Poor old Jar Jar. Is there a fictional character more hated? More maligned? George Lucas, Ahmed Best, and the team at Industrial Light and Magic put all their effort into making this amazing technological wonder and a ready source of comic relief in an otherwise fairly tense film, and the reaction of the general public seems to be unbridled abhorrence.
Well, wait, let’s back up a minute. When I say “general public,” what I really mean is the destructive side of fandom as well as many of the film critics. Jar Jar’s always been a big hit with kids. “Certainly,” the detractors may say, “he was made for them and they don’t know any better.” Except that many adults I’ve talked to who don’t have a stake in this flame war say they like him just fine, or at least tolerate him even if they’re not great fans.
Me? I love the poor slob. He’s my fourth favorite character in the saga. I’ve loved the character since I first saw him in 1999. “But why?!?!” you may scream into the void. That question is a little harder to answer.
I wrote here about how much I identify with him and see a lot of myself in him. I wrote here about how integral he is to the entire plot of the saga. Many other writers have written about his mythological influences and his connection to classic silent film slapstick.
None of these are why I love him.
Sure, they help. They give me a deeper understanding of him, and give me ammunition to defend him. However, this is all stuff I’ve either read or realized very recently. Like I said it was love at first sight in 1999. I wasn’t a little kid in ‘99, I was just turning 13. So what drew me to him?
Well, one thing was his character design. I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I’ve always been drawn to interesting character designs. I’ve also been a huge dinosaur nut since I can remember, so naturally I’d gravitate towards something with the face of a Hadrosaur. But a lot of people liked the character design and then got turned off by his personality. I didn’t though. Why is that?
Because he made me laugh. I thought he was funny. I still do to this day. Granted, today it’s more “facepalm” funny, but it’s an honest chuckle I still can’t help giving. He had the walk, that boneless gate that I would purposefully imitate whenever I got too tense. He had the talk, that wonderful quacking voice and unmistakable speech pattern (not unlike his technological successor Gollum, who is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time).
Let’s contrast this with someone like, say, fan-favorite Boba Fett. I will tell you right now that Fett left absolutely no impression on me the first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back, to the point where it took several viewings for it to stick that he was even in the film at all. Return of the Jedi wasn’t all that much better. I never understood why Fett had the following he did before his origin was revealed in Attack of the Clones (and since that only came about because of his following, I still don’t really understand it). I mean, yeah, the armor is kind of cool, but doesn’t really stand out next to classic Vader, at least for me. But people go crazy for him. And people who do tend to really dislike Jar Jar.
But what I realized that most people tend not to is that it’s all subjective tastes. We’ll all have our favorite characters based on our experiences and preferences, and that can even change. I remember I had no real love for any of Star Wars’ main characters when I first saw the films. I was always about the sidekicks, and to a degree I still am (just not at the expense of the heroes, and I adore villains now). To a lot of people, Boba Fett or even Han Solo was the epitome of cool, and I say they can have them. In 1999 my epitome of cool, for better or worse, was Jar Jar Binks. And you know what? Not much has changed.
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