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Some of Carrie Fisher’s best few minutes – when Aphra Behn meets The Blues Brothers

March 21, 2014


Having to tell my son that Carrie Fisher is dead is one of the worst things I’ve had to do over a Christmas period.  I profoundly resent having to grieve for Carrie Fisher – it feels like a profoundly wrong thing to have to do.

In the meantime, all I can think of to do is remember a few of her best moments.  I don’t know whether Dan Ackroyd or John Landis was the Restoration Theatre fan who decided that a homage to Aphra Behn should define one of the best scenes in The Blues Brothers (1980).

Carrie Fisher’s character is plainly based on Angelica from The Rover (1677).  Of course, Angelica is a very expensive prostitute whereas Carrie Fisher is playing a jilted bride, but otherwise the parallel is pretty exact.


In both Blues Brothers and The Rover, a vengeful woman with a gun denounces the man she loves at gunpoint, declaring that killing him offers not merely interpersonal justice but also a contribution to “the common good”.  In both scenes, the woman fails in her mission to blow the cheating scumbag off the face of a grateful planet allowing the male protagonist to escape.

Carrie Fisher has the advantage of getting Jake to actually crawl in the mud (and worse than mud – the scene takes place in a sewer).  Jake of course begs for mercy while screaming a discontinuous stream of increasingly hysterical and insane excuses for having abandoned her at the altar.  Angelica meanwhile has to deal with a frustratingly calm and collected Willmore who refuses to offer any excuse for his behaviour.

This advantage possessed by Carrie Fisher is overturned by Jake’s final survival strategy which is to remove his sunglasses, exposing his eyes for the only moment in the film.  Direct eye contact and a little eyebrow waggling causes Carrie Fisher to dissolve, enabling the two brothers to initiate the funniest car chase of the late twentieth century.

Angelica, however, is far more resolute and is seemingly intent on actually killing Willmore until she is interrupted.  Carrie Fisher is emotionally disarmed whereas Angelica is physically disarmed.  The dynamics of the scene are in part defined by technical considerations.  The effect range of seventeenth-century firearms meant that Angelica needs to stay very close to Willmore as they walk back and forth with the gun pressed up against his heart.  In addition, the time it takes to reload such a weapon means that she really only has one shot.  If she loses her nerve even for a moment then she’ll never get another chance to blow Willmore away.

Carrie Fisher is possessed of an enormous automatic weapon that seems capable of taking out a whole street with one shot.

Both The Rover and The Blues Brothers offer the spectacle of realising the unworthiness of our object of affection.  Both sets of audiences have been following Willmore and Jake, not Angelica and Carrie Fisher.  Dramaturgically, we wish them to survive if only because we’re aware that there’s a bunch of stuff we’re waiting for them to do.  Carrie Fisher achieves an actual limited triumph over Jake but falls further short of her real purpose.  Angelica achieves very little actual triumph over Willmore but comes much closer to actually pulling the trigger.

Of course, the longer theatrical spectacle of women with guns requires a much longer discussion.  And a fun one.


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