It’s the Ewok Word for “Freedom”

Well, that happened.

By virtue of living in a remote part of South Brooklyn, my weekend was rather subdued and quiet.  The joyous, cathartic celebrations that broke out once the election results finally became clear weren’t anywhere near me.  As with most things that have happened over these past few months of the quarantimes, my engagement with the world around me, both strangers and friends, has been done while sitting at my desk and working at my laptop, the tumultuous events around refracted into an endless series of videos, tweets, memes, and pop culture references.

It was fascinating to see certain motifs in these references coalesce almost immediately.  Throughout the country – throughout the world – people began referencing Return of the Jedi as it became clear that our current let’s-call-it-an-Empire was coming to an end.  People were using that film’s climactic celebration scene, with its dancing and Stormtrooper-helmet-xylophone-playing Ewoks, as a reference point for their own joy and relief.  And person after person posted clips of the films concluding music song, the Ewoks’ “Yub-nub” song.  It isn’t strange, of course – Star Wars has been part of our cultural lexicon for decades, and it’s built to be referenced in times of political triumph, so of course people would be singing its songs now.

What is strange, however, is that there technically hasn’t been a “Yub Nub” song since 1997.

It was part of the movie’s original theatrical run, of course; I distinctly remember watching it when I saw that original release back in 1983.  But when the Special Edition of the original trilogy was released in 1997, the final sequence was re-edited to feature celebratory scenes on planets that, though we didn’t know it at the time, were going to be featured in the prequel trilogy.  With this new footage added, a new score was composed- a purely orchestral one, with the cries of “Yub Nub” removed.  And since the special edition was now the official version of the movie, and has been ever since, it stood to reason that the poor Ewoks had been silenced.

And yet that clearly didn’t happen, because we all still make the reference.  Even though the footage only exists on battered VHS cassettes and the glitchy excerpts transferred to YouTube, we still know the Ewok song.  People who haven’t been alive in a world without the Special Edition know the Yub Nub song – which, as far as many of us are concerned, is the one true ending to that trilogy.

It suggests that, no matter how much monied interests conspire to keep something hidden, the truth will always come out, always find a new and receptive audience.

I take comfort in the thought.

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