Star Wars Skin!

Try as we might, even we at the non-profit medico-moviegoing-educational entity known as skinema could not resist jumping on the megalithic hype-wagon known as "Star Wars." It is important to note that we do not benefit from ticket sales or action figures. Instead we raise a series of questions not addressed by the multitude of fan websites. The answers may arise in the series' six episodes or perhaps long ago and far, far away. And no, we do not know the origins of Yoda's green skin, pointy ears, or why he sounds like "Fozzy Bear" of the "Muppet Show."

 This is an image of the main villain from Episode I, The Phantom Menace. His name is Darth Maul, and if you are not yet sick of him--you will be! Director George Lucas has cleverly combined two cultural images of evil: the Christian image of Satan and the Japanese Kabuki image of a demon. What does this have to do with skinema? Take a gander at those devilish horns. It turns out that humans can grow horns too. Termed "cutaneous horn," (skin horn), these lesions are made of hard protein called keratin.


 Usually horns are solitary growths, so leave it to Lucas to overdo with a character with several. Horns develop from a variety of tumor-like growths, including warts, keratoses (benign growths) and even a form of non-melanoma skin cancer called squamous cell skin cancer. Aside from the obvious aesthetic concerns, horns should be removed and biopsied to determine their source. Unless you are evil incarnate. By the way, given the number of action figurines of this character that are selling, they should have named him "Darth Mall."
Darth Vader



 Darth Vader (Star Wars: The New Hope)...

Unmasked! (Return of the Jedi)
Like Coke Classic, it is hard to compare with the original Darth, Darth Vader. In the cinematic tradition of the Phantom of the Opera, Vader remains the quintessential scarred villain. He is concealed by his mask in The New Hope, and shown to be scarred from behind in The Empire Strikes Back. By the end of The Return of the Jedi, Vader's scars are fully seen as his character becomes more sympathetic. We look forward to the scenes that show the cause of his scarring presumably linked to his turning to malevolence.
The evil Emperor Darth Sidious
This practitioner of the darkside of the force shows sun damage rather than scars. Deep furrows and superficial wrinkles mimic those caused by the sun, not just time alone. The yellow hue of sun damaged skin results from abnormal elastic fibers. Does the dark side emulate the effect of getting a deep tan on the planet Tatooine? Or perhaps in a futuristic tanning bed in a early version of the death star?


 Hamill's boyish looks before...
...and (long) after the accident.
Actor Mark Hamill's greatest success and biggest failure are both associated with the SW series. He was unknown when cast as the determined jedi-to-be Luke Skywalker. "The New Hope" provided him untold fame. But late in the shoot (or after?), fate struck back as well. In a horrendous car accident, Hamill's face was shattered. As the fable goes, plastic surgeons used images from the films to reconstruct his features. Rumor has it that Hamill's fight with the Wampa in "The Empire Strikes Back," was added to explain his scarring. Hamill's good health returned, but his career never recovered.
Wampa the Ice Creature
Speaking of the Wampa, this snow dwelling monster is notable not just for the screen credit for Luke's scarring. He also represents a variant of a common trend in malicious movie creatures. Many evil characters have a combination of albinism and hair loss (what we at call albinopecia). In contrast, the Wampa has a combo of albinism and excessive hair (hypertrichosis). Clearly modeled after the mythic Yeti (abominable snowman) of the Himalayas, the Wampa begs the question: Which is more cruel: hairy or hairless albinism? If you are captured, hung upside down, and are being prepared to be the next Wampa entree--you be the judge!
Harrison Ford scar
We mention Ford's chin scar mainly for the sake of completeness. Unlike Hamill's scarring, no explanation was invented for the scar appearing on Han Solo's chin. Explanations were given for the scar for Ford's characters in "Working Girl," and "Indiana Jones." I guess Lucas wasn't feeling very creative when he wrote "The New Hope..."



 Big "Dee"

 Little "Dee"s
Film star and malt liquor salesman Billy Dee Williams was tapped to portray Jedi ally Lando Calrissian in "The Empire Strikes Back." We feel he should be known for a third characteristic: his facial bumps. Commonly seen on aging men and women of African descent, they are especially prevalent on black movie actors. Fortunately, these lesions are not dangerous and can be treated. They are known as dermatosis papulosa nigricans, DPN's for short. Or in Williams' case, call them "Dee" PN's.
Peer closely at this fuzzy image of Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala from "Episode I." Along with her snazzy pistol, Ms. Portman sports a distinctive facial lesion. We realize that no Star Wars ingenue can compare to Princess Leia (the intergalactic bikini! The fruit danish hairstyle!). But Portman has something Leia never had: the ever-popular beauty mark.
Speaking of facial moles Young Obi Wan Kenobi sure is ke-moley. This brings up a continuity issue. Actor Ewan McGregor portrays the Jedi knight as a young man, who is later played by Sir Alec Guinness. McGregor has many facial moles. Usually moles grow large, flesh-colored and protuberant over time. Protruding so-called dermal moles can bulge out like the horns on Darth Maul's head. Yet no such bulging moles are seen on Sir Alec Guinness' face as the elder Obi Wan. Did our Jedi hero use the force to cause them to disappear? Did future prequel character Darth Dermatologo remove them with a light-scalpel? Perhaps the next movies will reveal all. Or maybe we at skinema are the only ones who think about these things...
Jar Jar Binks
While on the subject of facial lesions take a gander at alien comic relief Jar Jar Binks. It turns out his Jamaican accent is not his only human affectation. He also has prominent white bumps on his upper lip. These resemble lesions seen on the faces of humans called milia. Not to be confused with white heads, these small cysts are not filled with pus and usually do not come to a head. They are composed of a material called keratin which normally flakes off the skin. Trapped under a closed pore, the keratin collects. Non-cancerous, milia can be safely drained by a dermatologist. Sterile surgical instruments are recommended, with or without the Force.
Finally, no SW analysis is complete without some mention of amusing sidekick Chewbacca. Though it is normal for Wookies to have large amounts of flowing locks, humans prefer to have such bountiful tresses only on their scalps. The medical name for Chewie's look is hypertrichosis, excess hair over the face and body. Hirsutism refers to women with extra hair in a "male" pattern: beard, chest, back. For those with normal amounts of hair in places that they prefer not to have it (shoulders and backs for men, underarms, face and legs for women) several forms of hair removal are available. Shaving, waxing, and electrolysis are old standbys. Laser hair removal has the potential benefits of less discomfort and the possibility of permanent hair reduction. Many people don't mind their hair. Like Chewbacca, we gladly say: "May the Fur Be with You."
Need more SW skin? Try examples from Episode 2...

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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