The Jar Jar Problem...is he really so bad?

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So I did one on what I deem to be the Darth Maul problem a while ago, I wanted to do something akin for Jar Jar Binks.

I want to first and foremost say something relatively serious. As someone who was about to graduate 8th grade middle school and go into my freshman year of high school, I remember The Phantom Menace criticism well. Jar Jar took the brunt of that. Originally, as a young teen, I loved the film. It wasn't until a few years later, becoming more knowledgeable on storytelling and film itself, I came to see the drastic logical, tonal, and superficial flaws. Dangling a pretty piece of shiny CG upon my face didn't work so much anymore, but story did. Liam Neeson recently spoke out on TPM recently, something he's never done before. It's rather interesting:


So I want to preface this with...I'm a critical person. I'm so analytical it's a curse, I swear I should have become a detective or something. I feel art in all its variations should never be immune to critique. Critique is not even inherently a negative thing!

With that said, I do think some can go too far with it. Fans also can go too far in defending it, in this case it really is just a movie, but that's not the subject here. I'm not guiltless of fairly criticizing Jar Jar as a written character, few SW fans are. But when I first saw the open discussion Ahmed Best had on the backlash and the levels of near suicide he reached...I was pretty torn up about it. I felt for the guy, a man and father who seem to be a genuinely kind person and big heart.

So I felt a lot of confliction when I saw that. On a level of artistry, I'm not wild about the Gungan. Yet on the level of just being a human, I really identified and even sympathized. Jar Jar Binks is basically synonymous with being considered among the biggest and most iconic missteps in entertainment history. He's right up there with The Godfather Part 3 and the endings of The Sopranos and Game of Thrones. As an actor, that can't feel great. Yet there's one thing I've always done in favor of the role...

Is Jar Jar really what makes TPM...questionable quality? The finger has always been pointed directly at this role, but is that truly a fair assessment? I've said no for decades.

Now by no means is this an outright defense of the character. The Gungan is obnoxiously and exaggeratedly cartoonish to points of feeling unnatural, undermining of any tonal seriousness, and even the claims (moreso then than now) of possible racial insensitivity may have a small degree of merit. He does behave akin to an old Uncle Tom-like caricature. And yet, when you really think about it on a narrative level...Jar Jar is one of the only characters that has an actual progressive arch. In fact, he may be the only one who grows throughout the entire film.

The faults of Jar Jar do not lay with Ahmed Best or the CGI crew, they lay with the maker; George Lucas. George wrote the role this way, Ahmed acts how George instructed. He speaks how George advised. His dialogue is what George penned. For all intents and purposes, Best did a phenomenal job for what he was instructed to be. Blaming him is like assaulting an incredible waiter for your poor food instead of the chef. It's missguided, misdirected, wrong!

I've always felt that focusing almost exclusively on Jar Jar being the reason TPM was largely deemed lousy was sincerely ignorant. Jar Jar is an easy target, like bullying a cripple instead of calling out the blatant jagoff quarterback. Jar Jar Binks is loud, colorful, and animatedly impossible to ignore. That makes his flaws all the more overt. But realistically, the root issues aren't him. Perhaps he doesn't make the situation better, but he's not the cause and catalyst. It's the script. At least Jar Jar evolved and has some personality within the narrative. What other examples of main roles in the fim really have that? Jar Jar is altogether not all that integral to the SAGA as a whole. Sure you can argue he's why the empire rises, which in a manner of speaking is true, but is it? If it wasn't him, it would have just been someone else. I sincerely feel that Jar Jar is relatively forgivable in the long-term, the disappointment and true criticism should be aimed at Lucas and the character of Anakin Skywalker.

The very same can be said to the backlash toward Jake Lloyd. I'm not one to shy away from criticizing films themselves, but personal attacks on those not even truly and fully responsible? He was a literal child! This one always seemed the most cruel to me. Yes EP1 Anakin is cringy, not particularly well written, a slew of things...but who's real fault is that? Is it no wonder Jake basically, well, lost his mind? It's actually rather tragic. I wish him well. Yet despite Lloyd not to blame, I also see no harm in stating there is no denying Anakin was the crux of this trilogy and rather botched in my eye. He's the entire reason as to why it was even made. Jar Jar is flawed, by all means, but it's spilled milk when compared to the faults within Anakin's portrayal.

If the Saga were a Jenga game, Jar Jar may have removed a block or two from the towers general structure. The way in which Lucas wrote Anakin, the suddenly now deemed foundation of the SAGA (apparently it was always Vader's story now) due TO these prequels, was what brought the whole thing collapsing down. I think it's time folks stop shouting at Jar Jar and start looking at the real issues. Jar Jar is a wart. You can see it, it's obvious, but it's easy to forget and look past. The scripts and bigger characters were the cancer.

