No True Mando

By Beka Black

It doesn’t make sense for Jango Fett to not be Mandalorian.

There, I said it in one sentence, so if you’re like me and you want to skip the blog post and get straight to the recipewell…you can’t, because there isn’t a recipe. But you can stop reading right now, because that’s it, that’s the whole point of this article. It just doesn’t make sense for Jango to not be Mandalorian.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m new in town. I only got well and truly into the Star Wars fandom at large a little over a year ago, when The Force Awakens came out. Sure, I watched the movies before that–I did presentations in middle-school about Ewoks (even though no, Rebecca, that was not the assignment) and I went to see the prequels when they were in theaters, but I went through much of my daily life without even thinking about Star Wars. Now, most of my time is spent thinking about Star Wars. I have two shelves above my desk dedicated to Star Wars books and toys, I’m making a Sabine cosplay and a custom set of Mandalorian armor with intent to join the Mandalorian Mercs, I’m running a Star Wars tabletop game and I’m co-creating a Star Wars fan comic.

But the point I’m trying to make is that despite my current level of fervor, I am not one of the fans who has years and years of investment under her belt. I didn’t have well-cultivated headcanons and fan theories dashed by the canon reboot, and I didn’t have prior attachment to EU characters that have since been rebranded as Legends or erased entirely from the possibility of canon. I didn’t even like Mandalorians until my love of clones led me to Republic Commando, which in turn led me to the tie-in book series by Karen Traviss. Mine is a relatively fresh perspective on what is now a several-years-old argument, judging by the timestamps on multiple forum messages. 

I’m not sure what it says that a relatively new fan sees enough of a problem with this that she will yell about it at the drop of a hat, but it probably says a lot. Hopefully it mostly says “that’s a weird writing decision” and not “this girl needs to get a life.” Which…honestly is also kind of true. I’m working on it.

So why isn’t Jango Mandalorian anymore? Was he ever? The short answers to those questions are “I don’t know” and “Yes”or “No,” depending on who you askbut let’s look a little deeper.

When we were first introduced to Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones, he not only sports Mandalorian armor and a perceived grudge against the Jedi (his line, “always a pleasure to meet a Jedi” reads downright hostile), but the consoles inside his ship, the Slave I, also display readouts in Mandalorian script. He’s never explicitly stated to be Mandalorian in the film, but both the armor and the use of the alphabet imply it heavily. The grudge against Jedi could also lend its support to this, though ill will towards the Jedi is hardly exclusive to Mandalorians.

Later, in The Clone Wars, Prime Minister Almec disavows Jango, stating that he’s “a common bounty hunter” and claims ignorance as to how Jango got his signature armor. But Almec also says “No Mandalorian would engage in such violence,” and “All of our warriors were exiled to our moon, Concordia. They died out years ago.” If you’re unfamiliar with the events of the episode in question (Season 2, episode 12: The Mandalore Plot), it turns out that the warriors exiled to Concordia didn’t die out. So, Almec is wrong. It’s reasonable to assume that his word alone cannot be trusted.

Cue Dave Filoni, speaking to us from a featurette from Season 2 of The Clone Wars, back in 2010. Now, I’m not going to quote his whole spiel, because he goes on for paragraphs about this, but I’ll link the featurette for you to watch on your own time if you’re so inclined. I am, because I’m bonkers about Mandalorians now, and you might be, because if you’ve gotten this far, you’re either in the same boat with me or you’re one of those mysterious people who actually read blogs instead of skipping to the recipe. Either way, it’s there, you can watch it and hear him say the words in entirety for yourself. The gist of it is: there’s a set history for Mandalorians, but the way Mandalorians appeared in the EU wasn’t “supercommando” enough. With them as “vagabond” as they were, they ended up just “looking like a bunch of Boba Fetts” which “robbed [him] of his uniqueness.” Filoni and George Lucas worked together to develop what was to become of the Mandalorians in The Clone Wars, decreeing that the amalgamated culture of serial adopters of the EU just wasn’t what they needed. They needed a disciplined, uniformed army. Thus, it was decided that Jango and Boba weren’t Mandalorians, they were just bounty hunters who found and wore Mandalorian armor.

Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group also weighed in, six years later:

I guess being from Concord Dawn, a Mandalorian world, doesn’t qualify him as being Mandalorian. Does that mean that the other some-thousand planets in the Mandalore sector don’t count, either? You’re only Mandalorian if you come from Manda’yaim (the planet Mandalore), all others need not apply? Does Concordia only count because it’s one of Mandalore’s moons and thus more Mandalorian than a colonized planet?

Maybe, if it weren’t for Fenn Rau and the Protectors of Concord Dawn. They’re definitely Mandalorian. It’s not even a grey area that they are; they’re flat-out called Mandalorians. So clearly, being from Concord Dawn doesn’t mean not Mandalorian by default. Rako Hardeen and Jango Fett are just…what? Outliers?

Jango himself was an outlier who managed to get a reputation for being the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, and I just don’t buy that he did so by playing dress up. Concord Dawn is known for its elite warriors, according to Captain Rex. Some of them were brought in to train the clone army during the Clone War. People like Fenn Rau, a Mandalorian, who served as a fighter pilot instructor. If Jango was just one of these elite warriors, he wouldn’t need to wear Mandalorian armor for the street cred. Clearly, the elite warriors of Concord Dawn already have their own.

