Horniness has always been a cornerstone of Star Wars. I don’t feel that statement needs any explanation. Still, I was a little surprised to find myself lusting after its latest lead, Din Djarin of The Mandalorian, which just wrapped its second season. Given that the character wears a full suit of armor at all times, including a helmet that covers his face, he seemed an odd choice for Galaxy’s Sexiest Man(do) Alive. My feelings didn’t quite rise to the level of the passionate fervor inspired by Poe Dameron, and I haven’t dreamt about Din — a.k.a. Mando — the way I did about teenage Anakin Skywalker during my puberty days, but over the first season, a real crush took hold.
It’s not not normal to be attracted to a character without a human face. Many swooned for Disney’s Robin Hood, who was both a cartoon and a woodland creature, and even Man Ray from SpongeBob has entered the pantheon of masked sexpots. But both of those characters have, at least, features. We can’t even look Mando in the eyes, let alone read his reactions. Acting teachers and voiceover artists may point out that masked actors are as old as theater itself, and that Pedro Pascal’s vocal performance is layered and emotional, and that’s all true… but it’s also true that the screen demands a face, and in denying us that face (until moments in season two, which I will get to), the show is denying us information about the character, and we’re forced to fill it in ourselves, extrapolating from what we do know about him. So, what do we know?
We know he’s no scrub
In the early chapters of The Mandalorian, we learn that Mando has his own car (okay, ship) called the Razor Crest (hot name), which is also his house… but it’s not like he’s some space drifter living in a van. He has a job! He’s a bounty hunter with the guild, which means he works freelance and is also in a union, definitely hot. We learn that he’s a good fighter, handy with tools and weapons, and abides by The Way of the Mandalore, which means in practical terms that he doesn’t take off his helmet and is motivated primarily by a desire for Beskar Steel so that he can make shiny, impenetrable armor. Basically, the first three episodes of The Mandalorian are about a cowboy who desperately wants to buy a designer outfit.
We know he’s not too chatty
Mando’s got that “strong, silent type” thing, that Mr. Darcy–judging-everyone-from-the-ballroom-perimeter thing, that still-waters-run-deep thing. When he speaks (with a low voice, super hot), it’s because he must, rather than, for instance, to make a little quip the writers liked but doesn’t serve the scene. In “Chapter 15, The Believer,” Mando enlists Bill Burr to help him steal information from an Empire outpost, and as they’re driving to the base, Burr (okay, Mayfeld) is pontificating about loyalties and sides and stuff to justify being a spy, and Mando’s just like, “whatever, Bill Burr, I’m on a mission.” Once inside the base, Mayfeld’s silver tongue gets the two of them out of a jam — he even has to tell an Imperial commander that Mando is hard of hearing to explain why he hasn’t said much — so, yes, there is utility in being loquacious. But overall, isn’t it hotter that Mando lets his actions speak for him? He’s not shy, he’s quietly confident. Between the armor and the silence, it’s like if dark sunglasses were a person. More men, I think, should follow his lead, and shut up.
We know he’s a man of honor
A man’s gotta have a code, and I do not mean The Way of the Mandalore. What I mean is that Mando keeps his word. He deals with people fairly and doesn’t act out of anger. He’s as honest as he can be, and never greedy or petty. He’s dependable, which is why everyone he meets tries to trade favors and team up for mutually beneficial missions. He would for sure text you if he said he was going to, even though it would probably be a single, inscrutable emoji and then a string of gibberish when Grogu grabbed his phone. Point is, he doesn’t screw around.
We know he attac, but he also protec
By the end of Chapter 3, when Din The DILF Djarin gives Grogu the little knob to play with, his character motivation has shifted completely to doing right by his small green ward. Which is very hot. For the rest of the series, Mando goes to greater and greater lengths to care for Grogu, forming the only cohesive or important narrative of the show. What was the thing with the town and the New Republic and the cloning and blue Horatio Sanz? Do we remember? Do we care? These threads connect The Mandalorian to the larger Star Wars universe, and Giancarlo Esposito is cool as hell, and so is that darksaber thing, but come on, this is the story of Mando and Baby Yoda flying around, eating snacks and occasionally chatting with Amy Sedaris. Everything else only serves to strengthen or complicate their foundational relationship.
