With the extreme cold weather much of the country has been facing this winter, the Hoth references have been flying fast and furious across social media. Just this month, welovefine.com released a tauntaun hoodie, complete with tauntaun guts drawn on the interior. Much of the Mythbusters Star Wars special last month focused on Hoth. What is it about Hoth that makes it so iconic? After all, we don’t reference Tatooine when it’s hot during the summer — not yet, anyway. So what is it about Hoth?
We can almost relate to it — but not quite. Most of us know what it’s like to be cold. We even know what it’s like to be in the snow. But to be in an environment that’s all snow and all extreme temperatures all the time — we don’t really have that experience. We know enough about extreme cold to be scared of it, and to be trapped on a planet where you could die of exposure after just a few hours speaks to something primal within us. For most of us, Tatooine would be an uncomfortably warm place to visit, but Hoth would be the stuff of nightmares.
It’s the site of the greatest Star Wars battle. Okay, I’m inviting controversy with that statement, but there’s no arguing that the Battle of Hoth is one of the most iconic battles in the Star Wars filmography. The AT-AT walkers in particular have burned themselves into the public consciousness — as evidenced by all those joking photo manipulations floating around showing them walking down the streets of our modern cities.
The creatures. I jokingly refer to my white car as the wampa, but when I looked into getting a vanity license plate saying it, almost every “wampa” combination was already taken, so I’m not alone. When I ride the Mattherhorn at Disneyland, it’s not really yeti who are screeching at me, it’s wampas with red eyes. I covet the wampa rug at ThinkGeek. The wampa is of course our stand-in for the yeti, who has been in our consciousness for centuries. Because the only thing worse than being trapped in the snow…is being trapped in the snow and pursued by something that wants to eat you. As for the tauntauns, they are ugly things, aren’t they? But they’re part of our lexicon, mainly because of that scene. You know the one.
That scene. Sure, many Star Wars scenes are iconic, but few have the ick factor of the one where Han slices open the tauntaun’s belly using Luke’s lightsaber. “I thought they smelled bad on the outside” is a line that identifies one geek to another. The scene inspired not only the aforementioned hoodie but the infamous sleeping bag from ThinkGeek. There’s nothing not to like about this scene: friendship in action, suspense, humor, and slippery white guts. Instant classic.
So when temperatures plummet and snow falls, pop in your The Empire Strikes Back Blu-ray disc and remind yourself that as cold as it is, at least you don’t have to wrap yourself in a dead tauntaun to keep warm.