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Star Wars' Ahsoka Tano Transformed From An Unpopular Character Into A Franchise Icon, And I Need To Discuss Her Evolution

 Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Ahsoka Tano is a well-known character within the sprawling Star Wars franchise today. She’s greatly loved for her determination, cleverness, humor and heart. Of course, fans also appreciate the powerful Jedi’s skills with a lightsaber. Considering how beloved she is now, it’s somewhat hard to believe that there was a time at which she was unpopular. That’s right, plenty surely remember her introduction well over a decade ago, which was met with harsh critiques. Her rise from franchise pariah to pop culture icon is very interesting – so much so that amid Women’s History Month, I feel compelled to discuss her evolution.

Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

When Was Ahsoka Created For The Star Wars Universe And When Did She Make Her Debut?

There are two people who we can attribute the creation of Tano to, and they’re George Lucas and Dave Filoni, as they conceived of her while creating the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It’s been said that Lucas felt compelled to create the young heroine as someone for his (then-young) daughters and other girls to look up to. Filoni, who initially believed his Lucasfilm hiring was a prank, would eventually play a particularly keen role in developing the character. Someone who would, in time, prove to be vital to the character as well would be actress Ashley Eckstein, who was tapped to voice her.

Tano ultimately made her debut in the 2008 film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which was birthed from George Lucas’ excitement over the early footage from its TV show counterpart. Ahsoka was established as the newly minted padawan of one Anakin Skywalker, who was surprised Master Yoda had assigned the adolescent Togruta to him. But this would mark the start of an endearing surrogate father-daughter relationship. Today, the relationship between “Snips” and “SkyGuy” is beloved, and there’s even been artwork that’s paid tribute to Anakin and Ahsoka’s bond.

I can still remember being 14 years old when the film and TV series were released and, in the lead-up to both, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Tano. As a fan, I had no preconceived notions about her, just an ample amount of curiosity. I couldn’t have imagined that she would one day end up being one of the franchise’s most revered protagonists. Additionally, I also didn’t expect such intense backlash once the public got its first taste of her.

Ahsoka Tano holding green lightsaber in Tales of the Jedi
Ahsoka Tano holding green lightsaber in Tales of the Jedi

How Fans Responded After Ahsoka Tano Was Formally Introduced

Back in the late 2000s, I didn’t surf the Internet quite as often as I do now, though I do remember stumbling across some chat rooms and message boards. Needless to say, a number of franchise devotees weren’t too impressed with Ahsoka. At the time, many seemed to find her to be impatient, cocky and an unnecessary addition to the canon. Aside from fans, some critics weren’t taken with her right away. While reviewing the Clone Wars film, even the late, great Roger Ebert expressed less-than-positive sentiments about her introduction:

Ahsoka Tano, by the way, is annoying. She bats her grapefruit-sized eyes at Anakin and offers suggestions that invariably prove her right and her teacher wrong. At least when we first met Yoda, he was offering useful advice.

It would be an understatement to say that fans and pundits alike didn’t mince words when voicing their displeasure for the young Jedi learner. And the people at Lucasfilm were well aware of the reception. While speaking at the 2023 C2E2 convention (via Popverse) Ashley Eckstein recalled the vitriol and, as you can imagine, she was deeply affected by it after the movie’s release and amid the series' early episodes:

When it came out, so many people hated Ahsoka. First, I sobbed into my cheesecake. But then I took a day to have a pity party. Then, I was like, no – this character is amazing. And everyone else is going to see what I see if they just give her time. And so, I asked fans for their patience. I said look, no character is perfect in the beginning, and if they were, then they’d be really boring. So please go on this journey with her.

Fictional characters aren’t always perfect upon their debuts and, in fairness, Tano did need to be refined a bit. Still, the amount of blunt thoughts shared about her at the time was downright wild, if I’m being real. Ever in line with the spirit of the Star Wars franchise though, the creative team didn’t lose hope in its creation. As the actress mentioned, they were already working on Season 2 by the time the film came out, and they were confident that fans would eventually become interested in her journey. And they were right.

