The Star Wars Holiday Special Doesn’t Care What You Think About Life Day
It’s Time to Give Kashyyyk a Chance
The Last Jedi has revealed itself and while critics are raving and it’s making out like a Canto Bight arms dealer, fans are sharply divided, claiming it’s too diverse, it’s too jokey, it shouldn’t have an actress beloved by the gay community with a bold hairdo, Luke would never wear that much eyeliner, it’s just not Star Wars. However, a long time ago in a CBS programming block far, far away, audiences and critics were in sharp agreement when it came to the Olaf’s Frozen Adventure of 1978: The Star Wars Holiday Special. But they were wrong. Dead wrong.
To be fair, there are many things working against it.
The Holiday Special’s terrible reputation precedes it, but given it only ever aired once and has never officially been released on video, there’s a good chance you haven’t seen it. You’ve been sold a bill of goods. The Holiday Special is actually a hilarious and arch piece of pure Star Wars camp holiday joy that deserves a first, if not second, third, and fourth, look, and if we’re lucky, a 40th Anniversary Special Edition Remastered Ultra High Definition 3D Blu-ray re-release just in time for Life Day 2018.
Strap in kid, we’re breaking the Empire’s reputation blockade of Kashyyyk and reuniting Chewie with his family just in time for Wookiee holiday celebration Life Day.
Chewbacca’s got a family.
Despite Star Wars being George Lucas’s baby, we know his direct involvement leads to the dark side, so you would think his name appearing nowhere in the credits would be a boon. Unfortunately, according to the s̶a̶c̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶J̶e̶d̶i̶ ̶t̶e̶x̶t̶s̶ Wikipedia article, “it was Lucas’s idea to build the narrative around a family of speechless Wookiees and their celebration of Life Day.” So the worst part of the special is Lucas’s fault.
“I said: ‘You’ve chosen to build a story around these characters who don’t speak. The only sound they make is like fat people having an orgasm’ … In fact, I told Lucas he could just leave a tape recorder in my bedroom and I’d be happy to do all the looping and Foley work for him.”
After an opening scene of Han and Chewie in the Millennium Falcon, we cut to nine solid minutes of unsubtitled Wookiee family drama featuring Chewbacca’s father Itchy, wife Malla, and son Lumpy. You almost pray a certain Gungan would burst through the door to break things up, but just think of it as a spiritual ancestor to the twenty minute short Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure that kicked off Pokémon: The Movie 2000.
Hey, let’s put on a show!
What do you do with a shitty narrative kernel from an upstart auteur high off his first smash hit space opera that’s moving a ton of toys? Hire a team of variety show writers from The Carol Burnett Show, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, The Sonny and Cher Show, and Van Dyke and Company, which would’ve been called The Dick Van Dyke Show if only it hadn’t been taken already!
“Shepard Smith, a news anchor for the Fox News Channel, referred to it as a ‘70s train wreck, combining the worst of Star Wars with the utter worst of variety television.’”
But how do you work the variety show aesthetic into a space yeti tree house bonanza? Ooh, why not turn their beautiful mid-century modern in the trees into a Sharper Image catalog in space with an endless supply of projection televisions, hologram tables and suitcases, virtual reality headsets, portable media devices, and video phones?
You can also light Mark Hamill within an inch of his life, bury him under 20 pounds of foundation, and apply just enough eyeliner to really put the sensitive in Force-sensitive.
Don’t forget to ask that guy from the Honeymooners hang out with a killer Imperial ‘stache and do a loose 15 minutes of space Radio Shack improv. Art Carney’s Saun Dann was the original concept for Lando Calrissian, so some things from the special are better left forgotten, but maybe he’ll turn up in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).
Space gays to the rescue!
Now let’s take our Midichlorian-infused space lemons and watch Chewie’s wife Malla make some Bantha Surprise and Wookiee-ookiees with the four-armed drag queen Julia Child impersonator Chef Gormaanda played by Carol Burnett Show alum Harvey Korman.
Korman does triple duty in Holiday Special, but even when *spoiler alert* confessing his love for Bea Arthur in a later sketch, it is still very gay gay gay. Even if *fingers crossed* Disney were to show Poe and Finn in full, beautiful 3D IMAX coitus, it would struggle to rival the homosexuality of Gormaanda.
