January 09, 2018

Horse 2362 - Jar Jar Binks Is Secretly A Good Character In A Badly Written Universe

In the Star Wars cinematic universe, the three prequel movies are almost universally hated. Unlike the three films starting from 1977, which had space ships, space guns, and space wizards with space laser swords, the prequel films which were made from 1999 and onwards, have more politics, intrigue and a romance gone wrong story, than space ships, space guns and space wizards with space laser swords. The prequel films also contain the universe's singularly most hated character of all: Jar Jar Binks. Had the prequel films never been made, then that position would have been occupied by C3-PO; I suspect that we were kind of supposed to dislike C3-PO though (nobody likes the protocol and rule followers).

Going back to Jar Jar Binks though, I have read that he is seen as representing some kind of racist caricature of Rastafarians, or perhaps nondescript Asian people, to an outright dislike of both his character design to the fact that he is just staggeringly inept and annoying. All of these are valid criticisms because the interpretation of any piece of art always belongs to its audience. No two people can ever experience anything exactly the same way;. that also includes the way that the creator experienced their own work. Although George Lucas probably had good intentions for Jar Jar Binks, to act as someone who the kids would like and maybe as an audience surrogate, once Mr Lucas released his film into the world, no longer controlled the realm of opinion.

I think that Jar Jar Binks is a far more intriguing character than either the portrayal on screen the court of public opinion has declared him to be. He has only a minor supporting role in The Phantom Menace, he gets no more than three lines of dialogue in Attack Of The Clones and he is only seen and gets zero lines of dialogue in The Revenge Of The Sith; to the extent that there isn't even a credit for him at the end of the film. So based purely on the evidence presented before us, he must have a far more interesting story than we've been told about. He has been sidelined because the public didn't like him but that still doesn't mean to say that he still doesn't have an interesting but untold story.

In The Phantom Menace he is presented as General Binks on the planet of Naboo. Immediately we have to realise that despite his bumbling exterior, he's obviously somewhat competent to be able to be promoted to such an extent that he holds the rank of General. Even though he is quite clumsy (and is told off by Qui-Gon Jinn for being clumsy) he still demonstrates at least a passing ability to fight.
Second to this, in the space between The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones, he becomes a Junior Representative for the Bunyan people in the Galactic Senate. Owing to the fact that the whole Star Wars cinematic universe is poorly thought out when it comes to matters of government and bureaucracy (because Star Wars is a space opera with laser wizards), I have no idea how the Galactic Senate is supposed to function. I have no idea how it makes any sense that it would be just Jar Jar Binks' fault that the power of the Galactic Senate should be seeded to Palpatine at all; so I don't think that it's fair that we should blame Jar Jar Binks for the whole chain of events.
Even if you allow for the possibility that there was a vote and the result was tied, his dithering needn't necessarily be interpreted as a bad thing because based on all information available to him it might have been the best choice after a deliberative process. In a vote of 251-250, there are still 250 other Senators to join with the one.

I would like to see the political thriller about how Jar Jar Binks, who was able to convince the cosmos that he was an incompetent fool, was able to wrangle public opinion to the point where he walks into the Galactic Senate in a landslide election. This is high level kind of manipulation of the sort that we might expect from Boris Johnson, Helmut Kohl, or Sir Joh Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Maybe this is a political thriller of a different sort where Jar Jar Binks is openly loved by his people precisely because he is so naive and innocent and the bad guys and antagonists of the film, turn out to be us and our prejudices against him. I must confess that I find Jar Jar Binks an annoying character to watch on screen but I don't think that that necessarily makes him a bad character because at very least, we remember him.

The thing about the three prequel movies is that it is mostly a story about how the Jedi who are supposed to be good, end up being terrible and making equally bad decisions because a space wizard theocracy is terrible at doing the job of governance. It is in that vacuum of terrible governance that Palpatine manipulates the system to steal power. Jar Jar Binks might very well be clumsy, incompetent and terrible at government but at least he does what he thinks it is right and proper to do.
It is we the audience who are the villains for writing him off; and George Lucas himself who is the emperor of awful for giving us three convoluted films with too much politics, intrigue and a romance gone wrong story, rather than space ships, space guns and space wizards with space laser swords.

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