Star Wars

The Jar Jar Renaissance

Jar Jar Binks is probably the most hated character in the Star Wars universe.  He is a wacky, silly character that many fans of the Original Trilogy just did not resonate with when The Phantom Menace released in 1999.  I understand this.  The prequels were largely hated for years, and Jar Jar chief among the complaints.  When the sequel trilogy started production, the marketing for it was almost aggressively anti-prequel.  I distinctly remember San Diego Comic Con 2015 when they released a featurette for The Force Awakens.  The video was trying so hard to tell us that this was different from the prequels.  It opens with Mark Hamill saying “real sets. Practical effects.”  Later another narrator says “JJ is trying to make sure these movies have a physicality to them.  We truly are out in a desert.  A real desert.”  Maybe other people didn’t see it like that, but check out the featurette and decide for yourself.  When Disney bought Lucasfilm, they didn’t want to touch the prequels with a ten foot pole.  Then something wonderful happened.  

It’s hard to point to a single moment in time and say “this is when the prequels started receiving the praise they deserve,” but I’d say it was around January 2017.  Rogue One had just come out, and it was mostly loved by the fans.  Everyone loved The Force Awakens the year before, it was a wonderful time for the Star Wars community.  Building on this momentum and amazing community was Reddit’s /r/PrequelMemes in early 2017.  It gave fans an outlet to celebrate the prequels and share our love while also acknowledging the silly and ridiculous aspects of them.  Darth Jar Jar fan theories started popping up, and eventually what may have started as a joke of loving the prequels became reality.  Jar Jar is finally getting some love after 20 long years.   Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best  received a standing ovation at Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019, finally giving him the credit and love from the community he should have had for years.  There is no doubt in my mind that the time is right for Jar Jar Binks to return to the spotlight, so the question now is where.  The only canon appearance of Jar Jar after the fall of the Republic is from an interlude in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End.

Taking place after the fall of the Galactic Empire, Jar Jar ends up a clownish jester on the streets of Theed.  He finds himself banished by the Gungans (again) and disparaged by the Naboo.  “The adults, though.  They don’t say much about him.  Or to him.  And no other Gungans come to see him, either.  Nobody even says his name.”  Well first of all, that’s dark.  But this honestly is a meta representation of what people thought about Jar Jar in 2017 when the book was released.  People still hated him and wanted to see him disgraced and forgotten.  Times have changed and we want better for our boy now, but this is the story we have to work with.  In terms of why Jar Jar was banished and disparaged, he thinks it is because he made some “uh-oh mistakens.  Big mistakens.”  When this was written, I’m sure Wendig was referring to Jar Jar proposing emergency powers to Palpatine during the Republic era, but I think he intentionally left it open to multiple stories.  I find it hard to believe that Jar Jar would receive this much in-universe hate for the role he played in Palpatine’s rise to power, because spoiler alert, Palpatine played literally everyone in the Republic like Babe Ruth with a T-Ball set.  Yes, Jar Jar was manipulated into making some regrettable decisions, but so was Anakin, Dooku, the entire Jedi Order, and the Republic. 

Jar Jar’s story leaves a lot of open paths to get there, and I desperately want to see one explored.  We have a few possible Jar Jar stories in the pipeline.  I would want to see him in Kenobi more than anything.  Bring Ahmed Best back into live action, show off some of the incredible advancements we’ve made in CG characters since 1999, and potentially show a different side of Jar Jar.  I would love to see a tortured Jar Jar trying to come to terms with what he has done and what has happened to his friends and family.  And at the end he could go back to tomfoolery on Naboo when nothing goes right because it was the only thing he was ever any good at, referencing Han Solo’s character transition from the rebellion to the resistance.  It would rhyme like poetry like George always wanted!  Another possibility for Jar Jar’s return is in The Bad Batch.  This animated sequel to The Clone Wars is taking place in the exact time period and setting that I am so curious about in regards to Jar Jar.  The transition from Republic to Empire is going to be great to see up close, and with the death of Padme there is a lot of potential for some good Jar Jar stories.  The last option I see is in E.K. Johnston’s conclusion to her Padme trilogy Queen’s Hope.  This book is going to be set during the Clone Wars and focus on Padme and her relationship with Anakin.  This leaves certain doors open to Jar Jar, but I would rather see him post-Republic.  

Of course I will never relinquish my hope that we will get Jar Jar: A Star Wars Story.  We don’t know what Taika Waititi is doing yet, and he’s great with wacky comedy.  Do you think we are ready for more Jar Jar in our lives?  Ahmed Best has said he’d be happy to return to the character if the story is right, but maybe the time isn’t right yet.  I know I’d love to see it.  Jar Jar is too great to fade into memory and obscurity.  “Gungans no dyin’ withouta fight.”  

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