Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds: An Appreciation

It’s been more than a week since the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and it has been about two months since I’ve written a post (more on that in another piece).  But that shouldn’t stop me from mourning the lost of two ladies that have had a huge impact on me as I grew up.

Fisher was known to many as their Princess Leia, but, to me, she was the warning sign of meeting your idols.  Her Rosemary Howard in 30 Rock’s episode “Rosemary’s Baby” from season two is my Princess Leia.  In the 30 Rock universe, Rosemary is well-regarded as the first female writer for Laugh-In, a show that Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) regularly watched as a kid.  What starts as a case of typical awkwardness when meeting your hero, turns into a opportunity when Liz invites Rosemary to be a guest writer on her variety show, TGS with Tracy Jordan, which then ends with Liz realizing that Rosemary is a has-been living in a terrible neighborhood in Queens and constantly believing that she can still break the boundaries of television with a 1970s (and often inappropriate) viewpoint.

Tina Fey (left to right) and Carrie Fisher in 30 Rock episode “Rosemary’s Baby” (2007)

Some personal history behind this: 30 Rock debuted when I was a freshman in high school.  While my peers were watching Jersey Shore and Gossip Girl, I was watching 30 Rock because I was love with Tina Fey’s writing, starting in 2004 when I saw Mean Girls and continuing into Fey’s final year on Saturday Night Live as head writer and cast member.  30 Rock was everything that the writer inside of me needed.  It had a woman as head writer of a variety show dealing with mid-2000 mansplaining, awful boyfriends, and a constant need to stuff your face with food.  Any kind of food.  (Diets don’t exist apparently.)  Liz Lemon was flawed and was always striving for making it through another week.  She was the perfect protagonist for the girl who wanted high school to be over and move on with her life.

But the thing about “Rosemary’s Baby” is that the episode is rooted in the “never meet your idols because you will be disappointed” theory.  It made me think, “Is this what is going to happen when I meet my idol?  Is Tina Fey like this?  As much as these writers are geniuses, I would not want to meet them because it will be a dream-killer rather than a wish fulfilled.”  Like I said, it’s nothing new, but that idea has haunted me for eternity, to the point where I don’t want to meet any of my heroes because of what they could be in real life.  Talk about a nail in the coffin.

Reynolds, on the other hand, has had many memorable roles in musicals such as The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952).  I was exposed to the later as a kid.  It was bright, colorful, full of songs, almost like a Disney movie without the animation.  She radiated like any Disney Princess.  Needless to say, Singin’ in the Rain became the DVD on repeat when I was seven years old.  But I never knew how much more Reynolds was part of my childhood.  She was the titular character in Charlotte’s Web (1973), singing “salutations,” and inspiring children and Wilbur the pig to live life to the fullest.  Even Julia Roberts in the remake couldn’t reach that level of maternity and softness that the character brings to the classic E.B. White tale.  And then there is her role in the Halloweentown movies on Disney Channel.  That wasn’t a franchise that I particularly watched, but I know many people my age have loved this movie and its sequels from when they were kids up to now.  It must hurt that their beloved movie grandma is dead, so I feel in their pain, just from different movies that she was in.

Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelley in a promotional photo for Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

So yes, the double deaths of Fisher and Reynolds has been tough on me.  In Fisher’s case, it was not so much Star Wars but one episode of a television series I revere still to this day.  Reynolds was in my childhood as that musical ingenue that many other knew her as as well.  Even with them finally laid at rest, and their HBO documentary finally debuted, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that they are gone.  It is going to be a long time before the dust settles down and things feel normal.

Finally, I know that Billie Lourd, Fisher’s daughter, is around my age, just started her career, and her major role to date has been in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens (cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t count), but she needs absolute respect and privacy during this difficult time.

Author: Samantha Felmus

Samantha Felmus is a writer with a cinematic vision. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in film from Sarah Lawrence College and a MFA in writing and producing for television from Long Island University - Brooklyn, specifically the TV Writer's Studio Program. In her downtime, she likes to cook and watch all the random things available on Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. She currently resides in New York City.

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