I would like to see the baby: Why everyone loves Baby Yoda
Last November, Star Wars fandom changed forever with the introduction of the galaxy’s cutest bundle of joy. The baby. The asset. The Child. The one, the only — “Baby Yoda.”
Where were you when you first met The Child? Were you at home watching The Mandalorian premiere over breakfast? Commuting to work and watching on public transportation? Did you check social media and have it spoiled for you?
Regardless of where you were, you most likely remember the moment that the Child pulled the blanket away and revealed himself to the Mandalorian like a moment captured in Michelangelo fresco.
Why is Baby Yoda so popular? Let’s break it down.
Adorable “baby” characters are nothing new in pop culture, but Baby Yoda quickly dethroned every single one of his predecessors. Sorry Baby Grinch, Baby Groot, Rotta the Huttlet — there can only be one.
Part of the Child’s popularity comes from the fact that he’s familiar. While we may have never seen the real Yoda as a baby, we are familiar with that species from Yoda’s appearance throughout both the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. While you may not call Yoda “cute,” you can probably see the appeal of a slightly chaotic green puppet/CGI alien. That sense of familiarity went a long way with helping people instantly attach to the Child.
The Child appeals to those who like children — but even those who don’t. He has all of the finer attributes of children: a wide-eyed wonder for the world around him, a voracious appetite, he wants to be held, and he coos. The Child may be fifty years old, but he is still a baby. When we were first introduced to the Child, the Mandalorian had been instructed to bring the asset in alive or dead. But how could anyone hurt something as cute as the Child? There’s really no way to get around how cute he is.
Fortunately, the Mandalorian felt the same way and decided to abscond with the Child, rather than leaving him to be experimented on by the Client. Jon Favreau knew what he was doing when he set us up to instantly worry about the wellbeing of the Child.
It helps, for those who don’t particularly like children, that Baby Yoda is a powerful little tike too. While the audience may worry about his safety during every episode, he can also handle his own. He’s a Force user — the Child can choke enemies, pick up things 10 times his size, heal, and create a shield. The only downside to his tremendous power is his tremendous need for a nap afterward. But that just makes him all the more precious, doesn’t it? Who could resist a tuckered out pintsize child?
While fans have obviously grown attached to the Child, they also get to watch the Mandalorian grow attached to the Child. Sure, he’s still awkwardly referring to him as “his friend,” but they are a clan of two. Where Mando goes, the Child goes too. Watching the titular character form an important bond with the Child has gone a long way to making the audience care about him too. How could you not love the Child when he has managed to make a deadly bounty hunter like the Mandalorian go soft around the edges? Everyone loves a strong male character who is brought to his knees by a child. Just look at the vast popularity of the tough-guy-babysits movie trope.
With The Mandalorian now airing its second season, there’s no denying The Child has been everywhere in 2020. He’s hanging out with the SpaceX crew in space, he’s fighting wildfires, he’s sitting in the Stanley Cup, he was turned into Baby Doughda, and even the Penguins know to use his charm in a cheeky tweet.
Let’s not forget that ahead of the November premiere of The Mandalorian, the National Portrait Gallery in London had a 3-feet-by-2-feet oil painting of the Mandalorian and the Child hung among their prestigious gallery. The installation was part of the gallery’s Young People’s Programme and the press release forum perfectly explained the relatability of the Child with fans.
“It’s really great that the Child is a character we know as ‘Baby Yoda’, but because our families have been watching Star Wars films since 1977, our older relatives recognize him as similar to the character of Yoda – it’s cool that we can all talk about it together.”
Another key aspect of the Child’s internet fame comes from that infamous merchandise that Disney stalled on releasing last year. Disney was so determined to keep the secret of the Child, that they delayed manufacturing toys ahead of Christmas 2019, just to ensure that there would be no leaks. Disney was willing to miss out on an estimated $2.7 million on merchandising because they foresaw that the seismic impact of the Child would reap an even higher yield. There’s something about this little green puppet that has everyone opening up their pocketbooks to bring home their very own Baby Yoda.
With the new season of The Mandalorian, Disney rolled out a weekly event called Mando Monday, designed to unveil new merchandise. Every week, fans of the franchise are exposed to new and exciting ways to bring home the magic of the Child. Funko Pops, Hasbro Black Series figures, plushies, remote control figures, and life-size statues adorn the collector’s shelves of fans around the world.
He has mass appeal to hardcore Star Wars fans, the general audience, and those who have never even watched the series. But why has he become the mascot of the Star Wars franchise?
Part of his widespread appeal comes from his memeability. In the age of binge-watching, Disney+ has gone against the current trend by unveiling new episodes of The Mandalorian weekly, a tactic in pre-streaming bygone days of television. Perhaps, had the eight-episode series been released in one fell sweep, the Child would’ve been a mere blip in the internet’s memeing.
With each new episode of The Mandalorian, we get new moments of the Child interacting with Din Djarin, sipping broth, stealing macarons from schoolchildren, hiding in his pram, and having the time of his life as the Razor Crest barrels through space. Lucasfilm knew what they were doing when they created the Child, because they’ve given us a gif-able moment for every occasion. Even if someone hasn’t watched The Mandalorian, they have likely seen the memes, the gifs, the witty jokes about “chickie nuggies.” The top “Baby Yoda Meme” groups on Facebook boast over 100,000 members, while dedicated fan pages have nearly 150,000 likes. With one glance, the Child took over the internet and has dominated the conversation for over a year.
The ambiguity of the Child’s origins also helps to keep the mystery and the discussion alive. A long time ago, George Lucas made the decision to keep a shroud of mystery over Yoda’s origins. Even throughout the library of Expanded Universe books, little was ever revealed about Yoda’s backstory. Later, in The Phantom Menace, Lucas introduced a second member of Yoda’s species with Jedi Master Yaddle. Now, in a new era of Star Wars, fans of the franchise question whether or not The Mandalorian will go there. Especially with Yoda’s inclusion in the forthcoming High Republic era stories. Will we learn where Yoda, and by extension the Child, hails from?
Star Wars fans are clamoring to know every crucial detail about the Child. What will his first words be? If the internet will go wild over Baby Yoda chowing down on some blue macarons, he’s bound to break the internet when he utters his first words. Will he say something related to his father figure? Will he break our hearts by saying “Mando”? Or perhaps, after hearing Din say “no” so often, he’ll echo it back at an inopportune moment. Regardless of what he says, his first words will launch a thousand articles, memes, and gifs.
The internet may have been created fifty-one years ago, but it had no purpose until the Child came into all of our lives.
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