With his massive eyes and tiny Jedi cloak, the mini Yoda — who is a member of Yoda’s species and not Yoda himself — has spawned myriad memes and thinkpieces on his relative cuteness. So why are we all so enamored with a wrinkly green puppet, known on the show as “The Child”? According to evolutionary psychologist Dr. Daniel J. Kruger, the answer is a mix of pop culture prowess and science.
We're all fans of Baby Yoda. pic.twitter.com/pp4rEfwAc3
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) November 20, 2019
“There’s a few things going on here,” he tells Rolling Stone. “First, Yoda is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. I think he’s universally admired.” Secondly, Kruger cites the work of Austrian ethologist, Konrad Lorenz, who coined the term Kindchenschema, which is basically a set of features that makes something cute.
“Across species that have parental care, we see these really common features,” Kruger says, mentioning large eyes in particular. “In [media], these features are becoming increasing exaggerated in cartoon characters. Take the My Little Ponies of today and the Eighties. Characters of today have even more exaggerated neonatal characteristics. This makes them even cuter to us. In terms of getting people’s interest, I think [The Mandalorian] hit a homerun.”
The show — which Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall has praised — premiered earlier this month with the release of new streaming service Disney+. It was created by Jon Favreau and directed by Dave Filoni. German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who plays an unknown man who takes out several bounties on Baby Yoda, cried when he saw the creature on set. “It’s heartbreakingly beautiful,” he told Variety. The babe is meant to be 50 years old on the show — a young 50.
Episode three will drop Friday.