A Galaxy of Things The Power of Puppets and Masks in Star Wars and Beyond
A Galaxy of Things explores the ways in which all puppets, masks, makeup-prosthetic figures are "material characters," using iconic Star Wars characters like Yoda and R2-D2 to illustrate what makes them so compelling.
As an epic franchise, Star Wars has been defined by creatures, droids, and masked figures since the original 1977 movie. Author Colette Searls, a theatre director and expert in puppetry studies, uncovers how non-humans like Chewbacca, semi-humans like Darth Maul, and even concealed humans like Boba Fett tell meaningful stories that conventional human characters cannot. Searls defines three powers that puppets, masked figures, and other material characters wield—distance, distillation, and duality—and analyzes Star Wars’ most iconic robots and aliens to demonstrate how they work across nearly a half-century of live-action films. Yoda and "Baby Yoda"—two of popular culture’s greatest puppets—use these qualities to transform their human companions. Similarly, Darth Vader’s mask functions as a performing object driving mystery and suspense across three film trilogies. The power of material characters has also been wielded in problematic ways, such as stereotypes in the representation of service droids and controversial creatures like Jar Jar Binks. Bringing readers forward into the first Star Wars live-action streaming series, the book also explores how the early 2020s stories centered material characters in particularly meaningful, often redemptive ways.
A Galaxy of Things is an accessible guide to puppets, masks, and other material characters for students and scholars of theatre, film, puppetry, and popular culture studies. It also offers useful perspectives on non-human representation for researchers in object-oriented ontology, posthumanism, ethnic studies, and material culture.
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