Let’s talk about the Mandalorian. Yes, Wee Readers, even I the most noble of wee lassies in the land of Scotland, have fallen victim to the charms of that most adorable of terrors to the Star Wars Galaxy…Baby Yoda.
Though all joking aside, The Mandalorian is a fantastic show – and is in fact the only reason I even bought a subscription to Disney + in the first place. Tellingly I canceled it as soon as it was made known to me that I’d have to wait an entire year for the third season. Sorry WandaVision, you’re just not to my taste.
Okay, a brief rundown for those probably very few of you not in the know already. The Mandalorian tells the story of Mandalorian bounty hunter, Din Djarin. Who, with the promise of the return of a huge collection of the sacred metal Baskar, accepts a job to go hunt down a particularly hard to find assest? In fact, it’s so hard to find that the only description the client can give him is the thing’s age: 50. Which is only made all the more shocking when Djarin shows up to the thing’s last known location and finds…a baby. More specifically a baby Yoda.
After some bonding, and many misadventures – one of which involving the bounty hunter going back to save the adorable tot from the client he delivered him to – the two form what is referred to in-show as a ‘clan of two’. Basically short hand for family. You see the Mandalorians are not a people, they are a creed: anyone can become a Mandalorian, whether by swearing the creed in adulthood or being taken in as a ‘Foundling’ during childhood. And this is a very interesting stance for the first show that is specially about the Mandalorians to take, considering they’ve never been shown like that on screen before.
What the heck do I mean?
Well, to answer that we’re going to have to take a look at the previous Star Wars things Dave Filoni, has been involved in, namely The Clone Wars – a show detailing well…the majority of the clone wars conflict and Rebels, a show that looks fine but that I will never have the patience to watch all the way through. Now the Mandalorians have a presence in both these shows, with one of the main characters in Rebels even being one. I’m going to focus more on the Clone Wars Mandalorians, since I’ve just seen more of that show and I think it better shows some of the…unfortunate implications.
Okay, so at the time of the Clone Wars Mandalore is ruled by the Duchess Satine, who is a pacifist. And if that seems contradictory to what a Mandalorian is or has ever been before – congratulations, that’s how everybody else sees it too. I’m joking of course, but there is noticeable friction between Satine’s strictly pacifist government and the fringe groups who think that Mandalore should go back to its more warlike ways. Sounds like a pretty straightforward conflict doesn’t it? After all Star Wars has always taken the stance that war, and those who go looking for it are bad. Sure, somethings need to be fought for or at least against, but as a general rule if there’s some other way to resolve the conflict you should probably take that route. This isn’t helped any by the war loving factions going by the ridiculous name of Death-watch – which was a stupid name when it came out and is an even dumber name now.
That being said I would not be writing this blog post if that were the end of the story. When we first see Mandalore in The Clone Wars, Satine’s group ‘The New Mandalorians’ has been ruling for what we can assume are at least a good few years, her government is firmly established and over all, the population we’re shown doesn’t seem to have much of an issue with converting to a peaceful existence. Except something feels a little off when you look at the population, particularly in crowd scenes – they all look a little too similar. All human, all white, all with the exact same shade of blond hair and every single one of them with blue eyes. This is peculiar in the Star Wars universe, as even back in the very first film where the cast on screen were all monotone white – because 70s – hair and eye colour varied greatly. There are blog posts that go far deeper into this than I’m going to and I suggest, if nothing else than for curiosity’s sake to go check them out :
The only character that really breaks this monotony is the Prime minister who has purple eyes for some reason – and also turns out to be secretly corrupt – and Satine’s sister. Still, they’re both white, so I suppose it’s less of a difference than it really feels. Some have implied that this was not a goof and was a deliberate attempt to create a paroral to a country like Germany. Somewhere that had a militaristic / violent past but was trying to move away from that. That seems very likely when the rouge groups have dumb names like Death-Watch – very Nazi like. To try and segment this story they even go out of their way to cast doubt on Jango Fett’s claim to the title of Mandalorian. With the prime minister referring to him as ‘just some random bounty hunter’.
And while that might have worked fine when it was released, it starts to have more sinister undertones in universe, when you take in to account the Mandalorian show. Unlike the other on-screen appearances of the Mandalorians – or at least the Clone Wars, I’m really not sure about Rebels – the Mandalorian approaches its main character’s identity, as something a person can become, not as something they are automatically born into. Anyone can be a Mandalorian – the joke Bill Burr makes in his first episode, about Mando being a Gungan under his mask is funny partly because it could be true. Yes, this Mandalorian is a human, but there’s nothing in his Mandalorian creed that would prevent a Gungan from donning that helmet too.
Anyone can be a Mandalorian.
