Heroes

'Star Wars' fans can thank conservationism for these super cute new characters.

You can thank puffins for the creation of the newest cuddly creatures in the 'Star Wars' universe.

If you've seen "The Last Jedi," you probably have some strong feelings about porgs, the adorable little bird-creatures from Luke Skywalker's hideaway planet of Ahch-To.

They're super cute. Personally, I am a huge fan of porgs. I mean, look at that adorable little face and plump little body! If you're not a fan, though, that's fine (I mean, you're wrong, but it's fine).

I want one. Yes, please. Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.


One thing you might not know about Porgs, however, is that they owe their existence to real-life conservationism. Seriously.

Ahch-To is actually the Irish island of Skellig Michael, which, as you can see, is absolutely stunning!

I want to go to there. Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.

There's just one issue: Skelling Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In other words, it functions as an animal sanctuary of sorts, meaning that the "Star Wars" cast and crew had to be really careful about not disturbing the local wildlife.

One major challenge? It's home to a lot of puffins.

OMG they are so cute! Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

"When we scouted [the island], it was covered in puffins," director Rian Johnson said in an IMDB interview, saying that he wanted to "figure out the 'Star Wars' version" of the cute creatures.

[rebelmouse-image 19533268 dam="1" original_size="500x281" caption=""This is part of the island. We've got to figure out the 'Star Wars' version of this." GIF from IMDB/YouTube." expand=1]"This is part of the island. We've got to figure out the 'Star Wars' version of this." GIF from IMDB/YouTube.

As actor Mark Hamill adds in that same interview, the puffins weren't exactly known for respecting the cast and crew's boundaries.

[rebelmouse-image 19533269 dam="1" original_size="500x281" caption=""Since they're protected, if you sit still, they kind of swarm around you." GIF from IMDB/YouTube." expand=1]"Since they're protected, if you sit still, they kind of swarm around you." GIF from IMDB/YouTube.

Rather than trying to digitally erase dozens of puffins that could pop up in the background of a shot, Johnson decided to just roll with it, and porgs were brought into existence!

Thanks, environmentalism!

In an interview on StarWars.com, concept designer Jake Lunt Davies explains the visual inspirations behind the finished porg product. "It was influenced by a seal, and a pug dog, and the puffin," he said. "The big eyes of a seas or the big eyes of a pug dog and the sort of funny, ugly face [of a pug]." Somehow, it all works.

It's always neat when something good, like conservationism, ends up resulting in something even better, like porgs.

While there are all sorts of reasons you should care about the environment, it never hurts to have one more (especially when the new reason is adorable). Do it for the porgs!

A behind-the-scenes look at a porg. Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Laverne Cox in 2016.

When kids are growing up they love to see themselves in the dolls and action figures. It adds a special little spark to a shopping trip when you hear your child say “it looks just like me.” The beaming smile and joy that exudes from their little faces in that moment is something parents cherish, and Mattel is one manufacturer that has been at the forefront of making that happen. It has created Barbies with freckles, afro puffs, wheelchairs, cochlear implants and more. The company has taken another step toward representation with its first transgender doll.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ activist, is celebrating her 50th birthday May 29, and Mattel is honoring her with her very own Barbie doll. The doll designed to represent Cox is donned in a red ball gown with a silver bodysuit. It also has accessories like high heels and jewelry to complete the look. Cox told Today, “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll.” She continued, “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.