Jar Jar Binks

The People vs George Lucas

Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character from the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas for his prequel trilogy. He was the first lead computer generated character of the franchise, he was portrayed by Ahmed Best in most of his appearances. Jar Jar’s primary role in ‘Episode I’ was to provide comic relief for the audience, and was generally met with extremely negative comments from both critics and viewers. He is often acknowledged as one of the worst and most hated characters of all time.

Joe Morgenstern of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ described him as a ‘Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen.’ Race theorist Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar’s character are reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a ‘laid-back clown character’ representing a black Caribbean stereotype. George Lucas has denied any racist implications. Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that ‘Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean.’

Even before the release of ‘The Phantom Menace,’ Jar Jar became the subject of a great deal of media and popular attention, though not in the way his creators intended. Binks became symbolic of what many reviewers considered to be creative flaws of the film, particularly excessive commercialization directed at young children (a criticism first leveled with the introduction of Ewoks in ‘Return of the Jedi’). Lucas stated that he feels there is a section of the fanbase who get upset with aspects of ‘Star Wars’ because ‘[t]he movies are for children but they don’t want to admit that… There is a small group of fans that do not like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like ‘The Terminator,’ and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike.’ Rob Coleman, who was the lead on the Industrial Light & Magic animation team, warned Lucas that the team thought Jar Jar’s character came across poorly. Lucas told him that he specifically put Jar Jar in the film to appeal to small children twelve or under. True to Coleman’s predictions, the character was widely rejected and often ridiculed. One fan, Mike J. Nichols, created and distributed, free of charge, a modified version of the film, entitled ‘The Phantom Edit,’ which cut out several scenes featuring what Nichols dubbed ‘Jar Jar antics.’

Jar Jar first appears in ‘The Phantom Menace’ as a bumbling, foolish Gungan from the planet Naboo. Banished by his tribe for his clumsiness, he is nearly killed by a Federation transport, only to be saved at the last minute by Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). Qui-Gon and his padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), persuade Jar Jar’s tribe to release him to their custody as a guide. He later goes with the Jedi and Queen Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) to the planet Tatooine, where he meets and befriendsAnakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). Jar Jar later appears in the film’s climactic battle scene, where he leads his fellow Gungans in defeating the Trade Federation. After the battle he appears at the funeral of Qui-Gon Jinn and in the ending parade with his fellow Gungans.

Jar Jar’s role in Attack of the Clones is much smaller, but his actions are significant. Ten years after helping to save his planet, he is a delegate to the Galactic Senate and as such, plays a role in bringing his old friends, Obi-Wan and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) back to Coruscant, where he greets them with enthusiasm. Later, on the behalf of the Naboo, he gives a speech to the assembled Senate in favor of granting Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) emergency powers. These are granted, giving Palpatine the necessary power he needs to subsequently overthrow the senate and bring the galaxy into the dictatorial control of the Sith’s Galactic Empire. Jar Jar appears in only a few scenes in Revenge of the Sith, and has no dialogue (besides a brief ”scuse me’ at one point). He was originally given some dialogue in the beginning, but this was cut.

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