For a while, Mando is evasive, claiming he has to deliver Grogu to the Jedi because he said he would and he’s a man of his word, as mentioned above. But in the final two episodes, his love for Grogu becomes explicit, both in dialogue (“he means more to me than you will ever know”) and action (diving in front of a shot from a blaster). The father/son dynamic is at the core of Star Wars, another statement I hope I don’t have to explain, and for Mando it’s especially complicated. Orphaned at a young age, he feels a duty to the people who adopted him; in adopting Grogu, he honors their legacy. But he also wants the best for him, and being trained by another Jedi is what’s best. It’s an emotional sacrifice, and father figures having healthy, intense emotional moments… is hot!
We know that when he takes the helmet off, it’ll be meaningful, not pandering
In those final episodes of season two, Mando willingly takes off his helmet on two occasions, both driven by his love of Grogu. This is a motif in Star Wars: Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia all, at some point, remove a helmet for a loved one. When Mando finally does it, it’s totally un-titillating. There’s no striptease element; the show knows he’s got more swagger flying his jetpack than bidding his son a teary goodbye. I don’t mean this as an insult to Pedro Pascal (he’s got a fantastic face), but for this character, he looks his best in silhouette. (The Guardian calls burlesque the “erotic art of keeping your clothes on,” and in an article on the subject quotes Barthes: “There are no erogenous zones; it is intermittence which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing … it is this flash itself which seduces.” How true.)
The removal of armor in a moment of high-stakes vulnerability is a nice visual metaphor, and reinforces the association the show’s built between Mando’s Beskar suit and his most captivating, virile qualities. And again, these barefaced scenes work because the show successfully established Mando’s character and made us care about him long before it showed us his good looks. This is in stark contrast to most modern franchises, which demand the cultivation and display of a hypermasculine physique, to the point that even established actors (who are, remember, already handsome enough to be stars in the first place) torture themselves to achieve it.
Zac Efron (who looked great before!) looked bananas in Baywatch, and getting there nearly drove him crazy. For his upcoming role in Marvel’s The Eternals, Kumail Nanjiani (who looked great before!) went on an 18-six intermittent fast diet, more commonly known as an eating disorder (allegedly? How do I call this diet unhealthy without getting sued?). Poor Hugh Jackman (who has looked great for decades!) has to make himself dangerously dehydrated every time another Wolverine scene rolls around. And for what? If I can fall for Mando when he has literally every inch of himself covered, what’s the point in turning every six-foot Chris into a living action figure?
I have a theory: these movies and shows just ain’t made good. The stories, characters, and scripts aren’t enough to make the leads compelling, so muscle development substitutes for character development. And how convenient: If you oil up a hairless chest, you don’t have to explain why the love interest starts to fall for the star. You don’t even need them to have chemistry. These movies have to make their money overseas, and fortunately “swole” is the same in every language. The studios have thrown too many superheroes at us in the last decade, and they keep setting the pull-up bar higher. It’s gains for gains’ sake.
I’m not trying to scold anyone for doing what they want to with their body, including pumping it full of muscle powder. I can appreciate the onscreen thirst trap. But between the close-ups and the endless articles about workout regimens, there’s nothing left to the imagination, and the imagination is where the hottest stuff usually happens. There’s something to be said for the sexy, mysterious guy. In any case, that’s how I ended up crushing on Mando instead of some clean-cut paladin.
As the saying goes, “show, don’t tell.” Sans outfit, Pedro Pascal could cue the audience along, flash a wry smile and melt a few hearts, and it’d be… fine. But it’s more challenging, and captivating, to let Mando’s skills, teamwork, and choices round him out. The qualities that make him hot are also the reasons The Mandalorian is a great show — story reveals character, so there’s no need to be otherwise “revealing.” Much like the Force, true hotness comes from within. Though we can always sense it, it remains invisible. It surrounds us. Binds us. Sustains us. This is the way.