My friends and I started driving when George Michael went solo. And while I didn’t officially get my licence until about a year after Faith was released, that album was what we played endlessly in the car, when we cut class to hang out at the mall, when we cruised around with the windows down after school, testing our new independence. That’s what I associate with George Michael: the beginning of my independence. Listen Without Prejudice came out just before my 17th birthday. I was an emotional, rebellious mess that whole year and spent weeks at a time driving around alone at night in my car playing that album on repeat, pretending I was the star of my own movie montage. Looking back it was an indulgent time, obviously. How could I possibly understand the depths from which he wrote Heal The Pain? And still, I know every single word from Praying For Time to Waiting. Those were the songs that helped me figure out how to be comfortable with being by myself. But I remember George Michael for more than that. I remember him for I Want Your Sex, for desiring an Asian woman in that video. I remember being delightfully surprised that George Michael, who could have chosen anyone, was dating a Chinese girl. That might not be the right message, now, to admit to feeling validated by a popstar. But it felt right at the time and, to be honest, it still feels right now. George Michael was also why I had to have bangs and red lips for 6 months.
As Wesley Morris wrote in the New York Times this week, George Michael was “a lot of look”. There were so many looks. And he never apologised for them. Never apologised for all the versions of himself that he was, became, and would be. “A lot of look” was lost this year. As Morris notes in his piece, “Prince, David Bowie, Prince Be of P.M. Dawn, and now (George) Michael — died in 2016, a year in which dismaying ambivalence about aggressive, invasive male behavior was matched by the reinstatement of duller performances of masculinity in both our pop music and our politics. The Princes and the George Michaels seem as radical as ever”. Radical especially now, as toxic male masculinity is about to take over the Oval Office in just 3 weeks.
There is another.
Another unapologetic icon. She too found power in words. Through her words Carrie Fisher challenged the stigma experienced by those struggling with mental health. And she used to her words to defiantly challenge the unfair expectations placed on women – about our choices, about our bodies, about our age. Through it all with a sense of humour. Carrie Fisher had a lot of jobs. For all the jobs she was known for though, my favourite was the one with the lowest profile. Carrie Fisher was one of the best script doctors in the business. She polished scripts. And she worked by improving the work:
Look at all the films Carrie Fisher worked on as a script doctor! pic.twitter.com/AcZ0XpJk9p— ⭐ amy o'connor ⭐ (@amyohconnor) December 27, 2016
Eventually Carrie stopped script doctoring because, as she said:
“I did it for many years, and then younger people came to do it and I started to do new things. It was a long, very lucrative episode of my life. But it's complicated to do that. Now it's all changed, actually. Now in order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix the script. So they can get all the notes from all the different writers, keep the notes and not hire you. That's free work and that's what I always call life-wasting events.”
I love this quote. I love it because she decided to say no. And saying no, especially for women, in any business and most parts of the home, is not easy. I love it also because in saying no to that particular kind of work, she always found new ways to work. Many things will be said about Carrie Fisher now that she’s gone. But what I hope they don’t forget to say is that Carrie Fisher kept working. Carrie Fisher worked so much that she “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra”.
Yours in gossip,