Much news has come forth since I last decided to type down my thoughts on the Star Wars Saga, and one reason I haven’t done since until now is that many of these stories have made me feel negative emotions towards the new film I haven’t even seen yet, and I already said I wasn’t doing that. “Easier and More Seductive” indeed (for the record, I will still give TFA it’s fair shake and go in with a relatively open mind, but I am purposely not going out of my way to see it the first week or so due to the mishandled marketing throwing George and his fans under the bus. Expect my first impressions sometime in January).
So I’m going to attack the silly “Darth Binks” thing that went around about a month back instead.
In case you have forgotten or just never came across it, it basically looked at Jar Jar’s role in the films. It saw his uncanny luck, his subtle influences both on the plot and in his creation. It saw all the little details that lay just under the surface and then proceeded to come to the absolutely guano (and, more importantly, incorrect) conclusion that Jar Jar was secretly a Sith Lord in league with Palpatine and hindering our heroes from the very start. Didn’t Robot Chicken make this joke?
When I first came across the article, I brushed it off as a run-of-the-mill crack theory by fringe fandom. You see it all the time, when the tinfoil hat crowd becomes convinced that plot point A in a work was the cause of element Z which has no bearing on the work or the world it takes place. But then I was sent the same article by no less than FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE who apparently never actually bothered to read the article and thought I would love it because it was a supposed “defense” of my favorite character in fiction. I now see people actually trying to use this to justify Jar Jar’s existence to the haterbase, and it’s just muddying the waters and causing more harm than good.
So I’m going to tell you exactly why this line of thinking is flawed. Besides of course the obvious point being: “Why does Jar Jar have to be evil for you to even consider tolerating him?”
I’ve gone on many, many times, as have other authors, about Jar Jar’s Meta role in the story – He’s a “wise fool” archetype, he’s the funny sidekick for the younglings to latch onto, he was the product of George Lucas and Ahmed Best binge-watching old Buster Keaton flicks, etc. In my previous article, I mentioned Jar Jar was also a representation of Qui-Gon’s Taoist philosophy regarding the Living Force, and “Star Wars Heresies” author Paul F. MacDonald compared him to the Taoist symbol of the “Uncarved Block”.
The “Uncarved Block,” or “Pu” (pronounced the same way as another famous mass-media character who has been likened to this principle and now owned by the same company as Jar Jar), can be most easily described as the idea that “things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed”. And it is through this idea that I will explain how Jar Jar Binks was not only NOT a villain, but was perhaps one of the greatest heroes of the Republic – at least at first.
If you ever felt that the “Darth Binks” theory blew your mind, prepare for some “Scanners”-level explosions.
What if I told you that every positive turn in The Phantom Menace was made possible either directly or indirectly through Jar Jar’s bumbling? Moreover, what if I told you that the single most important event that would allow for Palpatine’s true defeat would not have occurred at all if Jar Jar were not in the picture?
Stop laughing. I’m serious.
People who pay decent enough attention to the plot will already know that Jar Jar leading Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to Otoh Gunga allowed them to reach Theed in time to rescue Queen Amidala, and that it was Jar Jar’s offhand comments to Amidala about the Gungan Grand Army that inspired her to fight the Battle of Naboo. People can even admit, albeit sometimes grudgingly, that Jar Jar quite by accident caused the most damage in the plains battle against the Droid army. However, while the Battle of Naboo’s victory was ultimately pyrrhic (as Palpatine became elected Chancellor anyway), it did save the Naboo people from internment and starvation, integrated the Naboo and Gungan societies, and set Palpatine back a good ten years as he needed to orchestrate another conflict to bring the Clone Army into the picture. This all due to Jar Jar’s presence.
There are also a couple of little touches. What made Qui-Gon stop running from the droid army and actually have time to stop and think of a plan? Having to save Jar Jar and allowing the army to pass them. Why was R2-D2 the last droid out onto the Queen’s J-type 327 Nubian and therefore the last droid to save the ship from the blockade? Because Jar Jar was in his way and he bumped into him.
But perhaps the most important part of all is this, and this is actually something I touched on in a very early post on my blog, but somehow I never mentioned it with my Jedi News readers.
Now, we can all agree that, whatever the true portents of the prophecy of the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker did destroy the Sith when he threw Palpatine down a pit in the second Death Star to save his son, correct? And whatever negative outcomes of Anakin being brought into Jedi society, it can be agreed that had he not been freed by Qui-Gon, Luke and Leia would never have been born and the Empire would have reigned much longer and with a tighter grip, correct?
Okay, so who allowed Anakin to leave Tatooine? Qui-Gon, you say? Well, he set the plan in motion, yet he didn’t even notice Anakin in Watto’s shop. He had to meet the boy again later to really see the boy. So who brought Anakin to his attention?
Padmé, you say? Well, she had the most direct interaction with him in the shop, but she’d have likely forgotten about him once it was made clear that Watto’s shop was a bust. So, how did Anakin come to join our merry band of adventurers? How did Anakin come under Qui-Gon’s notice, allowing him to fulfill his grand destiny, albeit far later and with far more tragedy in-between?
You know, don’t you? You remember the scene?
It was Jar Jar Binks.
Jar Jar Binks who, thinking with his stomach rather than his brain, tried to snatch an amphibian that he didn’t realize needed to be paid for. Jar Jar Binks who, upon being confronted by the shop owner, spat the Gorg out in such a trajectory that it happened to land in the soup of podracing darling Sebulba. Jar Jar Binks who, having unknowingly picked a fight with the especially dangerous Dug, needed to be saved from being turned into orange goo by the timely intervention of a certain sandy-haired shop slave who just so happened to be Sebulba’s racing rival. Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, the ace pilot, the Jedi knight, the betrayer and the redeemed, the father of Luke and Leia. If it weren’t for Jar Jar Binks, Anakin Skywalker would have finished his life as a slave or worse, and the Empire would have conquered sooner and lasted longer. The grand Star Wars adventure as we know it would never have happened had Jar Jar Binks not been there to get himself into trouble.
I’ll let you collect your brain matter before I continue.
So we see, Jar Jar just being Jar Jar, like the Uncarved Block, allowed whatever small victory in The Phantom Menace to happen. But when that block is changed, it loses its simplicity. This brings us to Attack of the Clones, where most people validate their hate sink by pointing out that Jar Jar allowed Palpatine to gain emergency powers. While one could argue with the previous statement that this was made possible partially by Jar Jar trying to be statelier than he was meant to, his simplicity has not been complicated all that much in the years since and he has been blamed FAR more than he should for it. Palpatine had learned his lesson from Phantom and decided not to underestimate the players that caused him such grief. He was a skilled manipulator – even YODA didn’t have more than vague unease around him, what chance did poor Jar Jar have? And if it wasn’t him, Palpatine would have talked someone else into it. While Jar Jar is certainly and accessory to Palpatine’s rise in the end, so was everyone in the Old Republic and very few of them willingly or – in Jar Jar’s case – at all aware of the true ramifications.
All this is why Jar Jar is a hero. A tragic one, like most heroes during the Republic’s fall, but hero nonetheless. There is not an evil bone in his remarkably flexible body. And while one cannot be faulted for finding him annoying or even obnoxious, there remains no excuse for pure unadulterated hatred. Personally, I just want to give him a giant hug – after all, he’s MY hero.