(Warning - the following might just fundamentally alter the way you see Star Wars's Ewoks. Whether that's a good or a bad thing is entirely up to you...)
When it comes to whimsical, forest-dwelling furry creatures, they don't come much more divisive than the Star Wars universe's Ewoks. For every fan who finds them cute, entertaining and essential to the plot of Return of the Jedi, there's sure to be another who hates their fuzzy, cutesy butts with the fiery passion of a thousand exploding Death Stars. They are, it's fair to say, not quite universally well loved.
As it turns out, though:
The Ewoks Are Hiding a Dark, Dark Secret
And I don't mean the fact that they were totally cannibals (although that's also very much a thing).
Instead, I'm talking about the fact that the entire concept of the Ewoks - and in particular their role in the Star Wars movies - was inspired by an incredibly unlikely source.
The Ewoks Are Secretly...the Viet Cong?
Yup, that's right.
According to George Lucas's commentary on the 2004 re-release of Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks were directly inspired by the forces that successfully defeated the US and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War - the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong.
Using a combination of guerrilla tactics and more traditional military engagement, the Viet Cong spent much of the 1960s and '70s fighting a highly successful war against the US armed forces, culminating in the latter's total withdrawal from Vietnam.
The reason that qualifies as a dark secret, though?
If the Ewoks Are the Viet Cong, Then That Makes the Empire...the USA
Y'know that dastardly, uniformly-dressed pile of cinematic villainy that we know (and love to hate) as The Empire? Y'know, the one that's happy to use a weapon of unimaginable destruction to bring its opponents to their knees, and that seems to treat its own soldiery as poorly trained, expendable cannon-fodder?
Well, by George Lucas's own logic, they're pretty much the USA to the Ewoks' (and therefore, the Rebellion's) Viet Cong.
Or, in other words:
Star Wars Is a Giant Metaphor for the Vietnam War
One in which, crucially, the USA is the bad guy.
Now, the relative merits of that position from a moral or political standpoint are very much a matter for another time and place, but it's still pretty darned surprising that Return of the Jedi - a movie often derided as being 'just for kids' - is secretly a scathing critique of US foreign policy in the '60s and '70s.
It is, however, pretty fundamentally awesome to think about...
What do you think, though?