Screen Rant: “What Star Wars Fans Can Learn From Jar Jar Binks”

jarjar02“Hang around Star Wars fans long enough, and you’re bound to hear something about what it means to be a “true” fan, what counts as “real” Star Wars and what doesn’t, why the originals are better than the prequels, and why you’re supposed to hate Jar Jar Binks.

While these aren’t opinions held by every fan, it’s been a fairly common voice in fandom for years, basically since the prequels came out. This kind of talk has unfortunately only become more common after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, only now add fandom divisions over topics like the relegation of the Expanded Universe content to non-canon “Legends” status, or supposedly “forced” diversity in the casting of the new films, which prominently feature more women and minorities than the Star Wars of old.

The thing is, the story told by Star Wars has always contained a commentary on petty divisions of this nature, and one of the most prominent examples comes from the much maligned, and very much misunderstood, Jar Jar Binks. He may have been minimized to an internet punchline, but Star Wars fandom has a lot to learn from the despised Gungan. […]

 

George Lucas is famously ridiculed for stating that “Jar Jar is the key to all of this,” suggesting that he was tone deaf to what his fans wanted and introduced an unlikeable, unnecessary character, a character many say “ruined” the prequels. The thing is, Jar Jar harkens back to a major theme from the original trilogy.

When Luke first meets Yoda, he’s fooled into thinking the Jedi Master is a silly unimportant creature because in order to conform to Luke’s ideal of importance he needed to be “a great warrior.” Just like how Jar Jar was looked down on by the Gungans, the Jedi, and the Senate, who all thought the only way he could be important was if he was like them – a warrior or a politician. When he wasn’t good at either of those, they would try to minimize his significance entirely.

Ironically, this very same thing can be seen in Star Wars fandom. After the negative response to the Star Wars prequels, fans have spent decades trying to figure out how to “fix” them. Namely by cutting the hated Gungan from the story through fan edits – but that, unfortunately, betrays the very core of the trilogy. The prequels are stories about a Jedi Order and a Galactic Republic that have become so arrogant, so self-absorbed, that they’d failed simple people of the galaxy like Jar Jar – or slaves like Anakin and his mother.

So if he can’t be removed, what about fan theories that make him better? What if he was actually a secret Sith Lord, Darth Jar Jar? That would surely fix the prequels, right? Unfortunately, this is fandom treating Jar Jar the same way everyone in the story does: “He’d be way better as a general, right?” or “He’d be way better as a Senator, right?” […]

Going back to Jar Jar: when Aftermath: Empires End revealed his not so noble end as a clown, many fans excitedly though this was Lucasfilm finally kicking Jar Jar to the curb, degrading him and finally fulfilling the wishes some fans have had for decades of seeing the Gungan humiliated. What they were actually doing, though, was turning a mirror on the fandom. As always, Jar Jar was being treated in the story the same way fans treated him in the real world. He was the butt of the joke, at his expense – and despite his best effort.

From a broader perspective, the parts of the Star Wars saga fans don’t particularly love are treated similarly, especially the prequels. They don’t live up to fan expectations or standards for what makes something a Star Wars movie, so they endlessly obsess over how to remove the less satisfactory elements through fan edits or just outright dismiss them, saying they consider them non-canon or asking Disney to ignore them in future movies.

In the same way that Jar Jar Binks failed to live up to the expectations of more cultured societies, and the Ewoks failed to live up to the definition of war heroes – the Star Wars prequels failed to check off all the expectations of fans. In their nostalgic obsession with the “real action” of the saga, they disregarded a core pillar. Even in our fandom, we forget the little guy. We’re missing the point.

That’s not to say fans are wrong if they dislike the prequels – or any part of Star Wars, really. Everyone is free to enjoy whatever entertainment they prefer! But to disparage any piece of the Star Wars saga because the story or characters aren’t catered toward specific sensibilities – be it a disagreement on story direction or the ethnicity or gender of the characters – is pretty reductive.

Like Jar Jar’s treatment in Empire’s End, fans with these issues can disparage the parts of Star Wars they find issue with – or they can approach them in a new light, and perhaps try to appreciate how that story might resonate with people of different backgrounds. Maybe we can even learn something about ourselves – and how we treat those who are different from us – in the process.”

Read the whole article at Screen Rant.

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