We Made Our Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Character Look Like a Hair Metal Guy Trying to Go Alternative in 1993

Games Features Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
We Made Our Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Character Look Like a Hair Metal Guy Trying to Go Alternative in 1993

I mean, that headline kind of says it all. Look at this guy: he looks like the bassist for Danger Danger or Trixter trying to survive in a post-Nevermind world. We accidentally stumbled across this look while playing around with the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor customization tools; they’re not the deepest or widest-ranging custom options ever seen in a videogame, or anything, but there’s still a lot of flexibility with your character’s clothes, hair style, and facial hair, and the latter two are especially fun to mess around with. It’s a small part of the game, but easily one of the most entertaining.

You’ll unlock new cuts and scruff for Cal Kestis across the galaxy while playing through the game, inexplicably finding beards and mullets in crates in dark caverns or hidden corners of Imperial bases, and can immediately equip them through the Jedi: Survivor customization menu. Most of them don’t fit the image of a Jedi in the slightest, although that’s somewhat in keeping with Cal’s backstory and his initial reluctance to embrace his Jedi past. At least half of them look absolutely ridiculous on Cal, but in a really fun and funny way. I forget where I got that ‘do Cal’s rocking in the photo below; I probably had to kill like a dozen droids to scrape it out of a box in a raider’s cave on Koboh. The game calls it a center part, but anybody alive in the ’90s knows the real name is a butt cut. (I actually styled my hair that way for maybe a week my first month in college. Yes, I was incredibly depressed.)

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor customization

If you weren’t around when Nirvana’s Nevermind came out in 1991, you might not realize how distinct it was from the hard rock that MTV and the music industry had been pushing since the ’80s. Whether you want to call it metal, glam, cock rock, or hair metal (a term those bands generally do not like), groups like Mötley Crüe, Poison, Ratt, Dokken, Skid Row, and hundreds of interchangeable others dominated the mainstream rock scene from, say, 1983 until 1991, or so. You could recognize them before they even played a note, with long hair teased up high, usually bleached or permed, a dress code of spandex, scarves and leather, and often wearing makeup. It was a signal of the excess and hedonism those bands and their songs celebrated, and it was a fantasy that resonated hard with the young people of America throughout the ’80s.

At the same time there was a parallel music industry developing in the underground, across a national network of independent labels, small clubs, zines, alt weeklies, and college radio stations. By the end of the ’80s this system, developed piecemeal by punk and underground bands throughout the country—most crucially by Black Flag and the artists signed to their SST label (including Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, and many more)—was established enough where the circuit’s most popular bands could make a living through their music. One of the labels that launched during this moment was the Seattle-based Sub Pop, which by 1989 had become one of the more buzzed about indie labels after a string of releases by local hard rock bands, including Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Nirvana. Although the songs these bands wrote weren’t all that similar, they were mostly all recorded by the same producer, Jack Endino, whose quick and cheap recording methods gave their albums a common sound that came to be called “grunge.” These Seattle bands were often inspired by some of the same classic rock and metal bands that influenced the hair metal scene, but beyond digging Sabbath and long hair, playing heavy, and doing some of the same drugs, they were two very different scenes. Nirvana especially was an antithesis to the party mentality of the hair metal bands, with frontman Kurt Cobain disgusted by the misogyny, homophobia, and over-the-top machismo that defined those bands. (People didn’t use the term “toxic masculinity” in the ’80s but it totally would’ve described the metal scene back then, even with so many of them dressing androgynously.) Nirvana did not look, sound, think, or talk like the biggest rock bands of the late ’80s, so when they blew up on the mainstream stage with their 1991 album Nevermind they had a seismic impact upon the culture. By the end of 1992 record labels had purged their rosters of lower-tier hair metal bands and begun a frantic search for the “next Nirvana” by signing almost any band that had a college radio hit; they lumped all of this, as well as major acts from the ’80s like U2, R.E.M., and The Cure, into a new radio format they called “alternative.” The biggest hair bands, like Crüe and Bon Jovi, didn’t disappear, but were noticeably less successful than they had been in the ’80s; the lesser bands either broke up or took drastic measures to stay afloat in this new cultural moment. And so, to keep up with the times and try to fit into the alternative format that (along with the rise of rap and hip-hop) had basically supplanted metal and hard rock as the center of mainstream music, so many of the dudes from those hair bands entered their own real life version of the Jedi: Survivor customization tools and cut their hair, grew goatees and soul patches, and tried to look like sad, serious men in their band photos instead of the coked-up sex pests they looked like (and often were) just a few years earlier.

That’s totally what my Cal Kestis looks like! (Yes, I’m still writing about a videogame, here.)

Look at that perfect part right down the middle, with Cal’s greasy locks perfectly framing his face. Bask in that slick soul patch, which says “yes, I am a serious man who ponders hard upon the vagaries and injustices of life, but I also know how to party.” Check out how that stubble around his patch shows he doesn’t care too much about how he looks, in a stinging rebuke to the hours and hours it took him to get his hair and makeup just right every night of the ’80s. This is a man who clearly knows nobody’s buying what he’s selling anymore, and so a hard pivot needs to be made. You’ll recognize this exact look from every single band photo taken by any former hair metal guys between the years 1993 and 2000. And the fact that I could create it so faithfully, without even trying to, just shows how much fun can be had with the Jedi: Survivor customization tools.

Based on social media, it’s probably the most popular part of the game right now. One of the favorite hair options seen on Twitter is a mighty impressive mullet. Twitter user @Freethewzrd shared a screencap of Cal with that mullet and a horseshoe ‘stache where he basically looks like a redheaded Kenny Powers. That tweet’s had a million views in like two days, so clearly the world has been anxiously waiting for the first redneck Jedi.

Obviously it’s inherently fun to make a Jedi look like a guy you’d see in the audience at a Skynyrd show, but another reason the Jedi: Survivor customization tools have taken off like this is because the game is so serious and morose otherwise. It’s Star Wars, so it’s still fundamentally silly and full of moments of levity, but the story is about loss, betrayal, grief, and temptation, and as a result Cal tends to mope about when he’s not slashing up Stormtroopers or talking to scheming alien frogs in his buddy’s bar. There are certain characters you have to talk to a lot, and every time you know it’s going to be dour or dire or usually both. A makeover offers a welcome respite from the gloom that clouds this game. And as our review notes, the repetitive combat grows old across the game’s very long runtime, so you’ll be looking for anything to break up that repetition.

Star Wars, as a franchise, is more than muddled right now. It’s overstuffed with TV shows and books, light on movies, and other than the rare highlight like The Last Jedi or Andor it usually doesn’t aspire beyond lowest common denominator comfort viewing. (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, by the way; Star Wars has always been light entertainment, first and foremost.) Star Wars Jedi: Survivor reminds us how epic this universe can be, but it also reminds us how fun it can be by letting us make our Jedi look like an early ’00s Brooklyn hipster, a drunken shitkicker in a roadhouse bar, or even like a member of Cinderella in 1994.

Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.

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