Monday, February 07, 2022

Erasing Cara Dune from Mandalorian merchandise

Cara Dune was a major character in both seasons of The Mandalorian. She debuted in the fourth episode of the first season, when the Mandalorian and the Child he is protecting seek sanctuary on a quiet planet. Cara is also hiding out there, and they team up to protect a village that is being attacked by hostile bandits.

At the end of the first series, the Mandalorian assembles a team of allies that he has made on his various adventures, to take the fight to the people pursuing the Child. Cara joins him and at the end of the final epsiode in the series, stays behind on the planet Navarro, where the showdown took place.

A few episodes into the second season of the show, the Mandalorian returns to Navarro, at the request of Cara and another character, to help them destroy a remnant Imperial base. In the process, they discover some more of the Child’s back-story hinting at why the remaining Imperial forces are hunting him. At the end of that episode, Cara is recruited by the New Republic to become a Ranger, which is a bit like a police sheriff.

At the end of the series, the Mandalorian approaches Cara for help, using her privileges as a newly minted Ranger to find and recruit someone to help him in his mission to rescue the Child from the Empire. Cara joins the Mandalorian and is part of the climactic battle against the Imperial warlord who has captured the Child.

So, as a character, Cara plays an important role in the story arcs of both seasons of The Mandalorian. However, after the second season wrapped, the actor who played Cara, the former MMA fighter Gina Carano, made negative comments about transgender people and refused to apologise. Gina then moved on to other topics, including conspiray theories about the pandemic, and was subsequently fired by the Disney Corporation. This was despite her being lined up to star in a new series set in the Star Wars universe, which Disney has decided to ditch as well.

So, basically that means it’s the end of Cara Dune as a character in future Star Wars projects. Because of the controversial comments made by Gina Carano, any attempt to recast the character would just dredge up all the reasons why the original actor got fired. Disney have decided to move on without both Gina Carano and Cara Dune.

I don’t have a problem with that. Disney has every right to not employ people who don’t share the organisation's values. As the controversy dragged on, Gina Carano, had several opportunities to retract comments and de-escalate the situation. Instead, things got more toxic until Disney decided it had had enough.

However, Disney has now gone a step further and started removing the character from materials relating to The Mandalorian.

Towards the end of last year, Topps released a set of trading cards in the UK based on The Mandalorian. It was basically a re-release of two sets that had come out previously in the USA, with both sets combined into one big set covering both series. However, Cara Dune is notably absent from the cards.

Cara appears in a couple of still photos taken from various episodes, but very much as a background character. She barely features on the cards with pictures from the episode where she is introduced and first teams up with the Mandalorian. She is notably absent from the shiny ‘character cards’ that are in the set, although other characters who appear in just a few episodes are included.

While I understand the decision to not continue with the character in future projects, I feel ambivalent about the retroactive redaction of media to remove the character completely. Maybe there are contractual issues, although I would imagine the contracts for merchandise were signed a long time ago. Shiny character cards featuring Cara were included in the original trading card releases in the USA. So this is a decision made after the controversy.

I’m not keen on the phrase ‘cancel culture’, because it feels to me that the people who object the most to ‘cancel culture’ are, ironically, the people who think we should ban or boycott anything they don’t like. But this redaction is really noticeable. Because of how prominent a character Cara Dune was in the show, removing her is really obvious, and, weirdly, the removal of the character acts as a reminder by omission of the toxic comments that prompted the controversy. It’s almost as if Cara Dune – the character – made those comments and has been removed from the follow-up media.

I don’t know what the best way forward for the various companies involved would have been. They might have attracted negative attention if Cara Dune appeared in the trading card set from people who can’t distinguish between a character and an actor. Or maybe I am being na├»ve in thinking that it is possible to watch and enjoy a show without endorsing the views and opinions of the actors playing the characters. These things become intertwined and are hard to differentiate.

Some final notes

The Cara Dune action figure at the top of this post was released as part of a range of ‘retro’ looking figures that copy the style of the original Stars Wars figures that were released over 40 years ago. Because of the controversy, it is very unlikely there will be future action figures of this character. So, I bought one, as a future curiosity more than anything else.

The box of trading cards was a Christmas gift. I now have a complete set of the base cards and most of the insert series. The highlight of the box was a “parallel card”, with a purple tint. 

Only 50 of these were released and I got the very first one as noted on the back!

The character, Moff Gideon, is the Imperial warlord who captured the Child for his wicked plans at the end of the second season of the show. He's not my favourite character but at least he is in several episodes and has a speaking part!

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