Monday, January 2, 2017

Carrie Fisher, world class beauty

Dear Hannah,

People who say Carrie Fisher should be remembered for her brains all have one thing in common: none of them will be remembered for their brains.  She was beautiful and that's beyond dispute; and she'll be remembered as long as Star Wars is still selling and Slave Leia is warping our sexuality.  What she won't be remembered for is her activism or her attitude.  We could have hired any woman to scold Harrison Ford for a decade -- that's the thing we call marriage.  But the glory of doing it and still having us want her belongs to her face.  And secondly it belongs to that metal bikini.


There are of course several reasons people want us to love her for her brains, and the first of them is that they believe they're being substantial.  Tossing aside a series of "lesser" desires, they want us to focus on the "greater;" and like the patriot who wants us to pay soldiers better than we pay football players, or the pastor who wants us to go wild over worship music more than we do over Led Zeppelin, the feminist believes there's something better to love about people than looks.  In this case she's wrong.  There are seven billion people on the planet and many of them will never get our attention, let alone our affection.  Most of them will be born to the celebrations of a few and struggle in an isolated corner of the globe and die without a hint of our knowledge or interest.  Carrie Fisher won our attention by playing Princess Leia, and Princess Leia won men's affections by being sexually attractive.

Very few of us love her for her activism; and whether or not she helped the bipolar or encouraged some women to be feisty, the most of us didn't benefit by any of her "moral" endeavors.  Had she written a treatise on political economy, or found a cure for cancer, or distinguished herself in battle or even been the wife of the President she would have kept herself in the limelight -- not as Princess Leia, but as a genius, a scholar, a pioneering scientist or a savior of the nation.  What she was to us -- to us, the people with feelings and wants and needs and interests and fantasies of our own -- was Princess Leia, and we're happy to have had her play the role well.  Or at least decently.

We've heard this argument before about many people.  That Audrey Hepburn (whose only good film was My Fair Lady) should have been known for her philanthropy, or that Marilyn Monroe (whose crowning achievement was taking her clothes off) should have been known for her library -- in short, that we ought, like in Beauty and The Beast, to ignore everything on the outside and look at the in-*.  But how many philanthropists and preachers and teachers and warriors and owners of libraries are there already?  And how many of them are overshadowed by the Bill Gateses, the Jim Sinegals, the Winston Churchills, the Bonos, Francis Chans and Mother Theresas?  Our virtues, however admirable we think they are, are mostly destined for obscurity.  We simply have too many of them.  Our talents on the other hand are responsible for making us famous.  Carrie Fisher's talent wasn't actually a talent, and for that we're all taking a beating.  Her beauty was an accident; and because it was an accident, we're told we're a bunch of shallow horndogs.

In all fairness to the feminist, there is in every one of us an instinct to be tyrannical; to decide, without considering how other people feel about it, what's best for them in big things and small.  We can see it as early as Plato's Republic and Plutarch's Life of Pericles.  You can take one look around us and agree that many neighbors are idiots, many more ignorant, most of us living in vain; wasting money on stupid things when we know that people are starving; watching sitcoms when we ought to be reading Macaulay; worshiping the popular girl when the good girl is dying for affection, and ignoring all the nice boys because other boys are better at football.  And the whole of this thing we call life leads us to think that if we could just order our passions -- if we could just for one moment itemize the things we love and schedule them in order of importance, that we would be living in much better world in general.  In short, people would be good if we would love them for their goodness.  But that isn't us.  And we should be happy it never will be.

This idea that we could be better if we would only get rid of the "lesser" desires ignores one gigantic thing: that is that the main purpose of the better desires is to create a world in which we can enjoy the lesser.  John Adams said it best when he stated  I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.  

The key to happiness is that there is no "little" thing.  The enjoyment of beauty in anything isn't shallow, or pointless.  It's what we all need and want and love; and the downplaying of Carrie Fisher's beauty because we want to enjoy her philanthropy is completely missing the point.  Star Wars is what we got because George Washington went to war.  We got The Return of the Jedi because enough of our ancestors read The Federalist.  I don't mean to argue that each of us should spend our time focusing on the little things and ignoring the big.  That would be aiming for too little.  Instead I say we train and polish and worship our virtues so we can have peace -- and we want peace so we can spend our time looking at people like Carrie Fisher.


Your father,
-J

*Jon Stewart, taking this principle of loving women for their virtue to its most ridiculous extreme, was recently found scolding Americans for not appreciating Bruce Jenner for his career as an athlete -- Bruce Jenner, whose sporting ended decades ago in a whimper, and was only in the news because he was trying to look like a woman.  These are the people I deal with daily.  I remind you that Jon Stewart is an entertainer.

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