Monday, April 23, 2012

"J" is for...

Jar Jar Binks

Yeah, I said it!

Jar Jar Binks may be a goofy, floppy-eared bafoon with all the common sense of a womp rat, but I also find a lot to like in this character.

Yeah, I said that too.

To me Jar Jar represents something we really don't see in too many sci fi films and he may have a lot more in common with a lot of characters than you think. At his core, he is a lovable slapstick sidekick who has his moments of abject failure but also manages to help the other heroes despite himself. He flops and jabbers his way across the screen in a way that is one part Chevy Chase and another Soupy Sales. Prat falling, bungling,  and fumbling like John Ritter's Jack Tripper with googly eyes. But why do I like him?

Why I like Jar Jar List - 

1) He's an alien who's not a perfect archetype of his species. Jar Jar is flawed when compared to the other Gungans. Boss Nass and Captain Tarpals seem quite competent, as do the others of his species who fought a stand-up fight against the droid army.

2) He doesn't speak perfectly. As an alien character, he is portrayed speaking a pidgin Galactic Standard rather than perfect GS or his own language with subtitles. This, for me, made him much more believable and interesting than the usual aliens with perfect diction.

3) He provides comic relief. In a series of movies that could have been otherwise quite heavy given the overtones of impending doom, corruption, slavery, civil war and the rapid decline of society and government, Jar Jar gives a few moments of rest. Hell, somebody has to be happy in a movie where they leave no question about the wholesale murder of children and the wanton betrayal of the brightest point of light in the entire galaxy (Jedi).

4) Jar Jar Ruins it All. Ultimately, it is the most lovable character that does the greatest amount of damage to the galaxy by his unilateral decision to offer up the prospect of extending unrestricted governmental authority to the most evil man in the galaxy.

5) Jar Jar Is a Hero. Despite his later utter blunder in politics, Jar Jar is the one who saves the day in The Phantom Menace. While the rest of the heroes are busy scratching their heads about what to do, Jar Jar risks his butt going back to the people who exiled him to call to arms the only army at hand big enough to challenge the Trade Federations' droid army. Like many of the native sidekicks of old, he fights a potentially losing fight against an overwhelming foe.

The above examples are all drawn from the well known and almost universally viewed prequel movies, but there are more reasons to like Jar Jar presented in the Clone Wars animated series. In fact, it seems that there is a real effort to show Jar Jar (and the Gungans) in a positive light. Perhaps the writers of the show felt a need to redeem the race or were eager for the challenge to do something with the much maligned character (species).

In the animated series, Jar Jar is shown as a cagey character, able to adapt to situations that put him in well above his pay grade. While he never surrenders his fool's way, he still manages to, and often with little help, succeed in his tasks. Whether it is taking on space pirates or confronting droids occupying a friendly city, Jar Jar comes through. In one episode it is Jar Jar who discovers, through a female Gungan, a cure for the Blue Shadow Virus that is killing Naboo's imhabitants. In "Gungan Attack", it is Jar Jar who convinces the Gungan council to send the Gungan Grand Army to support Captain Akbar's fight to keep Mon Cal free of Separatist rule. In another episode, Shadow Warrior, Jar Jar masquerades as the the new Gungan leader Boss Lyonie and stops the manipulated Gungan army from going to war with Theed.

Throughout the series Jar Jar proves himself time and again to be a useful character. All of this is really quite a bummer when you stop and consider that he goofs bad and puts the galaxy in Palpatine's hands. Despite this career-ending misstep, Jar Jar plays out to be a faithful sidekick, accidental statesman and blundering hero of the highest caliber.


  1. Jar Jar Binks has just gotten his 1st Oscar!

  2. Hmm, can't say this one agrees with me, but then again I love Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost, so who am I to judge!

  3. I liked that one too.

    I must say that if Jar Jar were a little Asian kid in a baseball cap or some loyal retainer kn a turban, he likely would have been seen in a different light. That is how he registers to me - as the goofy sidekick.


  4. Me, I would have left Jar Jar to be run down by the Trade Federation tanks.

    But that's just me.


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