I like to think that I’m a reasonably laid-back Star Wars fan. I have my favorite parts of the franchise that I vehemently love, and there are parts that I could not care less about. It never bothers me when people disagree with me unless they’ve been a jerk about it.
However, one thing has become a major pet peeve for me. I am constantly researching Star Wars for various projects, so I see this annoyance repeatedly in articles and on quick clickbait news sites. It bothers me so much that I want to die on this hill and discuss why this is a problem.
Let’s get one thing clear about Star Wars:
Ewoks are not animals.
While I mostly feel this rage regarding Ewoks being thrown into the same lists about the “Cutest creatures of Star Wars” right beside Porgs or Loth-cats, this sentiment extends to all non-humanoid aliens. So, this covers Jawas, Anzellans, Wookiees, Ugnaughts, Baby Yodas, and all the species that have ever been labeled as “creatures.” For this article, though, we’ll just focus on the Ewoks.
Before there was meaningful representation in Star Wars, the aliens in the franchise were coded as being queer and BIPOC people. What is character coding? There are different kinds of coding. Writer Shafira Jordan points out that BIPOC coding is when non-humans are assigned traits of black, brown, and indigenous people. For example, the Tuskens on Tatooine are BIPOC coded. There is also queer coding which is a similar concept. Book Riot explains it is when characters are not stated to be queer, but the subtext indicates they are. An example of this is Ahsoka Tano is often considered a queer icon by many fans.
When writing Return of the Jedi, George Lucas wished to have an indigenous group help overthrow the technological powerhouse that was the Empire. He took particular inspiration from the Miwok Native American tribe. They were local to the Redwood Forest, where the Endor scenes were filmed. The very creation of Ewoks is steeped in real-world people.
Aliens in Star Wars have always been coded as queer and BIPOC people. Calling any of them “creatures” or “critters” is similar to calling these groups the same.
Ewoks are also sentient beings. Just because they don’t speak Galactic Basic, AKA English, it doesn’t mean they’re automatically animals. Ewoks have societal structures with warrior and religious leaders. They have a concept of religion because they misunderstand C-3PO as a god. The Ewoks have a language that legendary Lucasfilm sound designer Ben Burtt created dialogue for with Anthony Daniels. They have families, homes, and the ability to connect with other species outside of themselves.
It horrifies me that someone on the Clone Wars team thought it was cute to make Ewok Jerky on the planet Abafar in the episode “Missing in Action.” Why is there a Soylent Green scenario in Star Wars? Those are people being eaten! It’s also why some fans got mad at Chuck Windig for creating a therapy Ewok for the Aftermath trilogy. Sir, that is not a therapy animal.
It might seem silly to get up in arms about it, but this truly does bother me. Aliens in Star Wars have represented a specific part of the fans. By belittling them, it can be hurtful. Grogu is not a creature. He is Din’s son. Chewbacca is not an animal but a vital part of the Original Trilogy. The Tuskens are not critters like banthas; they own and find the banthas sacred.
And Ewoks are not animals.
They are people.