The Moral Ambiguity of Baby Yoda and Frogs
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
I have to admit: I have been thinking a lot about the Frog Lady’s eggs from Chapter 10 of The Mandalorian. I’ve put a lot more time into considering the fate of amphibious genetic material and the mating habits of a fictional species from a galaxy far, far away than I care to admit. But, here we are.
Before seeing a single social media post about The Child and his voracious appetite for frog eggs several hours after the latest Mando episode dropped, I hadn't given a second thought to it other than: “Gee, Baby Yoda thinks those things are tasty.” On Friday, I saw someone tweet that they were “repulsed by the moments when bb Yoda [sic] ate her eggs for the audience just to laugh. …to make comic relief out of her struggling.” While I hadn’t thought of it that way as I, like so many fans, am entranced by The Child and it gives him a free pass for many things. So, I started to think further about the conundrum.
Through the weekend, more opinions appeared on social media voicing a similar perspective. There was literal outrage in the Star Wars fan community about Baby Yoda “murdering” Frog Lady’s babies. (Yes, I saw people call it "murder.") As I always do, I tried to consider all points of view. I balanced the percentage of fans (of any show or genre) who simply enjoy being angry about something and realized that there were too many posts taking the same position to chalk it up to Twitter rage.
On this surface, this is a typical gag for a Mandalorian episode. The Child is adorable and there are comedic beats developed from an innocent toddler doing something he’s not supposed to and the response from a would be / should be hardened mercenary. It’s been the formula since early on and it’s also not the first time we’ve seen Baby Yoda have an appetite for frogs. But there is one key difference in this choice of snack: sentience.
It seems that although the species are related due to sharing common amphibian categorization, the difference between Baby Yoda swallowing a living frog whole and slurping up the eggs of The Passenger is the level of intelligence shown among the creatures. There is no question that Frog Lady is compelling. She speaks a language understandable by humans (if not without some learning curve) and walks on her hind legs (when she’s not bounding away from spiders in fear on all fours). She displays emotions and intelligence way beyond the snack-sized frogs eaten by The Child on Arvala-7 and Sorgun coupled with a sad story of desperately trying to have her eggs fertilized by her husband on an “estuary moon.” This could lead to some interesting moral ambiguity when we talk about Star Wars in general. With so many creatures and alien species, where is the line drawn between beast and sentient? Why was there no outrage over the theft and smashing open of the mudhorn's egg by jawas? Where is the questioning of The Child's meal choices when we see him consuming an infant arachnoid in the very same episode?
The question that can be debated without dealing with ambiguity around emotional awareness is: “What lessons are The Child learning from his adopted father?” It is exciting that Filoni and Favreau are exploring the response to being scolded for doing something wrong is to do it again – repeatedly. The space between right and wrong is where the Mando lives as a revered bounty hunter. The unexpected theme of The Mandalorian is consistently looking at the pull of an innocent child's influence on Din Djarin's decision to “do what’s right” while The Child, like all young children, tests the limits and mimics what he sees. The interplay of the father trying to become better while the son learns about and is enticed by the “wrong” choices potentially puts Din on the hero’s path and The Child on the villain’s.
Star Wars, at its core, has always done a terrific job of helping its viewers consider moral lessons without overtly stating them. Stories about making choices and dealing with the consequences can be seen from Anakin to Luke to Kylo Ren. And now, with The Mandalorian, we are seeing redemption arc of the titular character as well as the very important reminder that children become what they grow up with.
So, while the morality of eating the last eggs of an amphibian woman is a question for greater minds than mine to consider, the illustration that there are consequences to the environment a child is raised in is a story to which many people can relate and, frankly didn't expect coming from this series. It further shows that The Mandalorian is not just good Star Wars, but it is well considered storytelling. Many fans have taken to social media to call this episode “filler” or a story that doesn't move the plot along. I argue it was essential to the moral fiber of the series.
Now, where did I leave that jar of pickled eggs?