From Outcast To Clown - The Tragedy Of Jar Jar Binks
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More than two decades after the debut of Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace, the Gungan remains a divisive character in the community. However, whether you believe Jar Jar is a Sith Lord or just an annoying addition to the story, the Gungan has an interesting history from his conception by George Lucas until his character arc was closed in Aftermath: Empire’s End in 2017. Here we explain the history behind Jar Jar’s character archetype and the meaning of his complete story arc to date.
Creating Jar Jar Binks
A few years back, George Lucas revealed that Disney’s Goofy was the inspiration behind Jar Jar’s character. The clumsy walking, goofy mannerisms, clunky voice, long body, and ears resemble the Disney character strongly.
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Lucas commented on several occasions that childlike and comic sidekicks have room in his films and fought back the fan criticism of the comic implementation with Jar Jar by remarking, “the movies are for children but [the fans] don’t want to admit that.”
Writer/director Rick Worley (How to Watch Star Wars) described Jar Jar as “an audience proxy character for children. He covers his eyes when something scary is happening. As children would be, he’s confused and overwhelmed by the big events around him.”
Lucas has never drawn back his support for Jar Jar despite the harsh critiques that Space Goofy has been receiving since 1999. In a fan event marking the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, Lucas stated: “[It] is one of my favorite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favorite character,”
The Jar Jar archetype was crafted to be an entertainment device for the youngest audiences in a mature plot. But what fans usually fail to acknowledge is the deeper story being told. We learned that Jar Jar was an outcast underestimated by peers. The Gungan’s personality played out as an essential element for the development of the character in the story, and George Lucas was ready to give this setting a twist in The Phantom Menace.
The Hero Of The Phantom Menace
“Gungans no dying without a fight. Wesa warriors. Wesa got a grand army.” - Jar Jar to Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace
The first time we met Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace, we found out that the rejection audiences felt towards his personality was also true within the story. Jar Jar was supposed to be annoying. When Jar Jar leads Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to Otoh Gunga (the underwater Gungan City), we get to know that Jar Jar is banished from Gungan society, and other Gungans even step away in his presence.
But those that read beyond the obvious realized that Jar Jar had a pivotal impact on the story. Until this point, the Gungans had been considered primitives and disregarded by the rest of the galaxy. As a result, the Trade Federation does not view the Gungans as a threat. After Queen Amidala failed to plea before the Senate for freeing her homeworld from the Trade Federation blockade, Jar Jar spoke up about the bravery and military power of the Gungans.
This aroused a chain of events that led Queen Amidala to ally with the Gungans and Jar Jar to be granted the rank of General in the battle that ended in the liberation of Naboo. And thus, the annoying Gungan became the hero that aided in uniting the Nabooians. From outcast to savior.
Senator of The Galactic Republic
In Attack of the Clones, Jar Jar became Senator of Naboo, an immediate pay-off for his heroics in the previous film. Thanks to Jar Jar, Naboo had a political representative who understood Naboo’s civilization’s dynamics. In addition, Jar Jar had a chance to continue proving that talking funny and being goofy (literally, Goofy) means little when you become the champion of your people. But things did not go that well for the Gungan moving forward.
In the most infamous act in the character’s story, Jar Jar proposes before the Senate passes a bill granting Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers to raise a Grand Army. The hero of Naboo just redirected the fate of the Republic down a spiral of authoritarianism from which it never recovered.
Jar Jar trusted a little too much in his political judgment. After all, what better way to boost your ego than being the individual that provoked the mutual understanding of two civilizations back home. Unfortunately, his boldness had started a pivotal political change to warrant the beginning of the Clone Wars and the eventual end of the Republic.
During The Clone Wars, Jar Jar did not get to experience any meaningful changes to affect his character arc. He remained nothing more than an entertainment device for children in The Clone Wars series. It might be because the Gungan, despite being a background character in Revenge of the Sith, did not really change much in what was left of the prequels trilogy to affect the overall plot or his own story arc.
Final Fate And Allegory To The Real World
“Since children started coming in by the shipload as refugees, the Gungan has served them, performing for the kids once or twice a day. He does tricks. He juggles. He falls over and shakes his head as his eyes roll around inside their fleshy stalks. He makes goofy sounds and does strange little dances.”
The last we know of the Gungan comes from Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig. The arc of the Gungan ends on a sad beat that depicts the consequences of providing the first foundation stone for the creation of the Galatic Empire under Palpatine’s rule.
The level of disgrace that the Gungan received as a consequence of his actions as Senator got him the ultimate banishment from the Gungan society, refugeeing in Theed where he would entertain children by calling him “clown” for his goofy performances in the capital city.
“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.”
Despite George Lucas not being the one who finished Jar Jar’s character arc, Empire’s End serves as a perfect allegory send-off for the character, depicting how he has always been seen in the real world by two different audiences.
In the end, Jar Jar’s story in The Phantom Menace reminds us that anyone can generate change, no matter who you are or what society thinks of you. In Attack of the Clones, it reminds us to be careful while making difficult decisions on complex issues that we do not fully comprehend.
In Aftermath: Empire’s End, we get reminded of the consequences of our mistakes and, more importantly, that Jar Jar was never a character to take that seriously. Because it succeeded in achieving the purpose George Lucas initially gave him: to entertain the children of Naboo and the real world alike.
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Written by Alex Velb
Source(s): BCC, Cheat Sheet, So Uncivilized, That Hashtag Show, Vulture
Syndicated from Culture Slate
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
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I always loved Jar Jar. I love his childish antics and sometimes foolish ways. Jar Jar gave StarWars a fantastic touch of animation which allowed for a light-hearted touch of comedy.