The curse of Jar Jar Bink isn't that he's the worst thing in the films, it's that he's so lively he got all the fingers pointed at him. He got all the blame...and doesn't remotely deserve it.

Prologue: Ahmed Best is a stellar man! He did a wonderful job with what he was give. And frankly, I'm not ashamed to say, I loved Jar Jar when I was a kid too. Brought me laughs and smiles and many happy moments. A critique of the character, not of the actor.

P.S. This does not mean I think, by any means, Lucas is some bad person either. He's to blame, but not saying whatsoever a terrible person. In fact, he's a pretty great person. I don't believe many, if any, artists go out of their way to MAKE something that their fans will dislike. Looking at you, Rian Johnson! If they do, they've got issues. Very bitter about something! I believe Lucas was tainted by some things, be it a whole new level of merchandising that makes Ewoks feel subtle or some infatuation with new prospects of "show off" technology, but I do believe he did this film sincerely. For that, I admire him...despite not caring for end product much on a personal level. And for that, I can never hate him. I can hate the film now, but by no means do I hate the man.
 
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While I think he's a silly character I never hated him the way others seem to, then again I never really understood hatred for something. Let alone for something so imaginary.
 
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In defense of Jar Jars Binks.

At the time CG animation was starting to become a real thing in Hollywood & there was a belief that as technology progressed actors would be replaced with cheaper voice actors & CG characters. So there was a large push back against anything CG.
(yes hiring 3-5 animators 1 voice actor 1 singing voice actor & other related costs was still less than the paycheck of 1 big famous actor. That doesn't even involve production costs replaced by a green screen, set design & everyone else afraid of losing their jobs.

There was a series of soda commercials that were using the images of dead celebrities. This caused a huge legal issues with who would control image rights after a person dies. There was even some proposed movies that would star dead celebrities using CG animation. (Much worse than what we saw in Rouge 1.)


When episode 1 aired Jar Jar became an easy lightning rod, for issues that weren't about quality of the character. Best did a good job at what he was given to do. However Jar Jar as a comic character was redundant since we already had C3PO & R2D2, Which GL maybe didn't realize we wanted to see more.

The other issue (& many of us here are 100% guilty of this.) Star Wars was meant to be a movie for 10 year old boys, then as adults we came back to Star Wars but didn't realize that ourselves. (I can list 100 movies I loved as a kid, & are absolutely cringy watching as an adult. So the audience grew up, but they weren't the target audience anymore.

When I 1st saw Ep1 I loved it it wasn't great but I wasn't expecting a life changing event. At that point the EU was only hitting 50% so I guess my expectations were tempered.

Ja Jar is far from the worse part of the movie, Which is another debate altogether but he gets the hate because its an easy target.


THANK YOU Ahmed Best I truely believe you did a great job & I apologize for any cr@p that you had to endure.
 
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I liked Jar Jar when I was 3 when the movie came out, so Jar Jar isn't a problem. A YouTuber named Rick Worley, who has a very thorough and well researched defense of the prequels, points out in said video how Jar Jar is a surrogate character for the child audience. He reacts to the things in the film similar to how a young child would. Certain Gen X Star Wars fans can really struggle with the movies when something isn't specifically for them. Which is, ironically, very childish. They take it as a fault of the movie, when in my case, I was a kid when the movies came out, and I was friends with other children at the time, and we all liked Jar Jar, so I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Jar Jar was a success. He worked well within the role the story carved out for him. An adult wasn't supposed to identify with Jar Jar, that's why it's an ensemble cast, they made other characters for you. What Rick Worley points out is that having a childish surrogate character is important for the first act because it emphasizes how dark the third act of the trilogy is. Revenge of the Sith would mean nothing if Phantom Menace was just as dark tonally. It's a story, and it's a tragedy at that; it needs somewhere to go; it needs to descend into hell. Without the tonal shift it just becomes a song without dynamics, which is a pretty boring song.
 
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The Phantom Menace is a mess. It's my least favorite of the prequels. Jar Jar can be annoying, but I don't think is nearly the worst part of the film. But he does kind of symbolize what is wrong with a lot of it. The CGI, the infantile humour, etc.

Jake Lloyd gets a lot of hate too. A lot of his lines are bad, a lot of it simply because of bad Lucas dialogue, and some of it just bad takes and delivery that Lucas shouldn't have let make it to the film. Jake did a good job for what he had to work with, as did Ahmed Best.

The main problem with the prequels is the screenwriting. The basic plots are decent, they're just told in an awkward way (Ep.1 is confusing with the taxation & political BS etc), and the dialogue is often horrendous, and some of the main actors like Portman and Hayden aren't good enough actors to save that dialogue. Lucas should have provided the plots and let somebody else write the screenplay for the prequels.
 
