Dec. 19, 2016

Memento Mori: Ewoks Don’t Suck, We’re Just Dying

Ewoks Star Wars Return of the Jedi Defense Blog

From Julius Caesar’s butthole to Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, insecurity lashes out at greatness.

Julius Caesar’s b-hole was the butt of jokes.

Following five somewhat-simultaneous triumphs, Rome celebrated like a championship, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Caesar galloped through the city, his city, via chariot. He hadn’t reinvented the calendar yet, but he had squashed an orgy of enemies and earned eternal greatness that would extend through the invention of microwave ovens.

The Roman army had marched miles and miles for months and months in service to Caesar, and now they serenaded their leader with a chorus of gay jokes. The loyal legions chanted barbs about the rumored relationship between Caesar and the king of Bithynia to ward away delusions of grandeur. Roman decorum demanded it.

Yeah, Ancient Rome wasn’t all that different from 4chan. It was death obsessed like teenagers, too. That’s why the soldiers sung about homosexual sexual relations. Something about eating dirt and decomposing someday. Even though the date of Caesar’s assassination would provide the title for a decent George Clooney and Ryan Gosling movie, what mattered was his mortality.

•••

The Blogspot archives are littered with Return of the Jedi slander. It’s the most controversial Star Wars film because A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are so roundly adored, and the prequels are so roundly disliked. That consensus raises the stakes for discussion surrounding Jedi, and it receives a disproportionate amount of ridicule. The Ewoks are the misfortunate mascots for this selective criticism that ignores the campy aspects of other Star Wars films.

On July 29, 2002, forum-goer “ferelwookie” channeled the most fundamental of this criticism, ignoring the nonsensical grammatical conventions of American English for punctuating air quotes along the way.

“So, it seems the only real way to defend Ewoks in here is to say ‘they’re cute’. That’s not much of a defense. I bet the chicks in the Manson family thought ol’ Chuck Manson was ‘cute’.”

The Charles Manson analogy is flawed, chiefly, because according to girlsaskguys.com, only 31% of girls consider Manson a “sexy boi,” while the remaining 69% say he’s “not my type.” But the essence of ferelwookie’s argument – that Ewoks were shamelessly designed to prey on soft-spots – is a refrain that reverberates 14 years after his post into the void and 33 years after Jedi debuted.

It all started a little bit more than 33 years ago (because Jedi debuted 33 years ago and this was before Jedi debuted). George Lucas was cooking up the conclusion to Star Wars and, if you believe the fanboys, merchandising was on his mind. So, Lucas takes one look at the piece of shit script featuring a planet of Wookiees and wipes his ass with it. The resulting smears of fecal matter and ink formed the face of a little bear. An Ewok.

Now, Jedi actually punctuated the original trilogy with an exclamation mark. But evidently if you look at an exclamation mark for too long, it starts to look like a middle finger. So, fuck the Ewoks. The only bless-their-hearts who could ever fall for the furry spell of Ewoks were women and children. The two populations that conquering armies sometimes didn’t bother to slaughter in other movies.

That’s how the kids who fell in love with Star Wars were threatened by kids falling in love with Star Wars.

Ewoks merely matter most when it matters most. The matured palate is not evolutionarily superior and puberty doesn’t develop a sixth sense that sees through cunning fuzz. Just because 10-year-olds don’t appreciate gritty, Oscar-nominated dramas doesn’t mean 10-year-olds only appreciate monkeys flinging shit at transparent thermoplastic enclosures. Have you ever seen a Pixar movie?

Besides, Star Wars is best consumed wide-eyed and bushy tails are a bonus. The formative attraction to Ewoks struck me on my lunch break last week. I was devouring Snoke theories and an overcooked Panini, trying my best to pick through the empty calories. Then I thought about my dog.

My dog looks like an Ewok, and other dogs do too. A lot of dogs look like Ewoks. More dogs look like Ewoks in 2016 than Gremlins. Commercial fluff doesn’t endure like that. It scatters into the atmosphere like the seeds from a flowerless dandelion. Blown away by nothing more than a light breeze.

