Amidst the horrors of today’s world and what seems to be a growing cultural and political crevice between the “right and left,” Disney airred their latest trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and a little squawky owl-like creature with enormous brown eyes was visible on screen for less than three seconds.
At that point, everyone, no matter who they were, turned from their agendas and arguments, put their hands on their face like Pepe le Pew in love and exclaimed Awwwwww!
Yes, we saw a Porg.
What’s a “Porg?” Well, us geekier types knew about these little balls of feathery fluff as far back as summer, and soon they begin popping up around social media, on fan art, and revealed in The Last Jeditie-in merchandise and books. I, too, now own a plush porg.
Then, the most recent trailer hit, complete with life saber training, space battles and crashes and action aplenty, but it was that little glimpse of the pudgy porg that caused the tidal waves of comments, anticipation and porg-based memes.
According to some geek culture and entertainment sites, the little intergalactic birds, and their baby “porglings” are found on the planet Ahch-To (where Luke has been hiding). Director Rian Johnson based them loosely on the puffins of Skellig Michael, the real world stand-in for Ahch-To.
The first time Star Wars hit the communal love fest jackpot with cute little animals, was with adorable creatures that either weren’t little or weren’t animals. Chewbacca became a favorite of everyone, some guys who wanted to pal around with him as their new best bud, and others who just wanted to glom onto him like Calvin hugs Hobbs.
No agenda. No dividing lines. Just a big, furry loveable “Fuzzball” warbling like a bear. The other hit was R2-D2, who, despite being waste bin-shaped and contrary, made us all want one as a pet.
Then came Yoda, who allowed kids and teens of all backgrounds of the 80s to annoy adults everywhere with a whole new speaking. Then they went a little to far and created Ewoks, then Jar Jar Binks…which caused a whole different type of bonding with a collective “uh, no thanks” from the world.
Several years later, when the new Star Wars caused a riff between “old school” fans of the extended universe who know darn well Han and Leia had awesome twins, and not some emo Sith-to-be, while others who were just happy to be able to take their own kids to a new Star Wars saga on the big screen, the one thing everyone seemed to agree on was the endearing charm of the spherical droid, BB-8.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to the Star Wars universe. Star Trek has its tribbles. Harry Potter’s wizarding world has nifflers and pygmy puffs.
No matter what political agenda a creator has, we can always appreciate something created for no other reason than to make someone smile. No matter what path a story takes, even if it’s dark or divisive, the concept of the cute little animal provides a much needed pit stop from the a perilous story (or perilous storytelling).
I think in a world where we are forced to “take sides” on everything that is happening in this world, whether it be real tragedy or invented social crisis, it’s nice to know that pretty much every can still take a moment to “oooh” and “ahhh” (or in some cases “ewww”) over some random imaginary creature.
Some may find these things a bit saccharine, but I think we at times need more opportunities to drop everything and bond over some thing completely frivolous.
When we find ways to politicize tragedies and argue back and forth, we need to gather around some weirdly appealing little beasties. When we think there is no way for people of various religions, lifestyles and political opinions to meet in the middle without biting each other’s faces off, we need more roly-poly and lovable little abominations of nature.
When entertainment and professional sports begins to divide us all preachy messages overt or hidden, we would rather find something of which everyone can see the appeal.
When we look around at the tragedy, terror, and evil found in the world today, we all need something soft to hold.
At least for right now, we need Porgs.