Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Touching Meaning Behind Admiral Ackbar's Character Design

Arguably the most iconic creation of the original "Star Wars" film trilogy is the Jedi knight. Since Star Wars is all about dichotomies, the Jedi needed a foil, which they found in the evil Sith. A good Jedi (in the original Star Wars movies, at least) uses a lightsaber that's either blue or blue-adjacent. An evil Sith, meanwhile, wields a red lightsaber. Thus, the light side of the force is represented by blue, and the dark side of the force by red — two colors whose simple contrast symbolizes a galaxy-wide conflict.

That said, good and evil isn't always so straightforward in Star Wars' visual motifs. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), for example, dons an all-black outfit in his climactic original trilogy adventure, "Return of the Jedi." He thus resembles his father, Darth Vader, in appearance more closely than virtually all of his fellow Jedi, perhaps signifying a persistent temptation to succumb to the dark side. Interestingly, he retains that outfit in a canonical, subsequent cameo appearance, at which point in the timeline he's presumably fully committed to the light side of the Force.

As it turns out, the design of Admiral Ackbar (Timothy D. Rose) of "It's a trap!" fame embodies another such visual subversion.

Don't judge a Mon Calamari by its cover

According to the @Factsonfilm Twitter account, members of the crew working on "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" mocked the design of Admiral Ackbar at some point during the production. He was, by some crew members' estimation, too ugly and deserving of a redesign.

However, director Richard Marquand refused to alter Ackbar's now-iconic look. According to those who recounted the incident, Marquand said in full, "I think it's good to tell kids that good people aren't necessarily good looking people and that bad people aren't necessarily ugly people."

Admiral Ackbar is, as his name indicates, a high-ranking commander in the rebel alliance. Ackbar is not only heroic, but in a position of power. He has since appeared in subsequent films and even some video games. Aliens of the same species as Ackbar, called Mon Calamari, have popped up as recently as "The Mandalorian" in 2020. Ackbar's subversive character design, then, lives on in the Star Wars universe at large. Looks like Marquand had a point.