Like any good nerd, I am a big fan of Star Wars.
In most conversations on the subject, however, I’ve found myself to be a pretty accepting fan in comparison to most. This is probably due to the fact that the prequels don’t really bother me. In my mind, the more Star Wars the merrier. Still, I know the prequels aren’t good, and my general lack of distaste for them has led me to question my feelings as a “true” Star Wars fan over the years.
But, the question I’ve never really asked myself, nor gotten a solid answer out of myself as I danced around it, is “Why?” Why don’t the prequels bug me? Why has a huge Star Wars fan like myself just chosen to say, “Ya know what? Jake Lloyd is pretty damn funny!” (“Now this is pod racing!” Hilarious, right?!) Last week’s Hurley and Miles-filled episode of “Lost”—Season Five’s 13th, entitled “Some Like it Hoth”—really got me thinking about my Star Wars fandom, in particular Hurley’s final say on “Return of the Jedi”…
Hearing such hatred voiced toward my beloved Ewoks by a gentle giant like Hurley made me realize that those furry little bastards are where my un-embitter-able attitude towards Star Wars stems from—I love the Ewoks. Sure, they might have been better as a badass army of wookies, but I just find their goofiness charming and enjoyable.
As a kid, my brother Dan and I were massive Star Wars fanatics and sought out places to buy all the old ’70s and ’80s toys to add to our collection of the new Star Wars merch that came out when the original trilogy went back to theaters with the special editions. Dan ended up collecting a ton of Ewok figures and so they became an integral part of each and every action figure battle in the Gibbons basement.
Still, it goes back farther.
Growing up, the only copy of any Star Wars movie we owned was “Return of the Jedi.” I’d seen the whole trilogy by an early age, but “Return” was the only installment Dan and I had on hand to watch over and over and over again. It was this VHS shortcoming that led to my complete fascination with “Empire”—from all things Hoth to Han and Leia’s building romance—as I think I only saw it once before it went back to theaters. It was this same VHS shortcoming that led to my childhood home’s Ewok fetish.
I remember finally getting to see the Ewoks in all their glory on the big screen when the final special edition came out, only to receive the biggest let down of all three new releases. No, I wasn’t pissed about the awful song and dance put into the Jabba’s Palace scene (Though, I optimistic as I am as a SW fan, I can’t really argue that this was a good move). I was pissed about the removal of the ewok song! I don’t know how many times I lifted my voice into a “Yub yub! Dig’em Oh oh-oh Oh!” surrounded by a multitude of tiny plastic stormtroopers laid flat by my Han Solo led Ewok action figure offensive, only to find Lucas had decided that merry tune wasn’t worthy of his big galactic celebration. That was the true blasphemy for me. Forget an early look at Naboo, I wanted to see teddy bears using stormtrooper helmets as drums!
I could make the argument that the Ewoks are a great “David and Goliath” metaphor for the Rebels fight against the Empire, and culminating their years of uneven warfare with an actual triumph using primitive means was a truly fitting end to Star Wars, but the truth is that Ewoks embody an element of the fantastic that I can’t help but love unconditionally. They are pure fantasy and it is that imagination and out-there-ness that really led me to fall in love with Star Wars. It was for that reason I ended up reading Tales of The Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of Jabba’s Palace and countless other Star Wars novels—I wanted more crazy aliens and romantic space opera adventures. I wasn’t concerned with whether or not they led to believable tales. I wasn’t old enough to see or care about the flaws of having this terrifying Empire struck down by a forest full of booby traps. I just saw the fun in it.
Now, I can look at “Jedi” and see why people hate the Ewoks, but I can’t bring myself to do it. They make me laugh. When that one dies in the final battle and his brother in arms urges him onward only to realize he’s trying to spur on a little teddy corpse, I tear up. Perhaps it’s because being born in 1984 I never knew Star Wars without the goofiness of Ewoks. Whatever the reason, I think my full acceptance of Ewoks is why I can enjoy the prequels.
Again, I know the prequels are “bad” enough to make most people start thinking Ewoks are worthy of accolades, but Watto, Sebulba and young Anakin are characters that really do have, for lack of a better term, character. The argument that Lucas was dumbing things down for a new audience—or he had just gotten dumb—are both valid, but there is something visceral and true behind the appeal of podracing and the simple rivalry between an annoying little kid and a “particularly dangerous Dug.” It may not be good, or deep, or impressive storytelling but I can’t seem to hate it.
Maybe I should blame the Ewoks for my inability to fume over the prequels and maybe I should repent and confess an ever-burning hate for all additions made to Star Wars after 1980, but if every “Greedo Shot First” moment is still part of the deluge of Star Wars media that delivers pure awesomeness like Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Clone Wars,” then I’m just going to enjoy the infrequent successes and enjoy—as best I can—the other silliness. In the end, I’m not an “Empire” fan or a fan who signs off after Jabba’s Palace. I’m a Star Wars fan, through and through, for better or worse. And if that means I have to learn to love every monotone Jake Lloyd exclamation of “Whoppee,” so be it!