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Baby's got buns.

Mardi Gras 2010

I am sad that Carrie Fisher died. I was a kid in the 70’s and was 8 when my whole family went to the FANCY movie theater at NIGHT to see Star Wars in 1977. I know many of you remember almost everything about the first time you saw Star Wars. My dad hated science fiction and never, ever went to movies with my mom, sister and me. He read books. My mom too, had zero interest in science fiction, but a chance for the four of us to do something as a family was rare. Me and Lisa?  We HAD to see it.

Was that girl's hair so long she could wrap it into those cinnamon buns on the sides of her head?  We had get a closer look.

Being a kid in the 70's meant we were children during the women’s movement. As Gen-X daughters of Traditionalist mothers we had a front row seat to the conflict of being both a feminist and feminine.  As such, we were pretty shorthanded on role models that made sense. There weren’t many young women with which we could identify and look up to. We were girls and wanted to be pretty when we grew up.  We were savvy and wanted our fair share of life. We were too young for Gloria Steinem. We had Ginger, Mary Ann and Mrs. Howell after school. Saturday morning cartoons gave us Isis, but only for a few seasons. Did any of these gals get you pumped up to take on the world?

  • Laura Ingalls – Puh-lease. We watched Little House for Michael Landon.  
  • Wonder Woman – I think we’d agree that the target audience was not female, eh?
  • Bionic Woman? She was never as cool as The Six Million Dollar Man.  We also had to wait until our mid-twenties for Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers to hook up in a 1994 TV special.
  • Charlie’s Angels – Kelly, Sabrina and Jill were waaaayyyyy out of our league (don’t think our adolescent flat as a board minds weren’t aware it was Jiggle T.V.) until Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz killed it in 2000.
  • Charlie perfume, by Revlon for a young, working “new woman” endowed with ridiculously long legs jaunting across the crosswalks of New York in pantsuits? I can’t even.  I grew in Iowa.  I am 5’1”.
  • Enjoli perfume transformed the mouthwatering aroma of frying bacon into a seductress anthem.  Buying the bacon as well as frying the bacon helped us keep our man satisfied. I guess perfume marketers hadn’t yet learned that the best way to keep that man satisfied is when She Comes First.

Princess Leia was my generation’s Super Her-o.  I was in awe of Princess Leia. She was a smart ass and bossy. Hell, she was the boss. I loved that she was tiny but looked 50 feet tall. Princess Leia was a bad-ass woman and our perfect role model.

I loved how she talked smack to Darth Vader, wasn’t afraid of Chewy and blasted Storm Troopers like a bitch.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia let us girls play war games with the boys. Damn, they needed us.  And we were Royalty. Superior. In Charge. Obeyed.

And the men?  I couldn’t decide who I liked more; Luke Skywalker or Han Solo but she didn’t want either of them! WHAAA? She used them! Abused them! Spit ‘em out all the while leading a rebellion and guarding the Death Star plans with her life. I must admit though, I was thankful she didn’t end up with either of them until the next film or two. My eight year old brain believed, once grown up, I still had a shot at them. 

And the buns. They were AMAZING. I had no idea that that wasn't her real hair. I knew nothing about hair except I wanted mine long enough to MAKE THOSE BUNS!

George Lucas told Time Magazine that the early 20th century Mexican Revolution’s soldaderas or Adelitas - women in the military participating on all levels of power – was the inspiration for The Buns.  Quite appropriate considering Lucas didn’t want his Leia anything like fairy tale princesses.

In a 1977 BBC Interview the then 19 year old Carrie Fisher talks about George Lucas' intentions for the character:

BBC Interviewer:      Carrie, you play in this film what I might describe as a damsel in distress.  A very unusual one, you seemed to be a very liberated, outspoken damsel.   Is that actually what appealed to you about the part?
Carrie Fisher:            Well, what it was, what appealed to me that what George Lucas, who wrote it and also directed it didn’t want a damsel in distress, didn’t want your stereotypical princess, you know, sort of a victim, frightened, incapable to handle a situation without the guys. So, he wanted a fighter, he wanted someone who was independent. That’s what appealed to be about that part.

 

There is only one problem with Lucas' claim. Female Mexican revolutionaries didn't wear The Buns.

What.Ever.

But still, historical costume expert Kendra Van Cleave adds another layer to the significance of the iconic buns to women’s rights. She told the BBC the “most obvious” inspiration is the “squash blossom” hairstyle worn by the unmarried women of the Hopi Indian tribe in Arizona. In the early twentieth century, photography was enlightening the world to unfamiliar foreign cultures. The “ethnic” looping side knots were appealing to progressive, bohemian women who used their fashion choices to emulate the feminist rejection of the ideal female stereotype.

"Of course, the 1920's was an era when women in the Western hemisphere were shaking up traditional gender roles - American women got the vote in 1920, and were attending college and taking on professional employment in unprecedented numbers,” explains Van Cleave.

Carrie Fisher was, of course, much more than the fictional character Princess Leia - and The Buns - have come to symbolize the actress, author and outspoken mental health advocate.

Fisher took it in stride, telling Time Out in 2014: "I am Leia and Leia is me. We've overlapped each other because my life has been so cartoony or superhero-like. By this age, it would be ridiculous if I had a problem with it."