When I read R.J. Palacio’s Wonder about ten years ago, I was struck by Auggie Pullman’s choice to dress as Boba Fest for Halloween. If you’re a kid like Auggie, you could choose any character to be, preferably one that covers your face like that astronaut helmet, because you’re self-conscious about how you look, and people are not always kind.
August is the sun and everyone else is a planet revolving around him. If you can overcome the world you can overcome the universe. In all the universe, why does this boy choose Boba Fett? Because he wears a mask, and his face is never revealed. Darth Vader—even his face is revealed, and it is quite unpleasant. When we unmask him he is weak, emasculated. But Boba Fett—we are not given the privilege of seeing his face (at least until 2020). He is untouchable. Fett is a rogue, and yet all the Star Wars fandom universe shifts from Luke Skywalker to him, a minor character. It is Fett who fetches a high price at toy auctions, Fett who all the kids want to be for Halloween.
August is the sun, and everyone else is a planet revolving around him. Without the sun, planets are not held in their solar systems. The interaction of the solar nebula and the solar wind shapes planets in a solar system. Each planet is a unique result of distance from the sun, solar nebula particles and solar wind. Planets in a system act on each other as they form, affecting each other in many ways, including gravitational pull. In another solar system, around another sun, with a different environment, different planets would form. Each one is a unique combination of interaction with parent, siblings and universe.
Each interaction we have with others is a unique moment in the universe. Once it has passed, it is gone forever. What do we do with those moments? How can we create meaningful moments as the universe is created and destroyed around us millions of times every day?
My universe was created and destroyed when I went to camp, like a lamb to the slaughter. I wish I had the mystique of a faceless man encased in armor, invulnerable. Instead I wore glasses and an orthodontic night brace. I felt like Plo Koon, or Vader after his mask was removed, a weak and pale monstrosity. Mock me. Punch me. Spit in my face. I write in my journal superficial relays of the day’s activities, not daring to let readers see my pain. The universe was not kind to some of these kids. They are pulled into one another’s orbits. The rest of us are drifting moons, finding one another in a solar hollow.
The counselors feel the shift one night. They flip on the lights and make everyone do pushups. Everyone except me and the drifting moons. I’m smiling as I watch them. It was a necessary kindness, and when I think on that week I feel I took an orbit around the sun, having aged in the light and shadow of its presence. The universe took care of its birds that night.
Now I watch The Mandalorian with my children, and we watch Boba Fett regain his armor. But his face is no longer a fright. It is the face of a brave warrior. The original Boba Fett had almost no lines, almost no presence, but his presence had a gravity to it. A deep lore that we unmasked ever so slowly. He was once a villain, but now everyone wants to be like him. Mandalorians are empowering characters for children, space rocketeers who can hide and be brave at the same time.
This is the way.