In Defense of Ewoks
With the entire world thinking about Star Wars today, I’ve decided to get in on the act with a rather controversial statement:
I like the Ewoks in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
The cute, cuddly little teddy bear guys who aid the Rebel Alliance in defeating the Empire on the forest moon of Endor and blowing up the second Death Star. Most people seem to hate the Ewoks and everything they represent, but not me. I like the Ewoks just fine, thank you very much.
I think I understand where the hatred comes from. For one thing, it’s a bunch of little teddy bears fighting and defeating the mighty Empire. People don’t like that. There’s also the fact that the Ewoks were clearly created to sell toys. Star Wars is built on merchandise, and by the time the third movie came around, George Lucas knew exactly what he was doing.
But I don’t care about either of those things. They don’t bother me at all. And in defense of the Ewoks, I figure I’ll tell you why.
Join me after the jump for the cutest Star Wars article of the day!
Star Wars is a diverse universe filled with a wide variety of creatures
The Ewoks make perfect sense in the larger Star Wars Universe. There are so many different alien species and planets and languages that the possibility of a teddy bear-like race of primitive tribespeople is totally legit. Not every race in the universe has to speak English, know space travel and be involved in the sprawling, universe-wide government. Different planets and people develop differently. Heck, right here on Earth, we all sort of believe in advanced alien life out there in the universe. If that’s the case, then we’re the Ewoks of the real universe.
I find it completely reasonable that this race exists in the Star Wars Universe, and likewise, that the Empire would choose their moon to house a military facility. The Empire likely didn’t think much of the stupid, teddy bear creatures when they landed and started setting up the shield generator for the second Darth Star. They probably specifically chose such an out of the way, low key location, fully aware that the local indigenous peoples wouldn’t be able to do anything about their work.
And underestimating the Ewoks is what got them destroyed!
Guerilla tactics are guerrilla tactics
I also don’t have a problem with the Ewoks defeating the Stormtroopers and Imperial forces. Yes, I’ll grant that there are a lot of silly little moments, like when heavy rocks successfully knock out a few helmeted Stormtroopers, but overall, the final battle in Return of the Jedi is exactly what would happen when a rigid invading force comes up against resourceful locals with the home field advantage.
Stormtroopers are not used to fighting in heavy, jungle vegetation. In their bright white, rigid uniforms, they stand out like a Hutt in a ballroom. But the Empire only has the one fighting force, and they send their Stormtroopers wherever they’re needed. Whereas the Ewoks have had entire generations worth of time to know the land and adapt their fighting styles. Using guerrilla tactics, they strike from the trees, catching the fumbling Empire off guard.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a little something called the American Revolution?
My American history knowledge isn’t that great, but the Americans used guerrilla tactics to fight the British, right? At least that’s what Mel Gibson said! The Ewoks are the Mel Gibsons of the Star Wars Uni…wait, wait, no, that’s not what I’m trying to say at all.
I’m just saying that it makes reasonable sense that the indigenous people know their forests better than the impractical Empire, and they do a fine job defeating the Stormtroopers. We had two prior movies to get to know the Empire’s fighting habits. Stormtroopers and their walking tanks were well-established before the Empire foolishly tried to put them into combat in a crowded, tree-packed jungle. Just because walking across the snows of Hoth worked doesn’t mean you can do the same thing on the lumpy, uneven forest floor of Endor.
Tripping an AT-ST with a bunch of rolling logs is just as effective as tripping an AT-AT with a snowspeeder and a tow cable.
What I’m saying is that the Empire’s forces weren’t created just to appear in that forest and get their butts kicked. We already knew how the Stormtroopers operated, and then we go to see them in a new and interesting terrain. The Ewoks took full advantage of that.
The Ewoks suffered too
Is there any more tragic scene in the entire Star Wars saga than that one, dead Ewok? You know the scene, you know the sadness and the horror.
But lets relive it anyway!
The Ewoks were not cartoon characters (despite later becoming cartoon characters). They didn’t speak English like Care Bears, they didn’t immediately bond with Han and Leia. They were planning to eat them at first, because they’re still meat-eating savages. It would have been so easy to make them even more cutesy, but instead, Star Wars kills them in the midst of battle.
Even though these are silly, fuzzy bears, Star Wars treats them as seriously as it does every other element of its universe.
Who doesn’t like toys?
Seriously, who doesn’t love Star Wars toys? What’s wrong with creating characters to sell more toys? Apparently, every single cartoon we loved in the 80s was just one big toy commercial. He-Man? Ninja Turtles? Transformers? Come on! This knowledge doesn’t make me love them any less (though I’m not about to go back and rewatch those old cartoons. There’s no possible way they hold up).
And Star Wars is no different. Toy aisles are flooded with Star Wars toys, and I’ve bought some Force Awakens LEGOs already. What’s not to love? So what if the Ewoks were created to sell toys or to appeal to children? Isn’t that the entire point of Star Wars?!
I would own and build the 1990-piece LEGO Ewok village in a heartbeat, and I would love it like I love certain junk foods. I feel no shame in this. Star Wars toys are the bomb.
And the Ewoks are the bomb too. They may be silly, furry and not in line with what people want from Star Wars, I guess. But they get a bum wrap. They’re more realistic than cartoony, they fit within the established rules of the Star Wars Universe, they suffer and die in the battle that has been forced upon them, and they throw one hell of a victory party.
So in the spirit of Star Wars, lets all cut the Ewoks a little slack. I think they deserve it, after all these years.