By Dan Casey
For all the acts of heroism and valor that are celebrated in the Star Wars, there are still plenty of reprehensible actions we kind of sweep under the Dagobah rug.
There's Anakin Skywalker slaughtering a temple full of children in cold blood. And Grand Moff Tarkin unleashing the might of The Death Star on the unsuspecting citizens of Alderaan, murdering literally billions in an instant. And Jar Jar Binks, who's responsible for handing over control of the Galactic Senate to Emperor Palpatine by voting to grant the secret Sith emergency powers.
They’re all undeniably deplorable, but still not the most harrowing, insidious evils in the Star Wars universe.
In the galaxy far, far away terror lurks behind a pair of button eyes.
The most unconscionable acts are perpetrated by those from whom we would least expect them – in this case, the sentient teddy bears known as Ewoks.
Sorry, I should have warned you. If you’d like to get a towel to wipe the coffee you just spit all over your screen in disbelief, I’ll wait.
All good? Great, let’s continue.
It's no secret that many in the Star Wars fandom consider Return of the Jedi to be the weakest of the original trilogy, and that is largely due to the introduction of the Ewoks. The cuddly, cutesy aliens marked the beginning of the infantilization of the Star Wars saga, an unfortunate trend that grew exponentially worse with the prequel trilogy. Ewoks, though, are the patient zero of Star Wars’ gradual decline into inane, childish nonsense.
They’re the Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion of groan-worthy bullshit in the Star Wars universe.
But more over, they’re straight up evil. In fact, their first nefarious deed occurred before they ever hit the screen.
In the original version of Return of the Jedi, the battle to deactivate the Death Star's shield generator was supposed to take place on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. Though we eventually saw a glimmer of what that might look like in Revenge of the Sith, one can’t help but wish that the original trilogy ended with an army of Chewbaccas firing bowcasters at brigades of Stormtroopers before ripping their arms off, beating them to death with them, and growling the guttural Wookiee equivalent of, “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”
But we didn’t get that; we got the Ewoks.
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You might be thinking, “Hey, it could be worse,” and you might be right. Originally, the Ewoks were intended to be disgusting lizard creatures, but Lucas wanted to trick children across the world into buying more toys, so he disguised these little monsters by giving them a fuzzy makeover. So, instead, we were deceived into rooting for an army of diminutive bipedal capybaras with a nasty predilection for EATING PEOPLE.
If you recall, in Return of the Jedi, these furry little bastards are fully prepared to slow-roast Han and Luke like intergalactic rotisserie chickens. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, these carnivorous little critters are stoked to do it, starting a goddamn drum circle, singing a jaunty tune, and all but curb-stomping poor R2-D2, who they tip over like so many cows on so many lonely country roads. Meanwhile that sinister little Ewok bastard Wicket essentially used Leia as a honeypot to lure Han, Luke, and the gang out of hiding to rescue her. Leia was but cheese in their barbaric mousetrap, a pawn in a cold, calculated game of chess between the Ewoks and their potential prey.
If you’re arguing that it’s just a misunderstanding, then first of all, you’re an Ewok truther and I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you (roughly 7 feet). Second of all, remember the nets they’ve set up all over the forest? Those are some massive pieces of equipment. They’re not trying to catch small game like rabbits or turkeys; no, these diabolical little hunter-gatherers are aiming to taste the other other white meat: human. Or maybe Wookiee. But either way. And yes, it’s also worth noting that Ewoks are on the menu elsewhere in the galaxy; in the Clone Wars animated series, "Ewok Jerky" is sold at a diner on the planet Abafar. Something tells me that they’d be tough to swallow, even when dried and salted.
The only thing that saves our heroes from these godless little beasts is when they find religion in the form of C-3PO, who accidentally convinces the Ewoks that he is some sort of golden deity instead of a chronically polite automaton fluent in over six million forms of communication. (Well, that and a little Force magic from Luke Skywalker.)
Yet, even after C-3PO manages to free his friends and explain the imminent threat of the Empire to their hirsute jailors, a feeling of unease persists. Yes, the Ewoks ultimately help the Rebels defeat the Empire in an absurd display of guerilla warfare. How stones and spears are able to defeat blasters and armored transport vehicles is beyond me, but then again George Lucas modeled these forest-dwelling furries after the Viet Cong. (You know, the rebel forces who were responsible for approximately one-third of all civilian deaths during the Vietnam War, according to Guenter Lewy in his 1978 book America in Vietnam? Yeah, the Ewoks are just a 1/10th scale model of them).
But the question of why they help the Rebels fight back the Imperial forces remains. It isn’t out of the goodness of their own hearts, and it most definitely isn’t stemming from a philosophical aversion to fascist dictatorships. Rather, they are simply doing this to gain access to even more food -- i.e. the Imperial soldier sandwiches. In nature, this is referred to as a facultative symbiotic relationship, meaning that two organisms live together by choice, typically because they confer some sort of benefit. Like remoras clinging to the underbelly of sharks, the Ewoks cling to the aegis of the Rebel Alliance, working with them to slowly but surely murder and devour countless stormtroopers. Yes, murder and devour. If there’s any doubt, think back to how they celebrate in the wake of defeating the Empire. Everyone’s laughing, dancing, and singing some nonsense involving the phrase “Yub Nub,” which seems innocent enough until you realize the Ewoks are USING THE STORMTROOPERS’ HEADS AS PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS.
And the worst part? The director doesn’t even feel bad about bringing this gnashing, gnawing evil into the world. In fact, he’s actually proud of it. In a 1984 interview, director Richard Marquand said that with Return of the Jedi, he was “able to entertain the little kids with the Ewoks and all the stuff that made them feel safe.” What exactly about a tribe of man-eating savages makes a child feel safe again? Nevertheless, Marquand continued his cycle of lies by saying, “But I was able, at the same time, to give young adults the kind of things they’re looking for, which is a lot of excitement, a lot of showmanship. But they are also looking for true relationships and genuine emotions. I think that’s what has always been in the Star Wars saga, but I was really able to bring that out and make it work. I think that’s what Return of the Jedi had that the others didn’t have. I’m not criticizing the others: they simply weren’t ready for it.”
Right. We definitely weren’t ready for it.
No one was ready for the introduction of Teddy Ruxpin wielding a sharpened spear.
You seemed like a good man, Richard Marquand, but this is a bridge too far. Even though, you’re directly responsible for the cephalopodic majesty that is Admiral Ackbar, this is ultimately an unforgivable borderline-crossing. If you’re going to subliminally traumatize a generation of children, that’s fine, but at least have the stones to back it up. There is a reason that the word “Ewok” is never spoken in the entire original trilogy, namely that their eldritch evil is so ineffable that we dare not say their name aloud. Never judge a book by it’s cover. Especially if that book is the nightmare version of a deranged anthropomorphic Shih Tzu because, given the chance, he will eat you without a second thought.
Are the Ewoks well-intentioned and misunderstood? Or are they, in fact, one of the most dangerous races in all the galaxy far, far away. Let us know in the Twitterverse at @chubbies and Dan at @osteoferocious.
Main Image Credit: toyattak/Instagram