When the internet at large informs me that something is cute, I am generally loath to agree, even if the thing in question actually is. Over the years, I have not been moved by viral cats Grumpy or Lil Bub. I was briefly enchanted by the porgs in Star Wars: The Last Jedi but found myself much more taken by the fish nuns and, somehow, Kylo Ren. Other things that are cute on the internet are in general, not cute to me, and even if they are, I will not admit it publicly. But I have been broken by one being and now, I pledge allegiance to it with a full heart: Baby Yoda, a stupid fucking puppet who is so goddamn cute I honestly don’t know how to handle it.
At the risk of inviting the wrath of various Star Wars fans, I will say that what I know about Yoda’s species or Yoda, full stop, is very small. The original Yoda, whom I now understand to be dead, does nothing for me. Yaddle, the female of the species—who? But this thing—Baby Yoda, a tiny bundle of joy and light delivered in a bassinet that propels itself through the air—is a pure expression of happiness birthed from the loins of a cultural juggernaut. Understanding why the puppet is adorable is easy. The ears are big, the eyes more so, and it makes tiny squeaking noises when it is distressed or happy. Much like my cat, another creature whose general countenance I find pleasing, its default face is an irresistible mix of concern and wonderment. Every time the thing appears on screen, I cannot help but laugh in delight.
Frankly, I am embarrassed by how much this thing thrills me in part because I know that it was designed specifically to do so. But my embarrassment has not stopped me from participating in activities that I would normally find untoward, like viewing this video about Baby Yoda’s origins at least twice and watching the following 12-minute compilation of all Baby Yoda’s appearances all the way through.
Perhaps there’s something dark about a fictional being engineered to be so stinking cute created by a giant media company that owns so much. It is telling that Baby Yoda lives in the depths of Disney+, the one streaming service that exists seemingly only to peddle nostalgia and comfort to generations who grew up with the classics and are now, ideally, showing it to their children, hooking yet another generation the sweet narcotic of Disney.
But the baby was not forced upon the public. Its wizened, three-fingered hand did not lead the publicity onslaught that accompanied the service’s debut. This, of course, was by design. Jon Favreau wanted to keep Baby Yoda’s existence secret and begged Disney not to pump out merch, so as to not ruin the surprise. The gamble worked. Diehard fans watched the show and realized quite quickly, that the little dumpling-face angel was the star. It is the platonic ideal, a marketer’s dream: a precious bundle of joy so disgustingly cute that it moved Werner Herzog to tears. Memes were born, sprung from the apocalyptic landscapes of Twitter and Instagram, where brands speak to one another and tweets that read like parodies of consent proliferate for clout. Someone put the little sweetie in a North Face jacket, a Yankee hat, and Timbs and I laughed, thrilled with how nice it is when something so pure continues to bring joy in a way that feels natural.
As December plods on, accumulated stress and exhaustion that has laid dormant for the duration of the year releases, culminating in the sweet release of letting go. Emotional fragility is common, if not expected. Much like ordering a peppermint mocha from Starbucks and sipping it while assiduously avoiding Salvation Army Santas, becoming a sappy, emotional mess is a beautiful holiday tradition that I would take from no one. Watching someone you love open a gift that they also happen to love is nice, but crying at a CVS when “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” blares over the loudspeaker is much better. There’s always something that breaks me. It is terrifically cliché to say this, but I am the Grinch and Baby Yoda, my wrinkled, rubbery Cindy Lou Who. My heart has melted, and I guess I am fine with it.
Sometime during Thanksgiving, after one to three wines, I signed up for Disney+ and put on Fantasia for the group of people assembled in my living room. Later, after all the guests had left, my roommate and his boyfriend lingered in the living room, watching what I later figured out was X-Men, a cartoon series from god knows when. The next day, I blew through A Muppet Christmas Carol and part of Alice in Wonderland before peeling myself from the sofa and fixing a plate of leftovers, relishing in the brief, seasonal comfort of vulnerability.