Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars films, is on Twitter as @TheWookieeRoars. He runs a fun and engaging stream for fans, posting historic behind-the-scenes photos from Star Wars production and other fun imagery. But when he posted a photo of an “awesome” standing cat wearing a Chewbacca bandoleer I had to point it out — the accessory was added on to the original image much later.
— brownpau (@brownpau) January 12, 2014
He didn’t take kindly to this and actually replied back — which, snippy response aside, is a real credit to the high level of Mayhew’s engagement with fans and critics alike.
— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) January 12, 2014
Of course as a longtime internet pedant I can’t agree: lots of people don’t care about original authorship, and they build whole moneymaking websites around passing off images with modifications and without credit, to the original creator’s detriment. Whether a pasted-in bandoleer makes the image more awesome is up for debate but sometimes you you do have to be the bearer of bad news and speak truth to power — or in this case, “Photoshop” to Wookiee.
Further replies to the tweet have only pointed out how willing people are to defend the Photoshopped work over the original. It’s really not a big deal — I felt a bit bad being the guy to point it out to a [literal] giant like Mayhew — but there’s a wider Barthes-ian message here about the inherently postmodern nature of internet culture as an authorless environment in which the dialectic between creation, modification, and originality renders those concepts increasingly amorphous and meaningless in a sea of 4chans and 9GAGs. As for me, I try to credit original photographers where possible. (Can’t find the original photographer for Mewbacca, though; just the Reddit thread which popularized the image.)
Mayhew is also the subject of Standing in the Stars, a crowdfunded documentary about his time with — and since — Star Wars. Mayhew has giantism, which, while it gave him the physical stature to portray Chewbacca in the films, has also limited his mobility and caused him pain. Proceeds from the Kickstarter go to his and his family’s aid as he undergoes surgery to help him walk unassisted.
Also check out Mayhew’s book, Growing Up Giant, an autobiographical graphic novel.