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Jar Jar is a Tom & Jerry character... a frantic Fidgety Philip type that aims at physical humor. And he's so overdone that he seems out of place in almost every scene. Waving his arms around as if he got an epileptic seizure, having the ears flop, that's ultimately jarring (no pun intended) in a semi-realistic movie with human characters. If he had been more subdued, he might actually have worked. A scene that worked for me, for example, is the one where the crew sits around the table and Jar Jar snatches apples with his tongue until an annoyed Qui-Gon catches the tongue with his fingers. I found that funny because it seemed natural for Jar Jar to do, and there was a deliberate contrast with Qui-Gon's calm posture. Similar, his bout with Sebulba was okay, even if the dead frog thing played out quite cartoony.

Other scenes might have worked as well. The one where his tongue got caught in the podracer? I guess it was supposed to pose a danger to Jar Jar, but he floundered around until it made the whole situation bizarrely surreal. The one where he activated the droid? Was almost believable but ultimately distractingly overacted.

The difference to R2D2/C3PO humor is that the droids have dignity, which contrasts with the stuff that happens to them. C3PO is annoyingly talkative, but we know that he's just following his programming and means well, where Jar Jar just goes yahoo. When something happens to C3PO, he bears it with despair - "what have I done to deserve this". When something happens to Jar Jar, he makes faces, and the audience doesn't really care because that's all the character is for, and stuff happening to Jar Jar is expected.

(We will ignore the scatological humor. That was... good grief, who ever approved those scenes... oh yes, I remember.)

Imagine if Jar Jar had any dignity. He's been banished from his home because of mishaps following him around. He's alone and unwelcome, and now uses the opportunity to tag along with strangers under the pretense of some godly decree. Jar Jar is a victim of circumstance and bad luck, and somehow projects an aura of sadness, but this mood is countered by little accidents happening to him (sometimes due to his own incautious actions). That might even give him a character arc, from a "my life is cursed, I am such a victim" to "I can change what's happening to me by deliberate action and a bit of thinking".

Instead, a spittle-spraying Boss Nass sentences him to death by making him General (don't try to convince me that Nass really needs Jar Jar's military prowess), and we get an increasingly stupid barrage of accidents in battle that somehow work mostly to Jar Jar's advantage. In the end, Jar Jar didn't manage to change, and I really wonder how he made it to Gungan representative in Ep. 2.

The problem is that every time a Tom & Jerry scene comes up, the audience is pulled from the immersion and reminded that this is just a dumb kiddie movie. The end battle is especially problematic in this respect. Are we supposed to believe that Gungans actually die, when Jar Jar works his cartoon skits? (To be fair, we also never see any human Naboo dieing during the invasion, which Sio Bibble claimed on the phone.) That takes away the tension of the other battle fronts and suggests that there are no consequences for whatever crazy action there is.

Mixing the styles so much rarely works, unless it's a deliberate contraposition like in Roger Rabbit.

The CGI doesn't bother me at all. I loved it when it came out (finally doing exotic aliens like Sebulba? Yes please!) and I still don't find them distracting (I've seen worse in much later movies).
 
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Yes he is really that bad, literally worst character possibly ever created in cinematic history. The voice, the stupidity of his character, the issues he causes throughout the PT, from design to actual character arc he is horrible.
Where would we be without him? I think the PT would have worked fine without him, he wasn't comedic relief, he wasn't so required that others couldn't fill the gaps, he was just a mess and easily the worst part of the PT.
 
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I agree that the character doesn’t seem to fit the tone of the saga.

But I don’t mind him; there are a lot things in real life that don’t fit the tone of one’s day. If I can’t escape those kinds of things, then why would Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan be able to? Lots of stuff in life is weird.
 
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You mean cinematic right? Because I can think of a bunch from the EU that have him beat at being the worst, and now with the ST that number has increased. I honestly do not get the hate for the character, never have. Sure he's silly obnoxious and just about useless, but that's about it
 
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yeah JarJar was bad. but he was a minor irritant compared to the sequels. i would cheer if they strung together some random Jar Jar footage and called it "Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX: A JarJar Story".
 
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As is, yes, the character is still bad.
No issue with Ahmed Best. This is on GL's feet.

However, with a couple of changes, Jar Jar would become a better character.

Thank you.
 
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As is, yes, the character is still bad.
No issue with Ahmed Best. This is on GL's feet.

However, with a couple of changes, Jar Jar would become a better character.

Thank you.

I recall reading years ago that Lucas had intended TPM to be a kids movie. Personally, I think that he tried too hard and as a result we get Jar Jar Binks who I'm sure that Lucasfilm thought was going to be that whimsical character that everyone will love. The problem was that Jar Jar was too over the top and his character became tiresome very quickly.

