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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mystery of the Mask

Sure, everyone likes the helmet.
But a musical Boba Fett, sporting his
giant orange tuning fork?
Somehow, that look never caught on.

Jeremy Bullock had been acting for twenty-five years when he was offered the part of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.  But Sci-Fi resonates with people more that other forms of entertainment.  His older son (who was eleven in 1981, when the interview for Starlog Magazine Issue 50 was written) might say, “I like that play you were in,” but both boys kept a photo of Boba Fett close to hand when his father toured the country in a production of Hamlet.

After the movie’s release, Jeremy Bulloch received masses of fan letters.  Young boys might write something like, “Gee, we like you, you’re awesome,” while girls and young women found him alluring.  One woman asked if the voice Lucasfilm used was his real voice.  (It wasn’t).  In her letter, she added, “Mind you, if it isn’t your voice, I won’t stop loving you.”  Some asked him what Boba Fett would do in the next movie, and if his character represented “the other hope” that Yoda had spoken of.

Up to this point, Bullock had appeared in two James Bond movies.  Of his role on The Spy Who Loved Me, he told the interviewer (with a smile): “They put these charges under me, and I get ripped apart after twenty minutes—the story of my life.”  He played more memorable roles in two Doctor Who stories.  After the Doctor and his companions escape the warriors from Richard the Lionheart’s court in “The Crusade,” the Tardis lands in “The Space Museum.”  Bulloch says of his role, “I was the leader of a race of children. We had this swept back hair, pointed ears and sort of funny eyebrows on top of our foreheads.”  (Obviously, he wasn't wowed by the Black & White show's special effects budget).  Later, he returned to the TV show (this time in color) to play Hal, an archer who helps the third Doctor defeat a Sontaran in “The Time Warrior.”  Despite acting in a popular Sci-Fi show, he didn't get much attention from those roles, as he never went on to play a continuing character, and the BBC rarely repeated Doctor Who stories.  (Nor did most viewers have the means to record a TV show in the 1960s and '70s).  So it wasn't until the 1980s, when he donned Boba Fett’s costume, that the fan letters overloaded his mailbox.  Viewers suddenly begged him for photographs, or old articles of clothing.  Or even just a snippet off one of his ties.

I once spoke with a plumber who claimed he could instantly assess anyone he met.  When he visited a customer, he said that he could accurately guess how much the person would be willing to pay for his services.  As it happened, I was speaking with him at a yard sale, and he offered me insights on a woman browsing the sale tables.  I don’t know if he was correct in his assertions about the woman, but at the time he was living rent-free in a condominium owned by his father.  So even if he was pulling my leg about his ability to read strangers, he obviously knew how to get around his dad.

Nevertheless, masks and costumes are powerful tools that we use in real life.  We may not wear an actual mask, but we adapt our facial expressions, dialogue, and clothing in relation to the people we are with.  We have learned what others expect from us, and we either act in accordance with their expectations, or in defiance of them.  Such masks shield the truth from others, and hence repress true growth, but we use them because life has taught us that they are necessary.  Like actors, we play the roles assigned to us, because others have stereotyped us based upon their expectations and desires, as well as our previous performances. 

Of course, it would be nice if we could interact with everyone without hiding behind a mask, or portraying the persona we’ve decided to show the world.  But that way lays danger, and unlike Boba Fett, most of us don’t carry blasters.

Dragon Dave

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