And this isn’t just a facet of Din’s ultra-traditional sect either; in a later episode of season 2, when we meet Boba Fett properly again, he reveals a copy of his linage. Revealing that Jango Fett (who was not a member of the Children of the Watch) was a foundling – just like baby Yoda – and as a son of foundling, Boba was entitled to his armor in Mandalorian custom. So, we can see from this that adoption seems to be an important aspect of the wider Mandalorian culture as well. Thus, it would make sense that by the time of the Mandalorian Civil War in which the new Mandalorians ceased control of the planet, that the Mandalorians as a people would be very diverse. Not just in the regular human way, but with individuals from different alien species considered Mandalorian as well. Maybe there would even be linages of mixed human and alien origin; since not only have we seen instances of such individuals in Star Wars Canon, but in a society where anyone can be a Mandalorian, such pairings would probably be a lot more common than even in the wider Star Wars Galaxy. And yet, every single Mandalorian we see in the Clone Wars is human, and white, with at least a good chunk of them also being blond.
Now for a very brief second, I did consider that this could just be clashing creators, after all Clone Wars – or at least most of it – was, to the best of my knowledge made before Disney bought Lucasfilm and did a hard reboot for every cannon piece that wasn’t this show or the films. After all, Disney Lucasfilm clearly has a different direction they wanted to take the franchise, and maybe not every aspect of a long running show like The Clone Wars is going to slot easily into that new image. Except…the Mandalorian, The Clone Wars, and I think Rebels too, are all at least in part run by the same person: Dave Filoni. A man who is remarkably comfortable throwing around references to his other work, and just expecting the audience to know what he’s talking about . For instance, it’s really exciting when Asoka says to the villain of the week “Where’s Thrawn?”. Indicating that we’re gonna get a live action General Thrawn, in all his blue space-Nazi, badass glory. But if you don’t know who that is, she might as well have asked where the toilet was?
Joking aside, my point is that Filoni clearly hasn’t forgotten either of the Star Wars Shows he’s previously been involved in, so it’s unlikely he’s forgotten this one element. Especially considering how little there was about the Mandalorians in the Clone Wars. So, what is going on ? Why do they all look the same here, when they really shouldn’t given the creed like nature of their ancestors existence.
Well, honestly, I think it’s an oversight. Like maybe the creators were so married to this idea of former Nazis in Space that they didn’t really think how such a people, or indeed such a society would exist in the Star Wars Universe. Because, Nazi like racism doesn’t really exist in the Star Wars Galaxy, or at least not in the same way it does on earth. I know, I know the Empire has always sort of taken inspiration from Nazi imagery; but that hate and bigotry towards other kinds of humanity, that resulted with the Nazis obsession with blond hair and blue eyes doesn’t really exist in a world where you have aliens to scapegoat instead. Or at least it’s never done so in what is now considered Star Wars cannon. Granted to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen every book or comic, or game that’s come out under that umbrella – so if you know something that can prove me wrong, by all means put it down in the comments. It’s why I have them at all.
The point is, a mistake is really the only logical conclusion you can reach, in which you don’t start to hate the creators of these shows just a little. Because, now with the Mandalorian in cannon, it’s kind of revealed that that war like past we were told was so terrible, and just dragging Mandalore down – at least in The Clone Wars – was not a parallel to the Nazis at all. Which really only leads to one conclusion, on why those people were so monolithic in their appearance – Satine’s government had done a purge.
An ethnic cleansing if you will, I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone but that’s what it looks like.
Think about it – it’s established early on in the first Mandalorian Clone Wars story arch that all Mandalore’s warriors have been banished to one of the moons, where it’s believed they died out years ago. (They didn’t but that’s not really important for our argument here). When we look at this with knowledge of the Mandalorian Creed – a sacred vow that is about being a Warrior – that statement suddenly becomes about a lot more people than it was probably originally meant for. If you became a Mandalorian through that creed, in a sense, you can’t obey the new regime’s orders and still be Mandalorian. How then do you define who can be a Mandalorian? Well…blood. Which can get very sinister very quickly, especially if you take in the lack of any mention – at least in The Clone Wars – of ‘Foundlings’ as an important aspect of Mandalorian culture. In fact, if you want to take it a step further, the prime minister’s dismissal of Jango Fett as a real Mandalorian could be an indicator of Satine’s governments views on ‘foundlings’ as Mandalorians.
But ultimately all this amounts to is a thought experiment, I do not actually think this was deliberate at all. Mainly because the show itself makes it pretty clear that we’re supposed to agree with, if not outright like Duchess Satine. I mean I never did, she’s terrible – but that doesn’t take away Deathwatch’s cartoonish villainy, or the tone of the narrative. Sure, Satine’s government might be corrupt, but she’s not. And isn’t that in the end, what really matters? I’m being facetious of course, but you get my point. Ultimately the uniformed look of the people of Satine’s Mandalore was a passing thought by a creator who may have later realised the unfortunate implications of what he was showing on screen. We might guess this by the later appearance of the Mandalorians as a people, namely Rebels character Sabin Wren and her family. All of whom are defiantly not white, and this is never treated as a strange thing by any of the other Mandalorians.
That being said, seeing how unhealthy attached to his former works Filoni seems to be – it will be interesting to see if he ever addresses this discrepancy, or if we’re going to have to swallow another sickenly sweet spoonful of ‘wasn’t Satine just the best’.
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