24 March 2017

Carrie Fisher: Shockaholic

Carrie Fisher died while I was on vacation in Florida and honestly,
before it was announced that she was in critical condition, I'm not sure I could have told you who she was. I'm a '91 baby sooooo the original Star Wars isn't exactly on my radar. I always get super depressed when celebrities die, perhaps this is normal, perhaps not. I went right away to a used bookstore looking for one of her books and they only had a small selection (with prices marked up of course). I picked Shockaholic over the fiction option but I was completely unfamiliar with the book beforehand. Yes, another celebrity memoir for my collection. 

I didn't know what to expect reading this because like I said, I knew practically nothing about Fisher. Here are the highlights if you're in my boat:
  • She was an actress, activist and author who passed away this year at only 60 years old
  • She was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, both also actors
  • She played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies
Shockaholic was only just written in 2011 so I like to think it's a pretty good reflection on her life save the last 5 years. It starts off as any other celebrity memoir, in essay format, discussing her battles with addiction, her career struggles, etc. but it really settles into focusing on her parents. This book barely discusses parenting or her love life with the exception of one anecdote about a date with a politician. I found these things a bit bizarre but she does have a number of other books and maybe they discuss those areas more. 

Is this not the most adorable family photo you've ever seen in your life? (Fisher, her brother, and her parents.)
Her dad was fairly estranged from her and her brother growing up but she writes a lot about how they developed a good relationship in her adult years. What I found most interesting about this whole memoir was her obsession with Elizabeth Taylor. Even as she wrote this book at age 55, she was clearly still so obsessed with the woman who 'stole' her dad away from her mom. I've never been in a scenario like this but I just know this would be my obsession as well. 

You never really see your parents as humans, just as parents. When we're cheated on we're obsessed with the new girl. Who is she? Do people think she's prettier? Is her job better than mine? Does she like cooler music than me? ESPECIALLY when it's Elizabeth Taylor, a woman widely regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses to have lived. Now imagine your strong, holds-the-family-together mother having these types of thoughts about another woman... it seems so insane and unnatural to me and it would be all I could think about until I died as well. I think it's such an interesting topic but I'll stop rambling. 

Fisher and Taylor
There's also a really great essay on Michael Jackson, somebody I never knew I'd be interested in reading about. Fisher and Jackson were friends and the essay comes to his defense which I find incredibly refreshing. She makes the point that his liking socializing with children wasn't actually weird when you consider that mentally he was a child. He was born into stardom and never had a typical childhood. I'm not saying I condone any of his actions and I barely know enough about it to judge, I just feel like it was about time one of his friends or family members proposed an explanation. I respect how she was close with him and refused to defy him or let her notions that he was a good person fade over time. 

Michael was famous long before he could even dimly understand what being an adult meant. He was probably 'someone' to other people long before he knew who he was to himself... Who were his peers? Who could he relate to? Who would not have to pretend not to be weirded out by his radioactive celebrity?"

She tells a great story about her dentist, who was also Jackson's dentist. He spends an entire dental cleaning bragging to her about how his young son was invited to the Neverland Ranch, and even goes so far as to call his own son "hot". He also turned out to be the dentist who sued Jackson for molesting his kid. 

Bizarrely, she also talks a lot about how we'll remember her when she dies and it was quite sad to have read this so soon after her death. Fisher had a lot of problems with addiction and used to regularly get electric shock therapy to help her with it (hence the title of the book). 

And, what did it matter? [Princess Leia] is who I was. Maybe not to myself, but then I won't be consulted on that future day when my death is reported and a picture of Princess Leia will appear on television with two dates under my absurdly bewigged face."

Sad right? Similarly:

What you'll have of me after I journey to that great Death Star in the sky is an extremely accomplished daughter, a few books, and a picture of a stern-looking girl wearing some kind of metal bikini lounging on a giant drooling squid, behind a newscaster informing you of the passing of Princess Leia after a long battle with her head."

I also love to read her anecdotes of how they all used to drop acid casually as like a 'hang out' drug. I imagine it like the way we all smoke pot now, your friends would just come over and you'd drop acid. What a time that must have been.

The book is a more mature and dry type of funny than most of the other celebrity memoirs I've read. I think it's a combination of age and life experience. I am not exactly sure I'd recommend it if you're just looking to learn more about her like I was because as I said, it does focus heavily on her parents. It was very easy to read, I actually read the whole thing in the bathtub (a fact I'm strangely excited to tell people when I mention the book). 

As a sad fact for those of you who have been living under a rock, Fisher's mom actually died just days after she did. It is kind of heartwarming to read Fisher talk about her mom and to understand their relationship better knowing how closely they died. I wouldn't jump to read any of her other books, not because it wasn't good, I just don't have the interest, but I am glad I read this one so I don't feel culturally out of the loop anymore. 

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