*Author’s Note: This is an article I wrote for That Hashtag Show, originally published in August 2019 with up-to-date edits. I felt it relevant to bring back into the light during the troubled and divisive times we find ourselves in today.
Ask any Star Wars fans, or even those Moofmilkers who have maybe just “seen the movie once”, what they think of Chewbacca. I’m willing to bet every single one will say they love him. In fact, I’m willing to bet the Millennium Falcon that not one of them will have a negative thing to say about him. Even in this hyper-critical moment Star Wars fans find themselves in over the franchise, the one constant we can all agree on is a universal love for the Wookiee, Chewbacca.
Why do you think that is? Why has this character touched so many hearts without ever saying a word we can understand? I have a theory, and it comes with a deep personal meaning.
Chewie: The Ultimate Wingman
Han didn’t know how lucky he was to have a best friend like Chewie. Let’s be honest… he would never have survived even half of the junk he pulled, and the trouble he got into throughout his adult life, without Chewbacca.
Need something fixed on the Falcon? Chewie’s got it.
Need to borrow a Bowcaster when your DL-44 Blaster isn’t up to snuff? Chewie’s got you covered.
Trapped at a blast door on Endor by the Empire and an Imperial Walker? Chewie has your back, with a little Ewok help.
Pulling a heist? Chewbacca calls shotgun. Any time Han needs him, he is there.
One thing I wish they had delved into with The Rise of Skywalker is the connection that had to exist between Ben Solo and Chewbacca. Imagine as a child growing up with “Uncle Chewie”. There could be no better babysitter. Even when Ben became Kylo Ren, there had to be a twinge in his black heart somewhere of how his turn to the dark side would affect Chewie. He could hate mom and dad all he wanted to, but I’d bet the farm there were some strong attachments to the big furry oaf. And imagine how much it did affect Chewie? After all, he is a sensitive Wookiee. Just look at what he did with the Porgs in Episode VII!
Chewie: The Great Protector
Something that always stood out to me in Star Wars is C-3PO being the butt of a lot of jokes. Sure, he could be annoying, but he always meant well. Goldenrod, the professor, mindless philosopher, and whatever else R2 called him in his squawks and squeaks—C-3PO took it all in stride. He could dish it out, too. In fact, he could be quite a jerk about it. But on Cloud City, when he ran afoul of some Storm Troopers and was blasted apart, it was the kind-hearted Chewbacca that fought off the Ugnaughts for his parts and put him back together.
And who did Han trust to look after his love before going into carbon freeze? It sure wasn’t Lando. When Chewie was ready to rumble over it, Han calmed him down by charging him to take care of the princess.
Chewie takes his fair share of zingers, too, and he never complains because that’s just who he is. He’s been called a walking carpet, flea-bitten furball, overgrown mop head, a big hairy thing, big furry oaf, and probably the worst one… “he’s only a Wookiee.” All things you could only say to your best friend and get away with it. Even with the knocks, our ever-faithful sidekick always plunges on. Plus, you know he could remove all your limbs if he wanted to.
What Chewbacca means to Star Wars fans
“It’s a privilege unlike any other. With relative anonymity, you can bring joy to so many, and at the same time you’re giving people the opportunity to reminisce about their childhoods — and giving people big, hairy hugs. So it’s a wonderful job.”Joonas Suotamo, on what it means to him portraying Chewbacca
The now-Legends book, The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime is a difficult book to read, because in it, Chewbacca dies. It struck me hard knowing he died in the Extended Universe. Chewbacca dead? I am not sure I can handle that! Even more profound is that Han starts a dark spiral after losing his long-time best friend. Something we could probably all relate to if it happened to us. His death was taken so hard by some fans that the author even received death threats over it.
In doing a little more research, I found out this book is rumored to be one of the primary reasons the EU/Legends was cut from Star Wars canon. To quote the Hollywood Reporter article, it says:
“A new Star Wars films without Chewbacca just wouldn’t feel like Star Wars, because the character is so much of the series’ heart. It’s impossible to take for granted that there’s an emotive quality to Chewbacca, an undeniable sense of personality that transcends the costume. As much as we’d like to imagine that if we lived in the Star Wars Universe we’d be a Jedi like Luke or Rey, a diplomat like Leia or a cocky pilot like Han, the truth is that we’d most likely be like Chewbacca; dependable, empathetic and just along for the ride. That’s an honorable position to be in.”
…and that is truth. A Star Wars movie without Chewbacca is like one without R2-D2. They may be the most influential supporting characters in film history. Being a supporting character brings around the point of all this. Why is Chewbacca the best friend we all wish we had?
Be Someone’s Chewbacca
August 2020 will be the two-year anniversary of the death of someone I knew who took his own life. His name is Miguel. We were co-workers at the rec center in my town. His mom works there with me, too. Miguel and I weren’t best friends. We saw each other when he would come in to work the pool cleaning crew, or when his mom would bring him after school to play basketball. We talked sometimes about little stuff, always nice to each other. He was 15-years-old.
In hindsight, nothing anyone could have said or done was going to stop him once he made this decision. Stars help me, I’ve thought about it constantly. Was there something I could have done differently that would have given him pause? Is there more I could have done? Could I have been nicer to him? Would he still be here if I had? Did he have a Chewbacca? I see his mom every day at work and it breaks my heart for her.
Miguel was born the same year as my youngest son. We both share a love of Star Wars. We play Star Wars games together, like Battlefront II and Galaxy of Heroes. We tag-teamed Jedi: Fallen Order on the PS4 to face Vader. I could not imagine being a Star Wars fan, or a life, without him. I’ll always be his Chewbacca, as I would to any of my kids and grand-kids.
My challenge to you: Be a Chewbacca to someone. It just might be the tiny Force push they need. Alternately, If you need a Chewbacca, we’re out there. Look hard and find us. We might be in the bottom of a muddy pit, labeled a beast and trapped in chains of our own. Help us out of there and I can promise you, we’ll be friends for life.