Jay’s Galactic Espressions
Whether you love them or hate them, porgs have become a very popular – albeit peculiar – new character in the Star Wars saga. We were introduced to these little penguin-puffin-birdlike creatures in the behind-the-scenes footage reel for The Last Jedi, revealed at the D23 Expo in July of 2017. Avid fans of the saga have had porgs on the brain since this initial introduction, but the debut of the official trailer for The Last Jedi, which aired during halftime of Monday Night Football on October 9, caused the general public to catch porg fever in a big way! Instantly, the Internet was packed with porgs, including this Photoshop challenge, posted by gizmodo.com.
But, why are these little feather bags such a draw for fans, myself included? I’m not usually one to fall prey to overwhelming feelings of “gotta have that,” but these porgs have certainly won me over! So, I decided to take a look at the psychology of porgs – what underlying reasons could there be for this fanatic attraction? What is the possible connection between avian mythology, bird/human personality traits, and the design choices of the porg character itself?
First of all, let’s back up to the practical reasons porgs exist in the Star Wars realm. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson was hit with the inspiration during a visit to the Irish island of Skellig Michael, where the final scenes of The Force Awakens were shot.
In an Interview with Entertainment Weekly, Johnson said, “If you go to Skellig at the right time of year, it’s just covered in puffins, and they’re the most adorable things in the world. So when I was first scouting there, I saw these guys, and I was like, oh, these are part of the island. And so the Porgs are in that realm.(1)”
From a character description point-of-view, the porgs of Star Wars are said to be an integral part of the ecosystem of Ahch-To. They are also reported to be Force-sensitive, and The Caretakers of the island have some sort of connection to them (albeit we are not sure at this point exactly what that connection may be).
Porgs are, for the most part, a practical effect – puppets – created through Neal Scanlan’s creature shop. Scanlan is well-known among Star Wars fans for his wide array of puppets and animatronic characters in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, as well. Some porg shots, according to Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo, are entirely CG (1).
So, let’s get to the psychology part of things, shall we?
First, let’s explore the general reasons that cause people to flock toward birds (hehe)…! As a pet, birds can be a fun way to have a companion, and people who own birds are said to have the following personality:
“A little more strange than your average …bird people are a whole different species than their dog and cat loving counterparts. Bird parents are thought to be more socially outgoing and expressive than the rest of the pet parents. Female bird parents, in particular, are high in dominance (2).”
Perhaps porg lovers are outgoing and expressive as well…?
There is another reason we may be drawn to birds, especially colorful ones:
“Colourful (birds) can remind us of romantic tropical islands, exotic lands and perhaps compensate for a deficiency of travel or excitement in everyday life. Elderly people’s infatuation for parrots (in particular) is understandable. Many older people would like to own a dog, but they don’t have enough strength to walk it or to deal with its exuberance. Furthermore, a parrot can compensate for a quiet life and bring humour, especially if taught to talk (3).”
On the flip side of things, the same article also stated that “those who are irritable, quick-tempered or those burdened with serious stress cannot value the humor of living with a parrot.” Perhaps this may serve to explain why some fans get irritated by the presence of the fun-loving, perky porgs…?
In mythology, I was able to find an interesting piece to correlate porgs to their real-life puffin relatives. As we know, Skellig Michael, where the porg character idea originated, is in Ireland. In Irish folklore, puffins are said to be reincarnations of monks. This connection is reflected in the fact that the puffin species name comes from the word Fratercula, meaning “little brother (4).”
It is noteworthy to point out that Skellig Michael was the real-life home to Christian monks for centuries. The monks built the stairway we see Rey climbing – all 670 steps of them – by hand. These hardcore monks survived many Viking attacks over the 9th century, but the settlement remains largely intact to this day, including six beehive-shaped stone huts, and a small chapel. One of the main co-habitators – and food sources for the monks – was, in fact, the puffin (8)! So, it would make sense that Luke, in a monastic state on Ahch-To, would not only co-exist with the porgs, but may also use them for sustenance, as well!
As far as omens go, if you see a puffin, “it may remind you to be cheerfully true to yourself, no matter what people say about you. (4).”
Is that why many Star Wars fans (including myself) cheer up at the mere sight of a porg?
Another omen – or divinatory meaning: If you are a parent or caregiver, seeing a puffin (or a porg) “may tell you it’s time to back off and let your chick make its way to the sea (4).”
Hmmm….I have 15 and 17 (soon to be 18) year-old boys. Could my attraction to these porgs be telling me something bigger?!
There is also something to be said for the overall design features of the porg character in general. They are round, and have big, saucer-like eyes.
There have been results of studies which suggest that the presence of large eyes, coupled with a narrow chin and bulging cheeks, act upon “innate releasing mechanisms to activate nurturant and affectionate behaviors (5).” This explains why we innately find babies and puppies to be so magnetically adorable…and now, porgs!!
In anime and manga, large, round eyes are used to symbolize purity, innocence and youth. These large eyes show the character’s internal goodness and purity of spirit. When drawn as star-filled eyes, the more innocent and pure the character is (6).
As for the round pudgy porg physique, I have previously mentioned in this blog entry, round is a design shape often used to suggest happiness and comfort. It is feminine in its form origin, with soft edges and non-intimidating feel.
All of these features serve to appeal to our collective human psyche in very subtle – yet powerful ways, indeed!
Some say that the porgs exist purely for the sake of merchandising and marketing, comparatively speaking to when BB-8 emerged on-screen and had fans instantly smitten. Yes, in part, this was by design! Collectively, Lucasfilm has been quoted saying the porgs are “The New Cute Thing (7),” and I’m completely okay with that. If one stops to think about it, EVERY new character is marketed to generate new fans and higher product sales. Can’t fault Lucasfilm and Disney for that, now can we?!
When it comes right down to it, does it really matter WHY we are flocking to acquire all things Porg? We love porgs, and they’re here to stay (much to the dismay of some)!
It will certainly be a fun reveal when The Last Jedi is released on December 15, and we get to see these little avian bundles of cuteness overload in action!
So, how did you like this psychological analysis of porgs? What makes porgs adorable to you? Or, why do they annoy you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Please leave any comments or questions below, or you can contact me on one of my many social media accounts (see below)!
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** Learn more about Skellig Michael
(4) Birds: A Spiritual Field Guide – Explore the Mythology and Symbolism of These Divine Winged Messengers by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. Adams Media, 2012. pp 155-156
(5) Evolution and Human Behavior: Darwinian Perpectives on Human Nature by John Cartwright. MIT Press, 2000.
(6) Understanding Manga and Anime by Robin E. Brenner. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.Powered by Sidelines