Cute, kid-appeasing creatures are perhaps the Star Wars franchise’s most contentious point. Return of the Jedi’s Ewoks were cuddly and affable and casually wanted to roast and eat Han Solo, but they also earned their fair share of criticism. The furry bipeds of Endor particularly became a source of scorn when their merchandising potential was maximized, and when George Lucas temporarily lost his mind and made an Ewok spinoff movie. Jar Jar Binks [shudders uncontrollably] is far and away the worst character Star Wars has ever made, not only grating, but also pretty racist. No one was upset by his messed up, canonical fate of basically becoming a reviled, pathetic clown for children. And what was The Force Awakens’ BB-8, if not a refurbished R2-D2 for a new generation of children?
So of course, in the lead-up to The Last Jedi, cynics and anxious fans alike were worried about the porgs. The puffin-like creatures were stealing screen time and hitting the shelves of Toys R Us way ahead of The Last Jedi’s release date. Were they just another gimmick to sell merch? Did we really need them?
After having seen the movie and taken the proper amount of time to sit with my porg thoughts, I’m prepared to declare that yes, we did. The porgs are good.
Most importantly, Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson didn’t exploit the porgs. They aren’t in the movie all that much; they never distract from the overarching story. And when they do show up, they aren’t annoyingly, overly cute. The moment when Chewbacca straight-up roasts a porg while other porgs look on in horror is a perfect beat full of humor, soul, and attitude. (This is an op-ed about good porgs, so we can’t dive into this too deeply, but Chewbacca shouldn’t have let the porgs guilt him out of eating that roasted porg. He already killed it, he could’ve at least let it participate in the Ahch-To ecosystem food chain.) It was also legitimately funny when several porgs were messing around with Luke’s lightsaber and for a hot second it made you nervous that one porg might actually kill another. According to the Star Wars art book, by the way, Rian Johnson almost made that happen:
Holy fuck. This would’ve made children simultaneously vomit and cry in theaters.
Anyway, the best porg-related moment in The Last Jedi comes at a crucial point in Rey’s Jedi training with Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To. Luke’s trying to help Rey understand what the Force is—this unseen, metaphysical thing that binds everything in the universe. As she begins to grasp the concept, she talks about life, and in that moment, we see what Rey is seeing: a momma porg with her nest of baby porglets. It is such a beautiful, simple summation of life, encapsulated by the creatures that inhabit every nook and cranny of Luke’s hermit island. I was also relieved to find out that porglets are indeed cute, and not the existential nightmare fuel dressed as a Kinder Egg that they resembled in promotional material.
Would The Last Jedi have functioned without the porgs? Absolutely. Unlike, say, BB-8—who’s the glue guy holding the galaxy’s team of Resistance all-stars together, and has become much more than an R2-D2 imitator—the porgs served no greater purpose in the plot. Even the glorious ice foxes on Crait had a more essential role, in that they helped the few remaining Resistance fighters evade the First Order’s grasp by pointing out an alternate escape route. But the porgs were simply there to be cute window dressing to the story in the least offensive way possible. They were little guys who had notable personality, and also adorable carnivore-shamers. If that somehow still offends you, just remember that George Lucas says Star Wars is, first and foremost, aimed at children. Don’t let the hate flow through you; let your inner 12-year-old out, and admit these little fellas were fun and good.
And while I’m at it—Ahch-To’s dino-nuns were good, too.