Greg had not yet reached the other musical number when we moved on into a pathless wood that twisted upward from Kashyyyk’s broken floor. Its foliage was not verdant, but grainy and distorted. The unhealthy YouTube, aged and recorded on inferior tapes, bore strange adverts instead of Jorgan fruit…
GREG SILBER: The mind evaporator is weirdly erotic and I don’t like it.
AVERY KAPLAN: I do have to think this is worse for Diahann Carroll than it is for us.
GREG: I’m sure she, like everyone else in this movie and probably like half of America in the late 70s, got through it by mountains of cocaine.
AVERY: I believe it’s called “spice” in Star Wars. But the pupils in the close-up shots (of everyone in this thing) do seem to bear that theory out, don’t they?
GREG: I wasn’t paying attention to that but I’ll be on the lookout now for sure.
AVERY: I think this song might actually create some kind of temporal distortion field.
GREG: How on earth did this get approved for air? I don’t just mean in terms of the low quality. It’s so incredibly bizarre that this trippy, weirdly sexual farce would be seen as something the whole family could enjoy for the holidays.
AVERY: Well Greg, I’m glad you asked that, because Beat Managing Editor Joe Grunenwald is here to talk about pornography in the Star Wars universe!
JOE GRUNENWALD: Over the course of its 43+ year history, the universe of Star Wars has enthralled fans with its intricacy and depth. As the second entry into the canon, The Star Wars Holiday Special adds much to the universe. Aside from revealing what Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the familiar cast of characters were up to following the destruction of the Death Star, the special establishes Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk, and provides a glimpse of what life is like for a typical wookie family. Chewie’s wife, Mallatobuck, spends the day caring for their young son, Lumpawarrump. Lumpy for his part has a vivid imagination, passing time in his room playing with toys and tinkering with a transceiver. And then there’s Attichitcuk, Chewbacca’s father, whose presence allows for perhaps the greatest contribution the special makes to the Star Wars universe: space pornography.
There are a few specific things that the ‘Itchy watches porn’ sequence can tell us about the status of adult-oriented entertainment in a galaxy far, far away. From the interaction between Itchy and the humanoid Saun Dann, who gifts Itchy with the VR module as a Life Day present, one can surmise that pornography is appreciated by all species in the Star Wars universe, and across species as well, considering Itchy, a wookie, enjoys a video featuring Mermeia, a humanoid figure. What’s less clear is if the enjoyment of pornography is as stigmatized in this universe as it is in our own. Saun Dann speaks to Itchy about the module in coded language, implying its adult nature without outright saying it. However, Itchy also watches the video in a chair in the middle of the wookie household’s living room, with no apparent shame about what he’s watching. He vocalizes his enjoyment of it throughout the experience, which Malla, nearby in the large open room, would surely have heard. This either speaks to the acceptance of pornography as a legitimate form of entertainment in this universe, or to the nature of Itchy and Malla’s relationship.
The VR module itself is tasteful, an apparent visual representation of Itchy’s desires. After a short light sequence, multiple instances of the holographic sex worker Mermeia float across the screen ethereally before solidifying into one figure. Mermeia compliments Itchy’s appearance, a moment he plays back several times, before singing a sensual song about the two of them being together forever. As the module ends, Itchy opens and closes his mouth, gumming in silent approval. Without further evidence we can’t know if what Itchy watches is indicative of what all pornography is like in the Star Wars universe. But just knowing that it exists opens up new areas of storytelling exploration that have, thus far, not been explored in any of the movies, TV series, or children’s animated series.
Pornography, like going to the bathroom, is one of those things that you don’t see much in movies, especially in genre movies. Those things typically only pop up when they’re important plot points or character traits. Does Obi-Wan Kenobi have a bathroom in his Tatooine home? Does the Lars homestead have indoor plumbing? We’ll likely never know the answer to these questions. But thanks to the Holiday Special, we can safely guess that teenaged Luke, along with dreaming of leaving home and finding adventure among the stars, also probably spent some nights in his bunk cranking it to an issue of Nerfherder he picked up in Tosche Station.
