By Stephen Morris
One of our family lockdown survival strategies has been a year-long subscription to Disney+. As a father of five, it didn’t me take long to follow the buzz to The Mandalorian, Disney’s latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. Set five years after Return of the Jedi and 25 years before The Force Awakens, the show tells the story of a lone bounty hunter (the Mandalorian) on the lawless fringes of the galaxy. True to Star Wars form, family plotlines are woven throughout its DNA — only this time, it is uniquely a story of fatherhood, as a life-changing bond is formed between the bounty hunter and his bounty, a baby of the Yoda species.
Working from home has its challenges, so although I intended to watch the entire series with the boys, I missed Episode 3 due to work issues. So there was a fundamental gap between the Jawas eating that disgusting giant egg and Mando (The Mandalorian) and baby Yoda on the run for betraying the mercenary guild. Though I jumped back into the series at Episode 4, I was plagued by the question of how and why Mando, a cold-blooded mercenary, had this profound change of heart. Why did the most reliable bounty hunter in the universe risk it all and go rogue?
So one evening, once our baby and the kids went down, I tiptoed downstairs to watch that missing Episode 3, aptly titled The Sin. In it, Mando turns in baby Yoda to the Empire and collects his bounty. But he slowly begins to break the code of the bounty hunter by asking the question: What will become of the Kid? He is told repeatedly not to ask, but for some reason, he cannot let go. The closest he gets to an answer is from mercenary guild boss Greef Karga: “I don’t know if they are going to eat him or put him on the wall.” He is all but certain he has delivered the baby into ominous hands.
As Mando reluctantly returns to his starship to leave the planet, he ponders the stick-shift on his star cruiser: he once removed the ball grip and used it as a toy to occupy baby Yoda when they flew together. This tender memory provokes him to go back to the bunker where he delivered baby Yoda to his captors. As he stakes out the bunker, he learns through electronic eavesdropping that something is to be “medically extracted” from Yoda’s little body and that he may die in the process.
As Mando continues to case the perimeter, he notices something else profoundly disturbing: Yoda’s hover-pram, the sort of stroller in which the little creature always floated himself around at Mando’s side, lies discarded in a garbage bin in the back alley. That confirms it: Mando blasts his way into the building and finds Yoda strapped to an operating table as a sinister medical droid hovers above, poised for the extraction procedure. Mando puts a prompt end to it with his blaster, and the rest of the episode is a protracted shootout that allows him to escape with the beloved baby in his arms.
Given Disney’s recent hard left turn (e.g., blatant occult themes in their new kids show Owl House and the kiss between two women at end of The Rise of Skywalker), I was shocked to realize that the mega-company may have inadvertently handed the pro-life movement a powerful piece of storytelling. The Mandalorian narrativizes the return of the repressed primordial right of fathers to defend the lives of their offspring. As his paternal instinct is awakened, Mando trades in his philosophy of life-as-commodity for one that fiercely protects his beloved. Thus, the best bounty hunter in the galaxy becomes the biggest bounty in the galaxy — the price of saying no to the culture of death.
Fathers in our galaxy are powerless to stop the abortion of their own children, as articulated in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth (1976), where the Supreme Court ruled spousal consent for abortion unconstitutional. Based on the precedent of Roe v. Wade, the court argued the state cannot “delegate to a spouse a veto power which the State itself is absolutely and totally prohibited from exercising.” This creates the unjust double standard: a mother can veto a father’s choice, but the father cannot veto the mother’s choice. The Casey decision (1992) moved the yardsticks even farther: fathers did not have even have the right to be informed of their children’s deaths.
America alone has had more than 61 million abortions since Roe v. Wade; this magnitude of injustice and moral evil cannot be built into the fabric of our society for generations without finding cultural expression, even if that expression emerges somewhat veiled, and from unlikely sources.
Disney is well known for embedding primordial tragedy and loss in the foundation of its stories: Cinderella and Bambi lose their mothers, Mufasa is murdered, Dumbo’s mother is locked up, the separation of Nemo and his father… Though The Mandalorian comes wrapped in shiny steel (beskar, to be precise), it follows the archetypal Disney pattern of primordial loss and restoration. This time, it is the loss and recovery of the natural rights of fathers. In a culture where dads are portrayed as bumbling idiots, and men are taught that the right answer is simply to support whatever “choice” their partner makes regarding abortion, The Mandalorian offers viewers a heroic alternative. This is the way, indeed.