As always, dear readers, welcome.
The title may seem a little mysterious, being the French word for “duck”.
In English, it has a secondary meaning, something like “baseless story/ rumor”, with a supposed explanation about an old French anecdote about “selling half a duck”. Of course, the minute I asked myself “Why a duck?” an entire Marx brothers routine appeared. It’s from their 1929 film, The Cocoanuts
and, in it, Groucho (called “Mr Hammer” here) is trying to explain a map to Chico and, as always when the two hold what appears to be a dialogue, they often seem to be doing so from different dimensions—
“Hammer: (pause) … Now, here is a little peninsula, and, uh, here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: Why a duck?
Hammer: I’m alright, how are you? I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.
Chico: Alright, why a duck?
Hammer: (pause) I’m not playing “Ask Me Another,” I say that’s a viaduct.
Chico: Alright! Why a duck? Why that…why a duck? Why a no chicken?
Hammer: Well, I don’t know why a no chicken; I’m a stranger here myself. All I know is that it’s a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you’ll find out why a duck.
Chico: When I go someplace I just…
Hammer: (interrupts) It’s…It’s deep water, that’s why a duck. It’s deep water.
Chico: That’s why a duck…
Hammer: Look…look, suppose you were out horseback riding and you came to that stream and you wanted to ford over…You couldn’t make it, it’s too deep!
Chico: Well, why do you want with a Ford if you gotta horse?
Hammer: Well, I’m sorry the matter ever came up. All I know is that it’s a viaduct.
Chico: Now look, alright, I catch ona why a horse, why a chicken, why a this, why a that…I no catch ona why a duck.
Hammer: I was only fooling…I was only fooling. They’re gonna build a tunnel there in the morning. Now is that clear to you?
Chico: Yes, everything excepta why a duck.”
(You can see most of this silliness here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHMrLpDHXc0 )
But—not to duck the subject—“duck” came up because I had, in my last, mentioned Ben Solo in his persona as “Kylo Ren”,
and his mask has always struck me as looking like a duck.
His master, Snoke,
has actually mocked it and ordered him to take it off, which Ben does, and then begins violently attacking it, as if he had just discovered that it looked like a duck.
It’s clear that Ben has a thing about masks, having somehow (it’s never explained how) rescued his grandfather, Darth Vader’s, helmet and turned it into a shrine of evil,
seeming either to ignore or not to know that his grandfather had died just after turning away from the Dark Side through his extermination of Emperor Palpatine (or not, as we find out in 9).
(I must also admit to being a bit puzzled as to how that helmet has remained, since Vader/Anakin, had been cremated in it and I can’t see why his body would have been disposed of in that way if his armor would survive.)
I’m presuming that the goal of the writers in choosing this variation on Vader/Anakin’s wardrobe meant to imply both that Ben considered himself in some way a padawan of his grandfather, as well as suggesting that, by his costume, he was the equivalent of a kind of anti-jedi.
Vader’s helmet, however,
along with his armor,
was, in fact, a kind of prosthetic device, allowing him to function more or less normally after the horrible wounds he had suffered in his defeat by Obi Wan on Mustafar.
Of course, there was also a deal of menace involved, part of it, I would say, coming from that helmet, with its dead eyes and lower face grill, suggesting predatory teeth,
and the bowl, suggestive of the more threatening samurai helmets, which we know influenced the design.
(For more on the design, see Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, which has a discussion of the costume’s development, along with a series of images of concept and details.)
So why a duck?
Considering that Ben Solo has a shrine to a grandfather who was his very opposite at the end of his life, and that he’s wearing a mask which even his master thinks is dumb, perhaps we can redefine canard slightly, not as a “baseless story” told to someone else, but as one which Ben persists in telling himself, only to realize, at the very end of his life that the only person he’s been deceiving is himself.
Thanks, as ever, for reading,
When in doubt, duck,
And know that, as always, there will be
For an inspiring music video about ducks, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp8hhBGNFZM