1997-1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002+
The Jar Jar Factor
Negative buzz? Don't believe the hype.
Jar Jar Binks is certainly getting a lot of attention these days. Unfortunately, a lot of this attention has been pretty negative. Let me start my diatribe by saying that I hate to even acknowledge this issue. It's certainly getting *much* more press than it deserves already, thanks to the mainstream media! A quick side note: the mainstream media (now more than ever!) is continuing it's lazy trend of letting the internet do all of their work for them.
Mr. Big Shot Mainstream Media Editor: "Hey we need some kinda Star Wars story by press time tonight!"
Mild Mannered Mainstream Media Reporter: "Okay...hmmm...let's see...w-w-w...hmmmm...copy...paste...there we go sir!"
How many times have you seen a news item come across the wire, or printed in a magazine, that you've seen on sites like TFN, Ain't It Cool News, or Newsdroid maybe even weeks earlier (most of the time with no credit)? If I had a Republic Credit for every time I've seen it, I could own 15 T-14 Hyperdrive Generators by now! I digress.
Back to the issue at hand, Jar Jar Binks. The negative buzz surrounding the character has baffled me since the first time I heard about it. I'll not even bother touching on the racial stereotype issues, that I'm sure you're all familiar with by now, simply because I'm infuriated by the simple assertion that the character concept is in any way offensive. It's utterly ludicrous, and was cooked up by some hypersensitive morons in the media trying to get your attention. Before I begin to state my case about character himself, let me say that most of this buzz has been perpetuated by people that aren't Star Wars fans to begin with. They started out just trying to get a rise out of some folks, like myself I suppose, and get attention. Unfortunately it worked and die hard fans, that for whatever reason did not agree with Lucas' vision for Episode I, bought into the anti Jar Jar thing. Two guys in some AOL chat room probably started flaming some Star Wars fans, wrote some email that got circulated around, and some cheesy web sites were whipped up, and *BAM*...instant movement! They manage to get a link from some fan sites, then just like always, the mainstream media picks it up and all of a sudden "Kill Jar Jar" is in newspapers everywhere.
Now, possibly to my own detriment, I go on record as saying that I think Jar Jar is a fantastic character! For me he's a welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos. First off, Jar Jar is an amazing technical accomplishment. I really think that Rob Coleman and the guys from ILM, along with Ahmed Best, deserve to be honored by the Academy with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He's not executed perfectly, but he's a major breakthrough in character animation and should be appreciated as that. Ahmed's work shouldn't be understated either, he's an incredibly talented individual, and his personality brings so much to the role. He's more than just a reference for ILM animators. He really brings the character to life!
On to the actual character of Jar Jar in the TPM story. Is it the fact that he brings straight forward humor into the Star Wars universe that detractors don't like? I don't know. It was Lucas intention when crafting the character to create a sidekick for the Jedi, that could play off them. Something that would bring a little lightheartedness in the midst of the high drama, and intense action of TPM. He does that perfectly. I actually find Jar Jar one of the more interesting characters in the film. Why? The personal journey that the character takes is more prolific than that of any of the others except maybe Anakin. Now, let me say that I
'm not a big fan of fart jokes, or poop jokes. I've never owned a Whoopee Cushion in my whole life. The two scenes that feature these don't ruin the film for me, but I could have certainly done without them. All the 5 year olds I know laughed h
ysterically though. Now those scenes m
erely show Jar Jar reacting to mishaps around him, and aren't the actions of his character, but nev
ertheless they're goofy parts of the film associated with him. Still those two bits are no reason to shout, "Jar Jar must die!". Chill. Relax, and enjoy the movie at face value. Just because Lucas didn't make the exact film that you've been writing and directing in your head for 15 years, there's no reason to be overly critical. Just have fun, and take yourself a little less seriously. Getting back to Jar Jar...I think he's genuinely hysterical in some of the bigger comedic moments like the energy binders scene, and the dinner scene. Too funny! His awkwardness is delightful, and it's those childlike qualities make Jar Jar instantly endearing. However, I think the character plays best in his more dramatic moments, although they are few and far between. If Lucas does bring him back for Episode II these dramatic strengths could stand to be emphasized. Like when we see "General Jar Jar" leading his troops into battle ("Steady. Steady!"), or when he's talking with Amidala about the fate of Naboo ("Gungan's get pasted too eh?"). Nothing wrong with feelin' all warm and fuzzy right there.
I'm sure I'm going to get tons of mail for this. Some praise, and some death threats. Legitimate criticisms of the character don't bother me at all. I may not agree, but I'm willing to listen to that all day. It's the militant attitude of this small number of very vocal "Jar Jar haters" that doesn't sit well with me. I say, lighten up. Sure there are some things about Jar Jar that are childish at times, that stems from his naivete and innocence. If that's "annoying" to you, then maybe you've become so jaded that you don't remember your own childhood. One of the coolest things about Star Wars is the fact that it's appeal crosses all generations and cultures. Above all, it appeals to the kid in all of us. I've seen TPM 5 times now and every time I see it I feel the same joy that I felt when I was 9, watching Jedi with my Dad. There's a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that Lucas' wrote on a draft of Star Wars back in the day. It reads:
I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man,
or the man who's half a boy.
In this age of moral decay, it's pretty refreshing to see something that's not ashamed of it's innocence. So the next time you see Episode I, take a moment to look around at all the children in the theater. This time...instead of being annoyed by their loudly asked questions or their spilled M&Ms, watch the looks on their faces...listen to them laughing...and remember. It'll make you smile.
Brian A. Linder
June 10, 1999