How 'The Mandalorian' Humanizes The Overlooked Communities Of The 'Star Wars' Universe

The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars show and part of the initial launch line-up of original content on Disney+, was a sensation. But while everyone loved Baby Yoda, and memes about this little 50-year-old child flooded the internet every week, some viewers were not into the episodic nature of the show – which resembled the animated Star Wars shows more than the movies – and the lack of Pedro Pascal's face. One aspect of the show that isn't talked about as much, but which makes The Mandalorian a special and essential addition to the Star Wars universe, is the way it portrays different communities and creatures within the franchise. Like The Clone Wars before it, The Mandalorian takes advantage of its TV format in order to explore more of the universe without losing track of the end goal, allowing the story to focus on the little guy and the communities affected by the larger, galaxy-spanning conflicts. The best example of this is in the way The Mandalorian portrays the Tusken Raiders and the droids of the franchise.

The Tusken Raiders Are More Than Masked Savages

The Tusken Raiders are as integral a part of the Star Wars universe as lightsabers are to the Jedi. We first meet the Tusken Raiders (or "Sand People") in A New Hope, when Luke gets ambushed by them while trying to retrieve an escaped R2-D2, right before Obi-Wan Kenobi scares them off. The official Star Wars website itself describes them as "fearsome desert savages" and "extremely territorial and xenophobic" creatures that attack without provocation. We meet them again in Attack of the Clones, where their brutality is escalated and the raiders kidnap and torture Anakin's mother to death. Anakin then goes and slaughters the entire village of Tusken Raiders like animals, and though this is meant to be a moment of extreme darkness for Anakin, the scene is shot to make the audience feel sympathy for his actions. It certainly doesn't help that George Lucas himself, when describing the Tusken Raiders and their Banthas, said he wanted them to be recognizeable from the real world, saying "You look at that painting of the Tusken Raiders and the banthas, and you say, 'Oh yeah, Bedouins...'" referring to the nomadic Arabian peoples of North Africa and the Middle East. The main Star Wars movies have portrayed most alien creatures as either savages (everyone at the Mos Eisley Cantina or Jabba's Palace) as exotic curiosities (the quirky Yoda), and at worst as racial stereotypes (Jar Jar, Watto). The Mandalorian takes a more humanizing approach. The show takes the alien group with the most negative connection to the audience (the Tusken Raiders) and treats them as regular people. In episode 5, the titular Mandalorian travels to Tatooine, and comes across some Tusken Raiders. Instead of an old-fashioned shoot-out, the Mandalorian successfully negotiates safe passage across the Jundland Wastes with a couple of Raiders using sign language. This is both the first time sign language is portrayed in the Star Wars franchise, and also the first peaceful interaction with the Tusken Raiders in a live-action Star Wars story.Mando even comments "Tuskens think they're locals. Everyone else is just trespassing." Though the official canon doesn't have a lot to say about their origin, if this is true then the history of aggression between the Tuskens and outsiders is way more complex than we had previously thought. That The Mandalorian is willing to ask that question, and to portray the previously "savage" Tusken people as open to peaceful negotiation is a step forward in humanizing the citizens of the Star Wars universe. In a simple scene, what were once faceless villains suddenly became a more complex and perhaps even misunderstood community.

These Are The Droids You’re Looking For

Droids have always been a big part of the Star Wars franchise. They're comic relief, plot devices, companions, and at times even villains. But outside of R2-D2 and C-3PO, droids in Star Wars are treated less than spectacularly. Among the first characters we meet way back in A New Hope there were 3PO and R2, to bickering droid companions tasked with an important mission. Yet when we enter the cantina at Mos Eisley, the bartender shouts "We don't serve their kind here!" at Luke while pointing at his droid companions. For the next 42 years, droids were seen as mere tools to be purchased and used. Jabba abused and tortured droids as seen in Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace turned droids into a faceless army to be quickly disposed of by Jedi and basically anyone. But in recent years, the portrayal of droids has become a bit more complicated. The Clone Wars dedicated several episodes to droid-centric stories, giving distinct personalities even to the faceless Separatist Army that was previously only capable of saying "Roger, Roger." Then Solo: A Star Wars Story took this a step further and directly addressed the status of droids as an enslaved working class, with L3-37 becoming a champion for droid rights. Cue The Mandalorian. Since the first episode, we've seen Mando show a deep disdain for droids, paying extra to be transported by a non-droid pilot. When we finally see flashbacks to his past, we see that Mando's family was killed by B2 super battle droids during the Clone Wars. Suddenly, it all falls into place – the reason droids are treated as a working class in Solo, and why the bartender wouldn't serve droids in the cantina is all because droids were once the invading army of the Separatists, killing and destroying everything in their path. But the last two episodes of The Mandalorian try to change the history of Star Wars by asking a simple question, one that has always been at the very center of the galaxy far, far away. What if your programming doesn't define you, and you get to be who you want to be? It all boils down to the former assassin droid and bounty hunter IG-11, whom we meet way back in episode 1 as he tries to assassinate Baby Yoda, before Mando shoots him in the head. But in episode 7, we are reunited with the farmer Kuiil, who we find out has reprogrammed IG-11 into a fully-fledged nurse droid whose main function is to protect and nurse. Though the Mandalorian is skeptical of this change, IG-11 does end up proving to be a changed droid, healing Mando and even sacrificing his life for Baby Yoda. Though droids in the Star Wars universe have repeatedly been shown to convey emotions (R2 has plenty of sad beeps, as does BB8) IG-11 is one of the handful of droids one can say to be as big a hero as the human protagonists. Hopefully next season of The Mandalorian will continue this trend and finally give Max Rebo his due.