“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Nonsense. While Bill Shakespeare knew a thing or two about plays, plague and (possibly) authorship controversies, it’s clear to any right-thinking person that this most famous adage completely falls apart when applied to multi-billion dollar pop culture franchise Star Wars.
In Star Wars, everything is in a name. Because whatever your criticisms of George Lucas’ big and beautiful universe, it’s hard to deny that Star Wars has always gone the extra mile when it comes to naming characters.
From the headline heroes and villains – Darth Vader, Qui-Gon Jinn, Han Solo, Moff Tarkin – through fan favourite side characters (like Plo Koon, Salacious B Crumb and Biggs Darklighter) all the way to the Z-list characters you’d need a stack of Star Wars Visual Dictionaries to properly address (I’m looking at you Stomeroni Starck, Momaw Nadon and Wol Cabbashite), Star Wars names are the pinnacle of wacky sci-fi fun – or at least they were.
You see, in his latest dastardly act the devious Baby Yoda (Breaker of Ships, Khaleesi of the Kessel Run and Devourer of Sentient Baby Tadpoles) appears to have killed the Star Wars franchise’s nomenclative nous in one fell swoop.
When first created for Disney+ series The Mandalorian, this terrifying tot was dubbed The Child – still his official name incidentally – ahead of his true, sci-fi designation’s unveiling in a future episode. It was a placeholder, an easy way for fans to refer to this new character. But something went terribly wrong.
With little to no respect for canon, timelines or me having to explain to my parents why this was a different little green alien to the other one, fans instead started calling The Child “Baby Yoda”. Harmless enough, you might think. But it’s sparked off a worrying trend that could have dire consequences for Star Wars, and names everywhere, for years to come.
While at first the creators of The Mandalorian fought back against the dubbing of their creation as Baby Yoda, like the cutesy monster they birthed into the world it became impossible to control.
Today, they have surrendered – which is presumably why a new character with a multi-episode arc in The Mandalorian season two is officially, factually called… Frog Lady. FROG. LADY. That’s her real credit!
— The Mandalorian (@themandalorian) November 9, 2020
It’s a shrug in name form, a description scribbled on the back of a post-it that somehow entered the glorious, soaring halls of Star Wars canon. And it’s clear why this has happened – the grim, looming spectre of “Baby Yoda”. Why bother coming up with these cool, unpronounceable names if everyone’s just going to call them something basic and stupid anyway? Might as well just call her Frog Lady and be done with it. And this could just be the start.
Forget Luke Skywalker – by this logic, we might as well call him Glowy Stick Man. Han Solo? Waistcoat dude. Biggs Darklighter. “I dunno, the X-Wing guy. John. Whatever.”
Once upon a time Star Wars names were beautifully crafted works of art, carefully sculpted by the greatest minds of whoever was free that day to jiggle the spelling in the Star Wars Visual Dictionary, from the most central character to whatever friend of the director had managed to score a cameo that week.
They were towering monuments to fan obsession and gatekeeping that could now be lost forever. What’s even the point of being a Star Wars fan if you’re not smugly intoning that no, Aayla Secura is actually a Jedi Master, not a Spanish prison. What worth has your life when she’s just called “Blue Jedi Lady”?
Sure, there’s still hope that Star Wars can keep their naming tradition alive – the fond memories of Babu Frik and Zorri Bliss in Rise of Skywalker still warm my soul at night – but I worry that ahead, the interesting names of Star Wars will be just one more thing Baby Yoda takes from the world.
One day soon, everything Star Wars will be Baby Yoda-fied. And then? The world.
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