A Galaxy of Things
The Power of Puppets and Masks in Star Wars and Beyond
- Available for pre-order on June 7, 2023. Item will ship after June 28, 2023
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A Galaxy of Things explores the ways in which all puppets, masks, and makeup-prosthetic figures are "material characters," and uses Star Wars creatures, droids, and helmeted-characters to illustrate what makes the good ones not only compelling, but meaningful.
The book begins with author Colette Searls’ Star Wars thing aesthetic, described through a release-order overview of what creatures, droids and masked characters have brought to 45+ years of live-action Star Wars. Building on theories from the burgeoning field of puppetry and material performance, it sees these "material characters" as a group and describes three specific powers that they share - distance, distillation, and duality - using the ubiquitously recognizable Star Wars characters to illustrate them. The book describes Distance, Distillation, and Duality as material character powers, using characters like C-3PO and Jabba the Hutt to illustrate how all three work to generate meaning. An in-depth exploration of the original Empire Strikes Back Yoda and "Baby" Yoda (Grogu) reveals how these two puppets use those powers to transform their human companions: Luke Skywalker, and then Din Djarin. Searls provides an in-depth analysis of Darth Vader’s mask trajectory across three trilogies (1977 – 2019), revealing its contribution as a "performing thing." Finally, the book presents problematic uses of material character powers by critiquing droids in service, and the historical use of racial stereotypes in characters like Jar Jar Binks, before offering a hopeful analysis of how early 2020s live-action Star Wars began centering the non-, semi-, and concealed human in redemptive ways.
This is an accessible exploration for students and scholars of theatre, film, media studies and popular culture who want to better understand puppets, masks, and makeup-prosthetic characters. Its terms and concepts will be useful to scholarly explorations of non-, semi-, and concealed human portrayals for a range of other fields, including posthumanism, object-oriented ontology, ethnic studies, and material culture.
Table of Contents
1. The Things in the Galaxy 2. Distance, Distillation, and Duality 3. Powerful, Puppetry is: How two Yodas make meaning 4. I Find Your Lack of Face Disturbing: The mask performance of Darth Vader (and friends) 5. Climbing Out of the Sarlacc Pitt: The problematic side of material character powers
Colette Searls is Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), USA. She is an award-winning puppetry artist and stage director and her teaching focuses on acting, directing, and puppetry.