Ewoks Let George Lucas Make Fun Of The American Military

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated


The most common criticism of the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi is that it’s difficult for audiences to take the Ewoks seriously. After all, how are we expected to believe that these cutesy little teddy bears managed to defeat battle-hardened Imperial Stormtroopers hand-picked by Emperor Palpatine? However, the shocking answer is also one that ensures you’ll never look at Star Wars the same: George Lucas saw the evil Empire as a symbol for America, and he wanted the Ewoks to symbolize the Viet Cong’s resistance to American imperialism.

Lucas Made It Known On Commentary Tracks


That may sound like the kind of insane trivia fact that Lucas would blurt out in the 80s and then hope nobody remembers, but this is something he openly discussed on the commentary track for the 2004 DVD release of Return of the Jedi. According to Lucas, this not only explains his motivation for creating the Ewoks but also how they fought back against the occupying forces. Specifically, these cutesy creatures were armed with weapons that the Empire would consider relatively primitive, but they were able to coordinate well enough to topple (literally with the Scout Walkers) Imperials who were armed with the latest in sophisticated technology.

There Was Always A Political Element To Star Wars


For as much as the little guys are hated by the fandom, the Ewoks are also the most direct manifestation of George Lucas’ political views. Going all the way back to 1973, the Star Wars guru wrote a note more or less describing how he saw the battle between the Rebels and the Empire: “a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters.” What better way to end the Original Trilogy, then, than by showcasing how a primitive society was able to overcome technologically superior foes?

Ewoks Weren’t The Only Stand-Ins For Viet Cong

star wars comedy

While it’s certainly funny to imagine kid-friendly Star Wars mascots like the Ewoks as strident political commentary, it’s worth pointing out that George Lucas didn’t think the Viet Cong metaphor ended with these cuddly critters. In a 2018 discussion with fellow director James Cameron, the Avatar director pointed out that the Star Wars “freedom fighters” (like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo) we root for would now more realistically be dubbed terrorists. Without missing a beat, Lucas replied, “When I did it, they were Viet Cong.”

Lucas Was No Friend To Nixon


Why, though, did George Lucas use the Ewoks and Rebel forces as allegories for the Viet Cong? Lucas was very cynical of Richard Nixon in particular and what he saw the corrupt president as doing to the United States–namely, turning it into a kind of Empire that was ultimately destined to fall. He saw Vietnam as a clear case of the “little guy” (as he called the Viet Cong) triumphing over “the highly technical empire” and decided to bring that metaphor to life in Return of the Jedi.

The Underestimation Of The Ewoks Continues

Of course, George Lucas became a billionaire thanks to the sales of Star Wars merchandise, and it didn’t take long for the Ewoks to function more as the inspiration for endless kid toys rather than trenchant political discussion. However, that doesn’t change the final irony underpinning the modern perception of the Ewoks as nothing more than harmless teddy bears. In that assessment, Star Wars fans are doing the same thing that both America and the Galactic Empire did: underestimating foes who are secretly deadly and simply can’t be defeated through technological superiority.

Subscribe For

Star Wars News

Expect a confirmation email if you subscribe!