‘Star Wars’ nostalgia should be about more than appearances

This December, millions of “Star Wars” super fans geared up to see the newest installment of the series on the big screen. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a worthy next step to the original films and a fast-paced adventure in its own right, complete with humor, plot twists and the follies of characters both old and new.

However, the big takeaway for many moviegoers was that actress Carrie Fisher apparently hadn’t aged well.

The criticism is rife with sexism, as much less was said in the way of looks about the franchise’s leading men, and ageism, since it’s been almost 40 years since audiences first met Princess (now General) Leia. But even outside of these “isms” we’ve almost come to expect from Hollywood — which is a problem in and of itself — the complaints over Fisher’s looks speak to how fans’ nostalgia for the series and the character can distort the merits of the film and, of course, one of its leading actresses.

By complaining about Fisher’s looks, fans trivialize the tremendous efforts that went into rebooting the series.

It only makes sense that “Star Wars” fans want to re-experience the awe and excitement they first felt all those years ago. But when that nostalgia prevents fans from acknowledging that there’s a talented actress and, more importantly, a human being behind Leia, they do their favorite franchise a disservice. They make 2015’s return to “a galaxy far, far away” more about beauty and youth than Fisher’s work and the cast and crew.

New York Post blogger Kyle Smith suggested that Fisher ought to “quit acting” if she “doesn’t like being judged on her looks.”

Fisher, defending herself and the multitude of fellow actresses likely to be chastised for aging, shot back a stream of snappy Tweets, calling her body little more than a “brain bag” that “hauls [her] around to those places and in front of faces where there’s something to say or see.”

We can only hope that the younger generation develops the same infatuation with Leia as its parents did — maybe not for that notorious gold bikini, but for her wit, wisdom and defense of all those who have ever been belittled for their looks or their audacity to age.

Grace Wehniainen is a freshman majoring in journalism.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Jason Trbovich.