To say that episode 6 of the third season of The Mandalorian has been divisive would be an understatement. While there are many people who enjoy the surprise of seeing Lizzo or Jack Black show up in the Star Wars universe, there are just as many who did not. A lot of the discourse almost always ends up volatile, no matter what side you find yourself on. But many would agree that celebrity cameos in Star Wars media have always been a contentious issue among Star Wars fans. It’s something that has lingered around since the early days of the franchise, for better or worse and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
Star Wars is no stranger to cameos or appearances by big-name celebrities who show up briefly for any reason. One cameo in the Star Wars movies was by Daniel Craig in Episode VII: The Force Awakens as a stormtrooper, during a time when he was known to the public as James Bond 007. There’s also the surprise inclusion of George Lucas in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in the background as Anakin Skywalker races to the opera house. It’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it moment. And most recently, The Mandalorian has had a few episodes across its three seasons that included celebrity guests, like Jack Black and Lizzo in one episode. But these examples are all very different from one another and have very different results. One can compliment the story being told, while the other takes away all of the attention from it. If you watched each of them, you already know which one is which.
A cameo is something that is a light inclusion that shouldn’t overshadow the story or universe everyone is in. It’s a small character or part of a story played by a popular actor or celebrity, and shouldn’t be bigger than it needs to be. Even though there are shows where a cameo can be part of the focus of an episode, they still don’t overshadow everything around it and pull you out of the story or universe. That’s the biggest problem with putting an emphasis on cameos of any kind in a Star Wars series or movie. The line between suspension of disbelief and complete distraction is razor thin, especially with more popular celebrities who have their own relevance outside of the Star Wars franchise.
There’s an infamous story about the Star Wars prequel trilogy that gets circulated from time to time about George Lucas when he was casting parts for Episode I: The Phantom Menace. At one point, there were conversations about Michael Jackson playing the part of Jar Jar Binks, but with the use of makeup and prosthetics instead of computer graphics. Ultimately, George Lucas decided to have Ahmed Best be cast as Jar Jar Binks instead of Michael Jackson, despite the latter being the bigger name and popular star. When asked about it, George said that it was because the actor would become bigger than the movie itself, taking the focus out of the story and just on the actor. If he was going to make The Phantom Menace successful at any level, the story had the take the center stage over everything else.
What makes the appearance of Lizzo and Jack Black in The Mandalorian such a prime example of this is how easily their inclusion pulls audiences out of the episode. Not only are the characters they play very different in tone than the rest of the show, but they are also essentially playing themselves and not characters in a galaxy far, far away. The performances from both Jack Black and Lizzo comes off like a copy-and-paste inclusion of the celebrities we know in the real world, emulating their own personalities in this universe. It’s jarring to the audience and sorely sticks out in the worst way.
The characters of The Duchess and Captain Bombardier they play also don’t contribute much to the story of the episode as a whole, let alone any of the Star Wars lore being built within The Mandalorian show. This is only made worse throughout the episode by the poor line delivery from Lizzo and Jack Black when they appear. Both of them over-exaggerate their dialogue in ways that don’t sound very good and are radically different than every other character in the show. For many people, this was a bad mixture and didn’t save the episode by some of the better parts later on, such as the visuals and action sequences with Din Djarin and Bo Katan.
While much of the attention is focused on Lizzo and Jack Black in the episode, the other cameo that didn’t catch as much heat was the appearance of Christopher Lloyd. The beloved Back to the Future actor plays Commissioner Helgait and ends up having a surprise connection to the Star Wars prequels that nobody expected. But what makes his appearance less of an issue for vocal fans is that very reason, because it wasn’t just Christopher Lloyd in the Star Wars universe.
The character he played added something to the universe and felt like it had a purpose. While some aspects of Christopher Lloyd’s acting could be criticized towards the later part of the episode, many fans were willing to accept it more than what had been done by Lizzo and Jack Black. It’s still a cameo by Christopher Lloyd, but not a distracting one that felt aimless or forced.
The concept of cameos isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the approach to cameos in Star Wars shows lately has done more harm than good. Viewers love to be surprised by a celebrity cameo, but they hate when it feels forced and impacts the story in a significantly negative way. It’s hard not to empathize with fans of The Mandalorian who feel disappointed by how their inclusion seemed to overshadow quality storytelling for a show nearing its season finale. If Lizzo and Jack Black had been given better material or direction to work with for the episode, viewers would have received them better. But what we ultimately end up with is another example of poor cameos in the Star Wars galaxy that have done more harm than good. It might be a good idea if Star Wars projects avoided them for a long while.
What did you think of the cameos in Star Wars: The Mandalorian? Do you like seeing celebrities make guest appearances in the shows you watch? Post a comment about it down below and let us know!
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