An Open Letter of Apology to Carrie Fisher

Dear Ms. Fisher:

I feel I owe you an apology. And while I say this speaking strictly for myself, I suspect there is a wider swath of men who might feel the way I do.

You recently came under attack by social media trolls who criticized you for — gasp! — having the temerity to look older since the last time you appeared in a “Star Wars” movie.

The shaming you were subjected to came after your appearances as General Leia Organa in “The Force Awakens.”

Some of the comments, which I read on Twitter, were vitriolic. I was stunned at how base some people were.

But then again, I should have known better: That’s because I’m guilty of contributing to this kind of mentality.

There’s a generation of us men who grew up unenlightened about women. In our childhood and adolescence, we knew Hollywood actresses only to be young and pretty.

I’m thinking here of an age of “Charlie’s Angels” or “Wonder Woman,” for example.

I suppose Hollywood has always placed a premium on youth and good looks, with the scales unfairly tilted against actresses.

My wife and I have had this discussion numerous times, with her pointing out that beyond a certain age, the opportunities for an actress shrink as her perceived value (read good looks) fades.

For a long time I argued – in a Pollyannaish way – that was not the case. I realize, of course, that is very much the reality and that guys like me have contributed to that ethos.

It is a culture that the comedian Amy Schumer so perfectly skewed in a sketch on her show that parodied “Twelve Angry Men.” The all-male jury’s deliberations focused on whether Schumer was “hot enough” to have her own show.

While the sketch was brilliantly subversive and spot-on hilarious, it also exposed an uncomfortable truth:

Terms like “objectify” are not part of the cultural vocabulary of many men when it comes to women. Instead, we use descriptions like “hot,” “cute,” “babe” or worse.

I’ve been a fan of yours since “Star Wars” came out in 1977 and, yes, as an 18-year-old when “Return of the Jedi” was released, lusted after you when you appeared in that bikini outfit.

But that’s a long time ago and it’s belatedly clear to me that women in general and particularly in Hollywood are held to a different set of standards that are linked almost exclusively to their appearances.

Your response to the social media trolls struck a nerve with me:

“Please stop debating about whether or not [I] aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”

Those comments were an epiphany.

I sensed a genuine hurt beneath the layer of sarcasm. Also, there’s something about the fact that I grew up with you, my admiration for your forthright public battle with mental illness and addictions and the head-on way you addressed the trolls that spoke to me.

On screen, you’ve played a princess and a general and in real life you are a mother, daughter, author and actress.

To me, though, you’re smart and brave.

Thank you for that.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Mele

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