GREG: Anyway, poor Carrie Fisher is really committing to the performance more than this special deserves.
AVERY: She always did… And there’s something really funny to me about the fact that Anthony Daniels has been called to take part in a Star Wars Holiday Special not once but twice over the course of the past four decades. What on Kashyyyk are “Wookie Ookies”?
GREG: I don’t know but it does put a damper on the festivities that it’s still happening under a fascist regime! I had almost forgotten how dark things were for the galaxy at this point in canon until stormtroopers showed up at Chewie’s family’s door.
AVERY: Nothing says “holiday special” like a dramatic, unexpected tone change at the top of “the second act,” right?
GREG: And yet we still haven’t been told what “life day” even is! I guess the thinking was just “eh, space Christmas, they’ll figure it out. Hey do you have more coke?”
AVERY: Dann is really showing up here, isn’t he? When do we get a Disney+ series about this guy? The Trader. And now: 5 minutes of Jefferson Starship!!
GREG: WHAT. Also, why is Art Carney insisting an imperial officer watch this? I know this question isn’t germane anymore but nobody in this special seems to do anything for any reason in particular!
AVERY: Maybe this song is somehow hypnotic, or like the neuralyzer from Men in Black? But I’m meeting them more than halfway with that.
GREG: It’s hilarious that Jefferson Starship was chosen for this, because they don’t have a particularly spacey sound, but, you know, the name. Which got me thinking… which other 70s acts could’ve fit here? Imagine how much better this would’ve been with Parliament and/or Funkadelic! Or hell, Pink Floyd.
AVERY: I mean, Pink Floyd already sounds like a Star Wars character name, right?
GREG: Great minds Avery!
GREG: Oh, duh! Maker, that would’ve ruled.
AVERY: Oh, I have an ad. Maybe… that’s a part of Life Day?
GREG: If it’s anything as commercial as American Christmas, sure! I really am fascinated by the idea that they have rock and roll in space.
The Music of Star Wars (and the Star Wars Holiday Special)
From the moment Luke follows Obi-Wan into the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars (1977) and we heard the distinctive notes of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, diegetic music has been an important part of a galaxy far, far away. While the Modal Nodes only appear on screen during the cantina scene (at least until the third act of this very holiday special), the notes of their music continue to play in one’s mind long after the movie has ended – just one of the many testaments to the unparalleled work of John Williams with the Star Wars score.
In the Extended Universe (which are now considered “Legends” rather than canon), the music played by the Modal Nodes was called “jizz,” but for some reason, that genre label seems to have fallen by the wayside since Disney acquired Star Wars and launched their new canon in 2015. Never fear, they didn’t forget your favorite band of Biths: in a short story from the 2017 collection From A Certain Point Of View, “Not for Nothing” by Mur Lafferty, readers are treated to a chapter from the fictitious book The Lady Has a Jacimer: My Life as a Modal Node, A Memoir by Ickabel G’ont.
Another prominent musical performance took place in the first act of 1983’s The Return of the Jedi, when Jabba the Hutt’s court enjoys a song by the Max Rebo Band. In the original version, they perform a song called “Lapti Nek.” While you can still hear this song in-canon thanks to background sounds in the 2019 audio drama Dooku: Jedi Lost, it was replaced in the 1997 Special Edition with “Jedi Rocks.”
In the Special Edition, the Sy Snootles puppet was edited out in favor of a completely computer generated version of the character, and the Max Rebo Band gained several additional CG members (including Joh Yowza, the furry alien who engages in a deeply misguided attempt to upstage Snootles). Meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning more about Snootles, she is featured in two episodes of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, which you can stream now on Disney+: season three, episode nine (“The Hunt for Ziro”) and season four, episode sixteen (“Friends and Enemies”).