If he just found a set of Mando armor and wore it because it was cool, that’s one thing–but he also supposedly knows the language. If not the language, then the alphabet, at least. The Slave I’s consoles are loaded with Mandalorian script, which doesn’t really make sense if he’s not Mandalorian. The Firespray-31-class interceptor is not a Mandalorian-made ship, it’s manufactured by Kuat Systems Engineering, on the planet Kuat, in the Kuat system. So what’s the reasoning there? Did he buy or steal the ship from a Mandalorian who had changed the ship’s computer language to Mandalorian, and he just didn’t change it? Did he change the language himself because he’s a nerd who was learning Mando’a and thought having all his devices set to the language would help him learn? As someone who has studied French, German, and Russian and consequently changed the language of my phone to any of those languages, I can both attest to the fact that it’s something that people do, and to the fact that it’s not wholly practical if you’re not confidently fluent. And that’s just on a phone. I can’t imagine that’d be anywhere near comparable to the technical readouts on a spaceship.

Unfortunately, with so much of Jango’s ties to Mandalore being swept under the label of Legends, we have very little canon insight into his character to tell us whether he’s a big ol’ nerd who changes the language of his ship’s OS to help him study, or if he’s just being a good bounty hunter and learning as many languages as possible even if he could just as easily get a device to translate languages for him. We know that he wore Mandalorian armor, that his ship was programmed with a Mandalorian typeface (one that differs from the typeface used in The Clone Wars, which is oddly enough based on a fan-developed font), that he was hired by Count Dooku to be cloned for the creation of the Grand Army of the Republic, that he was considered the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, that he associated with Aurra Sing, Hondo Ohnaka, Cad Bane, Bossk, et al. and we know that he lost his head on Geonosis. Literally. We know that later, Boba Fett also wears Mandalorian armor, and because of Star Wars continuity, it’s Boba Fett’s armor that started the whole mess. Without Boba Fett, there’d be no Mandalorians to start with.

Filoni said in the Creating Mandalore featurette that Boba picks up the Mandalorian armor schtick because Jango wore Mandalorian armor. That’s fine, like father like son, whatever. It’s not the best explanation but it’s not unreasonable to believe that wee young Boba would want to emulate his dear old dad, considering how fervently the kid sought revenge for Jango’s death. Boba is understandable. But if Jango was just wearing Mandalorian armor and not actually Mandalorian, why then is the clone armor so heavily influenced by Mandalorian armor? It’s very easy to see the inspiration in the Phase I trooper armor, particularly in the helmet design. Were they just thinking that hey, Mandalorians are tough and militant and have cool armor, let’s give our army tough cool armor too? Are there no other in-universe inspirations for armor? And what about the Jaig eyes on Rex’s helmet? Those are pretty Mandalorian (although Wookieepedia’s canon tab eschews all mention of that). So if Jango wasn’t Mando, why would clone troopers adopt Mando sigils?

Honestly, I could probably write an entire article out of just questions, and it’d make for a very frustrating read. Since I’m already frustrated enough, I’ll call it quits right here. I don’t think it makes sense for Jango to not be Mandalorian, because it complicates more things than it solves. Does it even solve anything? I don’t know. It seems like the kind of retcon decision that was made too far into development, and that’s left writers scrambling to explain things and sweep inconsistencies under the rug. Until I get access to Dave Filoni’s Super Secret Mando Mind Map, I’m going to keep operating under the assumption that Jango is Mandalorian, even if the galaxy far far away doesn’t agree.

As a reward for sitting through this mess, here’s a recipe, even though I said earlier that there wouldn’t be one.

Beka’s Signature Apricot Tip-yip (aka chicken)

Ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • Fresh or canned apricots (roughly 2 per thigh)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Italian seasoning or herbes de provence to taste
  • Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop into small pieces two apricots per chicken thigh. Place the chicken thighs in a small baking dish–or whatever size is appropriate for the amount you’re making. Peel back the skin on the chicken to form a pocket between the skin and the meat. Stuff the pockets with the chopped apricots. Drizzle or brush the chicken thighs with olive oil (you can also use butter), then season with Italian seasoning/herbes de provence, salt, and pepper. Just as much seasoning as you think looks good. If you wanna get fancy and have some on hand, a little bit of saffron goes really well with this whole ensemble.

Put your pan of seasoned chicken into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Depending on your oven, you might want to check it for done-ness after 30 minutes to ensure the chicken doesn’t dry out. The skin will be crispy and golden brown, and the meat tender and juicy, lightly flavored with the apricot juices.

Serve over couscous, with vegetables, or…I don’t know, with whatever side dish you want.
Verd ori’shya beskar’gam. Ret’urcye mhi, vode.

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Beka (@shadowblindr) is an artist with strong opinions about things. She is also the co-creator of a soon-to-be-released Star Wars fancomic called Remnants. She’s bad at writing author blurbs and self-promotion but her art can be found on her twitter and sometimes on tumblr.

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