There’s an entire goddam Star Wars aisle at Target. Star Wars is everywhere. That ubiquity invites judgment from the unenlightened and, all too often, we’re willing to shit on Jedi to protect A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back from being tainted by teddy bears. But middle-aged men never bother to justify the frivolity of football Sundays. If you can’t appreciate Tom Brady slinging touchdown passes, then you’re the dumbass.

It’s a dismissive indignation that is insulated, but inwardly legitimizing. That kid in the Tom Brady jersey is just that, a kid. Not an indictment.

Although the hot-take tanks take twisted pleasure in rolling through the final chapter of the original trilogy – reversing and running their tread over the Ewoks again for good measure – the Ewoks aren’t the only aspect of Jedi that gets plowed.

Ahh yes, there’s Slave Leia.

George Lucas championed crusty tube socks when he chained half-naked Leia to a space slug. Slave Leia was a stimulus package for an oversaturated boner market. As if the graph from an economics textbook burst through its upper border and bulged from the unlucky crotch of a kid at the blackboard. The only explanation for the community’s blind acceptance of Slave Leia is that masturbation really does cause loss of vision.

On the other hand, Ewoks are virtuous to a fault, like the pious neighbor on a long-running cartoon. You conjure hate that isn’t well reasoned, but feels right. It’s a hatred that heaves forth from the gut and shoots from the hip, spraying bile and bullets across internet message boards. I understand. I hate Mark Ruffalo.

I also love boobs. But if we’re discussing the cost of artistic compromise, the price of sexual objectification is far greater than the price of an action figure or plush doll. You can’t claim that George Lucas sold out to create Ewoks and then accept Slave Leia as legitimate.

If the Ewoks weren’t a contagious compromise that afflicted Jedi, then the Ewoks weren’t a super bacteria that mutated into Jar Jar Binks and plagued the prequel trilogy, either. Sixteen years might separate the two, but contemporary criticism nonetheless connects the Ewoks and Jar Jar via slippery slope, allowing the offended masses to do something with the surplus hatred that the vessel of Jar Jar cannot contain alone.

Jar Jar pandered to children with grating frequency. I suspect the character was conceived while George Lucas was on his knees, scraping a fork against ceramic tile and begging for allowance money. Wicket the Ewok was never a purposeless panhandler. He enjoyed the taste of flesh and tried to roast the gang for dinner, only to be foiled by C-3PO, the golden doofus turned deity.

And contrary to the Wikipedia entry for “Ewok,” the small mammaloid bipeds aren’t even involved in a large portion of Jedi. They’re never more than end-of-the-rotation role players. But such microscopic scrutiny is the status quo.

Nag. Nag. Nag.

It’s interesting to dismantle a movie’s credibility with its own scraps, implying that literally any other artistic decision would’ve been better. I understand the temptation to imagine what it would’ve been like if Wookiees had replaced Ewoks. In theory, Chewbacca is cool, so more Chewbaccas would’ve been more cool. It’s tough to compete with a perfectly-executed planet of Chewbaccas that only exists in the collective imagination of ferelwookies across the world wide web.

But this isn’t about Wookiees versus Ewoks. This is about what could’ve been.

•••

Caesar died, you know. It’s not like they were wrong.

We have the same rubbery interaction with greatness. Bitching about shit is a cherished and necessary cultural performance, not unlike the laurel wreath resting upon Caesar’s bowl cut. Or, the soldiers’ songs about his b-hole. Greatness can be uncomfortable because to bask is to submit. The slanderous Blogspot archives are catharsis, recorded. Acceptance in media res.

Rather than a mob of torches and pitchforks, we’re an entourage. Our complaints place us in proximity to greatness. Sometimes, it’s all we can do. Like Caesar, we’re only human. Someday, our scalps will be as bald as burnt Anakin’s and before long we’ll be buried, too.

It’s dumb because it’s dumb, sure. It’s also fucking Julius Caesar, whose badassery survives today. Return of the Jedi is an impossible achievement and its badassery will survive, too.

We’ll yell about the Ewoks in the meantime.


Benjamin Jeffery (@jawcuzzi) is a big, strong man.