Favorite Fictional Characters, #376: R2D2
Updated: Feb 20
By way of context, it's important to note that I was two when Star Wars was released in 1977. The first movie I really recall seeing at a theater was Empire Strikes Back in 1980 when I was five, and Return of the Jedi was the apotheosis of kid culture when I was eight in 1983. Solo was cool, Vader was scary, Leia was our ideal of womanhood. But the most accessible character for me was probably R2D2. The spunky little droid with his whistles and chirps brought the feisty attitude that his domestic partner C-3PO lacked, and proved himself invaluable to the Rebellion on multiple occasions. I still feel for the little guy when Luke and Yoda leave him out in the rain on Dagobah.
Carrying secret messages and Death Star blueprints, serving as Luke's wingbot, and in a dozen other ways, Artoo is The Most Interesting Droid in the Galaxy. He captured the imagination of my toddler-and-elementary set with his low vertical profile and sleek shape that evoked our mothers' late-70s vacuums. What perhaps cemented his iconic status was the notorious 1983 anti-smoking PSA that included Threepio catching his little buddy sneaking a butt behind some machinery and roundly chastising him for the filthy act. I must have seen that thing a thousand times on Saturday mornings wedged in between the Superfriends, Dungeons & Dragons, Shirt Tales, and the Smurfs.
Artoo would become hilariously overpowered during the prequels, lending credence to the persistent rumor, apparently true, that the entire Star Wars saga is being told by R2D2 in the future, which would explain his improbable heroics. He paved the way for BB-8, Lando's creepy love interest L3-37, and the lazily snarky K-2SO (the only watchable part of Rogue One for me). But give me the original, the screeching, insolent, hell-on-wheels R2D2. He's the droid on 'roids.