The costume designer for the Holiday Special is none other than fashion designer Bob Mackie, who was costumer for the entire run of The Carol Burnett Show but is best known for dressing such divas as RuPaul, Cher, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, and Liza Minelli. Special writer Bruce Vilanch is perhaps best known for his outsize personality as an Oscars writer and work on and off Broadway. The Holiday Special is very gay.
A portion of contemporary Star Wars backlash that comes from the anti-social justice contingent who loudly complain the films are too diverse or female-dominant and that somehow makes them not Star Warsy enough. Is it possible in 1978 some people felt The Holiday Special was… too gay? People have also complained The Last Jedi is too goofy, but The Holiday Special proves Star Wars has always had humor in its DNA, whether at its best or worst.
I’m getting your message, are you getting mine?
Now, we come to a dark moment. A heterosexual moment. For Life Day Saun Dann finds it appropriate to give grandpa Itchy some virtual reality porn. Diahann Carroll does admirably while trapped in an emerald kaleidoscope nightmare, but the IMDb quotes page illustrates it best.
“I am your fantasy. I am your experience. So experience me. I am your pleasure. Enjoy me. This is our moment together in time that we might turn this moment into an eternity.”
After grampa Itchy finishes getting his rocks off, some more Imperial soldiers come to wreck up the place in a genuinely frightening and fascist manner and human trash compactor Saun Dann distracts them with some light slapstick and Jefferson Starship in a box.
Somewhat calmed, the Imperial space Nazis ask Malla to distract and quiet Lumpy by letting him watch… a cartoon dispatch version from the Rebellion aired to all of the Empire? Wherein his father is in mortal danger? Maybe not so smart to watch a secret Rebel communique while surrounded by Stormtroopers, Lumpy.
Plot implications aside, holy shit it’s the first appearance of fan favorite and perennial disappointment Boba Fucking Fett, my friend! The storyline is… odd if you pay too close attention, but the animation is beautiful and weird.
The Empire tears apart Lumpy’s room and then tells him to clean it up. He’s heartbroken to find his stuffed Bantha has been beheaded. Traumatized, he must watch a postmodern transmitter assembly instruction video, wherein Korman does the performance of a lifetime as an android-like “Amorphiian being” in need of a recharge glitching out and shutting down.
Time now for Life on Tatooine…
“…brought to viewers everywhere in the hope that our own lives may be uplifted by the comparison and enriched with the gratitude of relief … hereby begin without further comment as to its lack of moral value.”
In what’s purported to be a live broadcast sent round the galaxy, Bea Arthur plays Mos Eisley cantina night bartender Ackmena and brings a little Cabaret to a most wretched hive of scum and villainy. Korman, the mincing camp ghost of Life Day past, present, and future, makes his third appearance as a lovestruck Krelman, pining for Ackmena, obviously unaware she already had a wife named Sorschi waiting at home. While Arthur parades past every leftover costume not sold in a fire sale from A New Hope, Krelman refreshes himself with orange milk poured directly into a hole in his head.
Just one more round, friend.
The Empire announces a curfew in the Tatooine system, which we see broadcast both in the cantina and in the tree house where our Wookiees are watching, and the broadcast ends. Han and Chewie finally show up and accidentally kill the only remaining Stormtrooper who lets out a Wilhelm scream while falling to his death. Ah, Life Day.
The special ends with the Chewbacca family ascending beyond this astral plane while carrying the seven dragon balls and dressed in fabulous red dresses likely inspired by Ackmena’s strong looks. They share a group hallucination of Princess Leia making up lyrics to the swelling sounds of the Star Wars orchestral theme. Someone hands her a tambourine. Wait, no.
According to a 2010 interview, Fisher would show the special at parties, “mainly at the end of the night when I want people to leave.”
A day of joy we all can share, a day that takes us through the darkness, a day that makes us want to celebrate.
To paraphrase the wise Chef Gordmaanda, The Star Wars Holiday Special is not only a very hearty, nourishing dish, but it’s very economical too. So all those Star Wars-hungry mouths in your household will be going ‘yummy yum for their content tummy tum.’ Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
May your Life Day be a gay one you won’t soon forget!
VR Wookiee porn is still really weird though.