Rosario Dawson on Ahsoka
Rosario Dawson on Ahsoka

How Ahsoka Became A Fan-Favorite And Established Power Player Within The Franchise

Dave Filoni and co. did indeed have a plan for the character. Over the course of The Clone Wars’ five seasons that aired from 2008 to 2013, she evolved from an impetuous, young Jedi in training to a cerebral Force-user. And not only did her mind become sharper, but her skills with a lightsaber. (The New York Post’s Linda Stasi actually noted her skills as a swordsman as a bright spot in her negative review of the 2008 feature.) Tano was involved in some of the best storyline the Cartoon Network series had to offer, including the “Mortis” arc and the “Ahsoka the Fugitive” story. Her journey on CW culminated in the “Siege of Mandalore” story, which brought the entire show to a fitting end in 2020.

Of course, that series wouldn’t be the only place that fans would get to enjoy the character’s exploits. In 2015, she returned in Star Wars Rebels and, though she appeared in a supporting capacity, the writers expanded on her characterization and gave her cool actions sequences. Defining moments from the heroine’s life were also explored on Tales of the Jedi. And, of course, in 2023, she received her own self-titled, live-action series, with Rosario Dawson taking on the role. The show was well received and, as a result, fans can now look forward to Ahsoka Season 2, which we know a little about.

I’ve watched as fans’ opinions of Tano have shifted over the years, and it’s been wonderful to behold. Based on my observations, many seem to appreciate her journey and what she brings to the lore. Dave Filoni and the writers have shaped her evolution well, allowing her to grow in very dynamic ways. If anything, those who are invested find her journey to be relatively satisfying at this point. Which is ironic, considering that, in hindsight, one of the reasons why it’s so rewarding is because of the former padawan’s rocky beginnings. The creative team at Disney seems pleased by her impact as well. When Ashley Eckstein shared some words of wisdom about her character with CinemaBlend, she reflected on the influence her alter ego has had:

I do see now that she has impacted an entire generation of young fans that have grown up with her since 2008, and I'm just so grateful that fans to come now will get to know Ahsoka, just like they got to know Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. She's a character that I will continue to strive to be a real life version of, day in and day out, for the rest of my life.

In short, the character is now an icon – one that fans across all genders, ages, ethnicities and more admire. When taking into account just where she started, that's truly remarkable. What’s even more amazing to consider, even though she’s existed for nearly two decades now, is that there’s still so much of her story that can be told as time goes on.

Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars The Clone Wars
Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars The Clone Wars

What I’m Hoping When It Comes To Ahsoka’s Future

With her popularity now at a serious high, I’d imagine that Lucasfilm is going to make sure that more stories revolving around Ahsoka Tano will be told. Such a notion would neither surprise nor upset me. In fact, as time goes on, it’s my sincerest hope that the Jedi will remain a fixture within the franchise, whether that be through TV shows, movies, literature and more. More importantly though, one would hope that she continues to inspire viewers to be brave, intelligent, resilient and kind.

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It’s not all that often that a character has such a tremendous glow-up like Ahsoka’s. To be honest, I’m still amazed by the trajectory she’s had. The early hate that she received may seem like a distant memory to some now, but it’s also a stark reminder that fandom shouldn’t write off a character right away. As CinemaBlend celebrates Women’s History Month, I can’t think of a better protagonist to pay tribute to. Tano deserves all the flowers and, at this point in her existence, the sky is truly the limit for one of the Star Wars franchise’s greatest icons.

You can check out Ahsoka Tano’s greatest moments by streaming The Clone Wars, Rebels and the character’s eponymous show using a Disney+ subscription. Also, keep your eyes peeled for details on upcoming Star Wars movies and TV series so you’ll know when she returns.