There are plenty of things wrong with the world on any given day, from the continuing effects of climate change to the humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States, from government malfeasance that threatens the well-being of our republic to a wealth gap that has obliterated the middle class. And then there’s capitalism which rolls on unabated, because greed is still good, apparently.
Capitalism’s most insidious aspect, perhaps, is how it — and the corporations who have mastered it — fundamentally understands what people want on a primal, subconscious level.
Which is to say: Where is my plush Baby Yoda doll, Disney? Why must you torture me so?
Let me explain.
In the lead-up to the launch of Disney+ and the premiere of the Jon Favreau’s new “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian,” Disney was cagey about allowing TV critics access to screeners for the show, for fear of a big reveal being spoiled for anxious audiences. The reveal was the introduction of a tiny creature of the same nameless species as the legendary Jedi Master Yoda, and, for lack of a better, more factually-accurate moniker, Baby Yoda was born.
Disney was right to hold back the information because the internet lost its mind over the tiny creation, which was obviously hand-crafted to capture all of the fuzzy feelings that kick in when looking at a baby, what with its oversized ears and big eyes and squishy face and how it inherently looks like an old man, even though it is also a baby. (That said, Baby Yoda is actually 50 years old because species age differently, so who even can say what a baby is at this juncture? Also: It’s not Yoda.)
The point is, that despite my indifference toward “The Mandalorian,” my bones ache for a tiny Baby Yoda doll of my very own.
This is the black magic of capitalism, and most television providers split into two distinct camps: those who know how to merchandise and those who don’t.
Disney knows people are desperate for Baby Yoda merch and they’re more than willing to give it to them. But it’s going to make them wait. The company has announced that of course swag centered around The Child (as “The Mandalorian” refers to the elfin creature) is forthcoming, due to arrive just in time for Christmas, because of course it is.
But on the other end of the spectrum, you have HBO, where even though “Game of Thrones” has ended, they continue to churn out merchandise with no sign of stopping. And yet, if one searches the HBO online store, they’ll find not a single piece of “Succession” content; no “Boar on the Floor” home games and no coffee mugs reading “Fuck off.” Not even a replica L to the OG jersey for when you absolutely need to rep some Kendall Roy realness.
There is no in-between. Major media corporations either understand your every craven need for memorabilia or they don’t. And make no mistake: A corporation’s success or failure at merchandising doesn’t make me appreciate a given show more or less. A wee Baby Yoda isn’t going to make me stan “The Mandalorian” and not having a Cousin Greg action figure doesn’t mean I hate “Succession.” However, merchandise serves as an opportunity for fans to love the things they love even more.
What’s more, someone seeing me wear a fetching hoodie that says “You can’t make a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs,” might be so intrigued that they seek out the source, inevitably forging new “Succession” fans in the process. More fans mean bigger fandoms, and bigger fandoms, particularly for shows like “Succession” that aren’t ratings powerhouses, mean more show stability in a TV landscape that only grows more treacherous.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be camping outside the nearest Disney Store for the next five weeks.