Remembering Carrie Fisher as ‘pretty’ is anti-woman? Seriously?

Our culture—as it so often does—now seems to be wildly overcorrecting.

Carrie Fisher on the set of Star Wars, 1977. Twentieth Century Fox Pictures | Sunset Boulevard | MoviestillsDB.com

Shortly after the death of Carrie Fisher last week, Steve Martin tweeted: “When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher … was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well.”

That complimentary remark caused such a firestorm of protest that Martin eventually felt obliged to take it down.

What on earth happened? Some people made out that it was all about the oversexualization of Fisher’s image through that silly metal bikini from Star Wars. New York magazine opined that Martin’s tweet was a reminder that “Leia is seen as sexy rather than complex.” Except that Martin never said anything remotely like that. He praised Fisher’s outer and inner beauty. But for some, it seems, even that was going too far.

We need to appreciate women for more than just their looks. I stand by that. Yet I don’t like to see the pendulum swing all the way to the other side—to where we’re afraid to notice or mention positive aspects of a woman’s appearance, or even to admit that a woman has an appearance. That’s just as wrong in its own way.

It reminds me of that Audrey Hepburn meme that went viral a year or two ago:

Though well-intentioned, that meme always annoyed me. Not just because it’s untrue—many fans remember more about Hepburn than that—but because it’s such a condescending scold of a meme. “You remember Audrey Hepburn as ‘pretty’! How dare you!”

Well … she WAS pretty. She built a career at least in part on being pretty, modeling fashions as well as acting in them. On my bookshelves—I admit it—are books full of photos of her being pretty, with titles like Audrey Hepburn in Hats and Audrey in Rome and Audrey: The ’50s. Presumably, she posed for those photos because (1) she was good at it and (2) she made a decent living at it and (3) she liked doing it, or at least didn’t mind it. Do we scold her for it, or can we just acknowledge that, yes, her appearance was part of her, along with all those other good things?

Yes, women being relentlessly judged on the basis of looks alone is a significant problem. But our culture—as it so often does—now seems to be wildly overcorrecting. We’ve created a sort of Gnosticism where the body must be put down, marginalized, ignored, and only the inward part of us matters. But this ultimately is a rebellion against the God who gave us souls, minds, and bodies, who made outer and inner beauty alike.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars, 1977. Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. | MoviestillsDB

Carrie Fisher struggled with Hollywood pressure to be pretty, but I venture to guess she would have found no fault with a simple, heartfelt compliment. It’s no honor to her memory to ignore the outer appearance that was part of who she was.

Gina Dalfonzo
Gina Dalfonzo
Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog, and is working on a book about faith and singleness. She lives in northern Virginia.

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