed already. We will have to see where her character arc ends up now that she is gone.
The reason I gave this short rehash of the story behind Leia is to show the tremendous depth of the character she played over the past few decades. She was a princess, a senator, a soldier, a general, and a leader. Far from just being a pretty "damsel in distress," Leia was a woman of strength, wit, intelligence, courage, and conviction in her ideals. Fisher's acting brought out all these traits and qualities, to form an unforgettable presence that will live on in cinema history and in the minds of all those who love these movies.
She showed women (& men) what it meant to be independent, courageous, and to not take crap from anyone, even Darth Vader himself!
Although she will be missed, Carrie Fisher was able to touch countless people from all walks of life. Her life and work will be appreciated and celebrated indefinitely, and she was a positive role model for people of all ages. It was a life of consequence that anyone would be proud to have led. She is One with "The Force" now, and her legacy will continue into far the future.