The more recent Star Wars movies have further explored the popular music of the galaxy. In 2015’s The Force Awakens, Maz Katana’s castle on Takodana features a live band, Shag Kava. They perform the songs “Jabba Flow” and “Dobra Doompa,” which were written by writer and director J.J. Abrams and little-known indie musican Lin-Manuel Miranda. Like many of the popular songs in the Star Wars universe, the lyrics to “Jabba Flow” are in Huttese, and Miranda says that the words were inspired by popular Earth musician Shaggy.
2018’s Solo goes even deeper into the popular music of the Star Wars galaxy, with Solo: The Official Guide by Pablo Hidalgo revealing the history of Aurodia Ventafoli and Luleo Primoc, the pair of musicians who can be heard performing “Chicken in the Pot” by composer John Powell during the party scene on Dryden Vos’s yacht.
And in 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, our heroes attend the Aki-Aki Festival of the Ancestors on Pasaana. Miranda returned to write the song “Lido Hey” for the Festival of the Ancestors, which occurs at a 42-year interval – commemorating the duration of time from the release of the first entry in the Skywalker Saga in 1977 to the last in 2019. Rise of Skywalker director Abrams paid homage to the composers of the movie’s score by making sure both Miranda and Williams appeared in on-screen cameo roles – but will they be replaced with upgraded computer generated versions when they release the Special Edition? Only time will tell!
Meanwhile, the songs in the Star Wars Holiday Special were by wife and husband team Mitzi and Ken Welch (although as viewers of the special already know, several of the songs built off the foundation of the original Star Wars score by Williams). The couple had plenty of songwriting experience, with work produced for performers like Bob Hope and The Carpenters. In 1978, they had just completed a seven-season stint working for The Carol Burnett Show, a variety show (the format adopted by the Star Wars Holiday Special).
Maybe it’s no surprise that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge incorporates music as well. In addition to an original orchestral song by Williams, visitors to Black Spire Outpost’s local watering hole, Oga’s Cantina, are treated to the musical stylings of DJ R3X (a droid who Star Tours devotees will remember as the original Starspeeder 3000 pilot). Now, he spends his days spinning records on Batuu. For those with access to Amazon Music, Apple Music, or Spotify, an 18-song playlist, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Oga’s Cantina R3X’s Playlist #1” is available for some unparalleled Life Day ambiance.
Of particular interest on this playlist is the song “Goola Bukee [Feat. YS-5755],” implying that the featured artist is an astromech vocalist, and “Droid World” by the band Sentient 7 and the Clankers, a band name that suggests the droid musicians are reclaiming the word “Clankers” (used derisively by Clone Troopers during the Clone Wars). L3-37 would be proud!
Clearly, popular music is an important part of the Star Wars galaxy. Only one question remains: when do we finally get to see an episode of The Mandalorian in which Din Djarin takes a security gig with a space-faring all-droid rock band?
AVERY: I guess this viewing contraption (& the video phones) would have been future-y in ‘78, but today it just amounts to “Wookies doing everyday things.”
GREG: You know what, that’s fair.
AVERY: That’s character actor Jack Rader as the Imperial Officer. You know what? We can have a little introduction of Boba Fett into Star Wars canon, for a treat.
GREG: Oh my gosh, I forgot that this is where he comes from. What on EARTH is going on with animated C-3PO’s face though?
AVERY: Oh, they definitely animated this without knowing how the ships & droids worked yet. Wait til you see what the Y-Wing does. I guess this moon has a jelly ocean?
GREG: Either that or BLOOD.
AVERY: Slightly coagulated! I really hope that isn’t part of Life Day. You’ll notice Fett’s helmet color & weapon in this cartoon may have inspired a little-known show called “That Mandalorian.”
Will Greg make it all the way through the Boba Fett cartoon, or will he choke like a Hutt being strangled by Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini? Find out tomorrow on the “thrilling” conclusion of The Beat’s in-depth coverage of the 42nd Anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special!