— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) December 29, 2016
The sudden and unexpected death of Carrie Fisher “our Princess” as her “Star Wars” co-star Mark Hamill managed to tweet out in a haze of grief, followed by the death the day after of her mother Debbie Reynolds (Hollywood’s princess from the Golden age) seemed to be 2016’s way of topping itself by purging the 20th century once and for all of its primary cultural icons.
I wish I could include the 2016 list here. But I know I’d forget somebody. Plus we have less than 2 days left. Even the annual “New York Times” magazine special, “The Lives They Lived” was far from complete. The award shows will have to do a separate in memoriam special to cover the 2016 list. So, so many.
People have said 2016 has been a sh*tty year bringing a collective anguish over the deaths of cultural icons, larger than life figures, and 20th century game changers. With social media, the 21st century can make you believe you’re a member of anyone’s immediate family in shared grief. And this doesn’t include regular people in Chicago — 750 shooting deaths in 2016, 4,300 shootings, 11 killed and 50 wounded on Christmas Day.
Then there was the presidential election. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss (popular vote win, but the math doesn’t work that way) to a celebrity business icon Donald Trump was for the majority of voters another 9/11 moment. I heard some people literally threw up election night. Another sudden and unexpected death when for weeks the polls were saying a Clinton win was at least in “stable condition”. The irony here is this blog began with Clinton’s 2008 bid to be the Democratic nominee over Barack Obama. This blogger just happened to be in the room when she released her delegates in Denver.
While 2016 wanted to pull us out from the cultural grip of the 20th century, politically it’s trying to drag us back to the mindset the cultural icons, larger than lifers, and game changers of that century pulled and broke away from. Some would argue that’s what the results of the presidential election was about as well. But add the word “again” to your slogan and there is no forward. There is no “now”. There is only grief for what was perceived as “better days.”
Politically, the 2016 death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro was an official end of the 20th century as many knew it through the lens of the Cold War. Though today’s Russia feud has some of those same sensibilities, the larger then life figures just aren’t there as they were. The 21st century will have its own style of barking, shoe throwing and shoe pounding.
How sh*tty was it really? Or is it time to up the game on substance vs. hype and fakery? To have a vision and get busy creating in the haze of grief and hopelessness.
Carrie Fisher was an example of this. I always admired her honesty and openness about her demons and even embracing the iconic Princess Leia whom she couldn’t shake even after appearances in iconic films like “When Harry Met Sally.” I was one of the grieving fans who bought her recent memoir “The Princess Diarist” Kindle version (the hardback is sold out on Amazon). Though the big news was her on-set affair with “Star Wars” co-star Harrison Ford/Han Solo (Tell me something I don’t know), she opens her story with “it was 1976…” an overview of what was happening in the world the year she became Princess Leia on the soundstage. I’ve copied a portion of the chapter here.
And this was the upbeat stuff of 1976. Throw in the U.S. Bicentennial for good measure.
2016 can be summed up like most years: the bitter with the sweet.