Of course, TPM was far from the only film to fail miserably at this. Chris Tucker's character in the Fifth Element come to mind. He was tolerable for about 5 minutes and after that he was just annoying. The two small decepticons in the second Transformers movie are another example.
 
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Well, General Hoth, the entire franchise is supposed to be for kids.
GL has gone back and forth on it, but he has stated basically it is retelling of old myths in a new way. He was definitely inspired by Joseph Campbell. You can see the influence in the OT.

I agree on your points in his trying too hard and JJ over the top. As to GL's intention for TPM, he basically said it is the feel good movie since the PT trilogy would be more darker esp. ROTS.
That is the reason ROTS was the 1st PG-13 movie in the franchise.

As I have said on other posts, GL is the best visually. The sequel trilogy proves that plus it made his storytelling better than I expected.

As to other characters that fail miserably, I would prefer Chris Tucker than Jar Jar (as the character is now).
Yes, in certain scenes, he was annoying, but he was playing over the top on purpose.

Again, Jar Jar (JJ) would have worked better with at least 2 specific changes IMO.

Thank you.
 
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Well, General Hoth, the entire franchise is supposed to be for kids.
Personally I feel that was just his defense mechanism to deflect criticisms, similar to how LFL is doing now Because you can't tell me that even though it's PG rated, the content alluded to in those movies isn't really all that kid friendly. After all it's not exactly Ewoks & Droids animated shows.

I'd certainly say the PT was shall we say kiddified-down more so than the OT ever was. And we all know a "general audience" attracts more viewership which equals more ticket sales, not to mention he had to fight for a that PG rating if I recall.
 
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I remember in Droids when Jord Dusat says the Fromm Gang is really bad news because they do “spice smuggling and gun-running.” I asked my mom what that meant, and she said it was like stealing.

But at that point, even as a 6-year-old, I didn’t bat an eye over someone “stealing guns.” America had emerged from the Depression, WWII, and Vietnam, which were rough, so it didn’t get offended by too much violence for a good while. Shirtless people, yes. But violence, not so much. These days, I’m kind of surprised that Star Wars can even exist, much less spawn kids’ toys where the characters have blasters. But with that said, it’s pretty clear that people are more violent than ever, and their products also more violent. It’s a weird thing to get your head around.
 
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What's really weird is that movies were a lot more violent in the 80's than they ever thought about being today. Horrors aside.
 
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The 80s (& 90s) had toy lines based on R rated movies. o_O

People aren’t worse or better than any other time in history. But there are people who want us to feel that way, (Feel bad for being XYZ) for reasons I will not get into here.
 
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Yeah not better per say but I contend that we have it much easier than say the pioneer days or even caveman era in terms of comfortability and convenience.
 
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What's really weird is that movies were a lot more violent in the 80's than they ever thought about being today. Horrors aside.

Yeah, when I was growing up in the 80's at any given time there was always at least one R rated movie playing and in Canada that meant no admittance to anyone under 18 so I had to wait movies like Predator and Robocop came out on VHS.

Now, all of those franchises are rated M. I honestly can't remember the last movie that anyone checked ID at.
 
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Yeah, when I was growing up in the 80's at any given time there was always at least one R rated movie playing and in Canada that meant no admittance to anyone under 18 so I had to wait movies like Predator and Robocop came out on VHS.

Now, all of those franchises are rated M. I honestly can't remember the last movie that anyone checked ID at.
I know! I personally haven’t seen anyone get carded in the 21st century.
 
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Jar Jar never bothered me at all and i'm sure i probably laughed when i was supposed to. He was quite clearly there for the younger members of the audience.
 
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I liked Jar Jar when I was 3 when the movie came out, so Jar Jar isn't a problem. A YouTuber named Rick Worley, who has a very thorough and well researched defense of the prequels, points out in said video how Jar Jar is a surrogate character for the child audience. He reacts to the things in the film similar to how a young child would. Certain Gen X Star Wars fans can really struggle with the movies when something isn't specifically for them. Which is, ironically, very childish. They take it as a fault of the movie, when in my case, I was a kid when the movies came out, and I was friends with other children at the time, and we all liked Jar Jar, so I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Jar Jar was a success.

I dunno about that take, there's a literal child in the film as well so I dunno if I buy the whole "surrogate" thing. I think George had gotten older, had kids, and wanted to make something that would purposely appeal to kids, which as you've stated Jar Jar did.
 
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Like most people that have achieved success, George eventually stopped working with anyone that would challenge him and went with "Yes" men/women. The result is exactly what he wanted. I've gotten more used to the prequels over the years and Jar Jar is not the biggest problem. For me it is the total lack of chemistry between Anakin and Padme.
 
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