What Were They Thinking ♯1- The Gungan Menace

A new bi-weekly topic I'm trying out now. Here we'll have a look at some of the weirder, unpopular or down right stupid decisions made by people in the industry who should have known better. And to kick us off, we'll look at a nerd-rage classic.

Now, there are some good bits in Star Wars Episode 1. Liam Neeson, Ian McDiarmid's acting, Darth Maul and the final fight. However, in many (most?) peoples eyes this isn't enough to salvage a below par script, a slow story progression and a pointless Formula 1 style pod race sequence that went on ten minutes too long. However, most peoples ire is raised to its highest by the focus of this week's column.

Yup, he'sa here.

Let's kick off by admitting that, as a kid, I loved Jar Jar. However, after a few years, I realised that, actually, he is reeeeeeaaaaalllllllly annoying. But that hits the nail on the head, George Lucas has been quoted as saying that Jar Jar was aimed squarely at the kids (and not only at your childhood). And it's not like he didn't have form on that front. He did the same thing with the Ewoks. Now, having been born a decade after Return Of the Jedi came out, I don't know first hand what the reaction to the teddy-bears from Endor was at the time, but I know a few people who hate them as much as they do Jar Jar. But of course, Mr. Lucas doesn't care about that either. To quote the man himself- "The movies are for children but they [the fans] don't want to admit that... There is a small group of fans that do not like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like The Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike." Whilst he obviously hasn't heard the phrase "the customer is always right", it's his franchise, he can do what ever he wants with it.

There is a bigger problem with Jar Jar though, he could be just a little bit racist. Allegations of such have been levelled at him since he appeared, comparing him to the 50's blackfaces and a "laid back clown" stereotype of black Caribbean's, especially Rastafarians. Whilst it has been denied strenuously, shurely George Lucas has more brains than that, to make a character aimed at children that is straight away associated with a highly negative stereotype? Either he really didn't see how such a stereotype could be read into one of his characters, or he was so engrossed in the rise of the nazi party analogy he was sub-scripting into the film, he completely didn't notice.

Though it may be stupid to attribute the massive nerd-rage around Disney buying Star Wars to just one character, the perceived threat of more Jar Jar like characters is certainly one factor. Luckily, due to his diminishing screen time throughout the prequels, and the fact the new movies are set after the originals, means it is unlikely he will return, it is a rumour that has been circulating, Ahmed Best (the actor behind the orange) has been vocal in his support for the sequels. But you know the best bit. Robert Pattinson has expressed interest in playing the character. There just wouldn't be enough vomit in the world.

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7 Responses to What Were They Thinking ♯1- The Gungan Menace

  1. William A. Peterson says:

    I was blown away, talking to my friend, who was telling me that much of Star Wars was based on Shao-Lin mythology… He stated that, fortunately, there were some things that Mr. Lucas did NOT use. I asked him for an example, and he mentioned an army of ten thousand Were-Donkeys carrying spears…
    I thought about that a minute, and said, “Ohh? Mee-sa not in dat movie?”
    Kind of scary, isn’t it?

  2. Lordgrimm01 says:

    Well most of Lucas’ ideas which he was called a genius for coming up with weren’t his anyway. Now that he sold his rights away (to what a studio once consider a future box office bomb and let him keep the rights to because it was a sci-fi movie and therefore not a viable cash cow like westerns).

  3. Renxin says:

    Yes, I too must admit that as a child I liked Jar Jar. Thankfully this has not carried over into adulthood.

    For the most part I have no problem with comedic sidekicks, provided they are well written. What really burns me is that with a few alterations (trimming back or outright eliminating the accent, giving him a more competent and mature persona, and so on) the character could have been salvaged. Instead wesa have an orange monstrosity. I can only ascribe this to severe cases of “they meant well” , “it looked okay on paper” , and “it just seemed like a good idea at the time”.

    I think the point I’m trying to make here (for all the good it will do after the fact) is that just because something is aimed at kids doesn’t mean you don’t have to spend the time to write it intelligently.

  4. Arioch says:

    There is a bigger problem with Jar Jar though, he could be just a little bit racist. Allegations of such have been levelled at him since he appeared, comparing him to the 50′s blackfaces and a “laid back clown” stereotype of black Caribbean’s, especially Rastafarians.

    A little bit? That’s what I hated most of all about JarJar. He’s the “good nigga” stereotype of 50’s, like “Tintin in the Congo”.
    And to deny that? What an hypocrisy! The gungans even fight with masai-looking shields and spears.

    Anf that’s not just the gungans. For exemple, Watto, the slaver, is based on the old racist stereotype of jews: Crooked, avaricious, with the “jewish nose”

    He’s not the only one. IIRC, a lot of space races in Ep I followed similar guidelines.

  5. George Lucas also said that he dressed Princess Leia in the skimpy harem outfit to reflect that like his audience, his characters were maturing. So it makes sense that he’s using the Wayback Machine with young Anakin (whom I found to be more annoying than JarJar).

    Truth is, Star Wars is rife with racial stereotypes. The Trade Federation was thinly disguised Japanese businessmen with their “ah-so” accent. To me, it just adds to the epic disappointment and monstrous fail that are Episodes I & II.

    As a fan of science fiction, fantasy, mythology, history, alternate realities, language and linguistics, I see these things with one-part objectivity, one-part “willing suspension of disbelief.” Star Wars is a space opera. It lends itself to wild swings in culture and technology. It’s part of the escapism.

    I didn’t mind the Gungans. I thought their technology and weapons were pretty cool. They had classic Star Wars elements: force shields and laser bombs mounted on alien elephants. JarJar Binks is just a stupid character. Then they try to make him some master statesmen in The Clone Wars. Apology not accepted.

    As for the ewoks, Lucas has said that they didn’t have time or budget to create a moon populated with Wookie refugees. That made the 2-minute battle scene in Episode III so beyond utterly pathetic. I was expecting that to run a good 15 or so. Nope…

  6. punkjay says:

    First off Jar Jar is not racist. I think he’s weird sure, but racist? We see racism in places it isn’t. Jar-Jar is a character, like Horatio from Romeo and Juliet. To lighten a dark story. The problem is Phantom Menace is not dark enough to NEED such a fool. Another thing is I like the Ewoks and hate Jar-Jar. The Ewoks are the underdog winning under incredible odds, kind of like Home Alone or Revenge of the Nerds. Jar-Jar is more like your alcoholic, drug addicted Uncle no one wants to talk about. Even his own people are annoyed with him. He seems out of place with the sarcastic humor associated with Star Wars, and the Abbot and Costello-like humor of the droids. Also the rest of the characters seem to be just as annoyed with Jar-Jar as we are.

  7. William A. Peterson says:

    Punkjay, you may not be *familiar* with the stereotype that Jar-Jar is based off of, but it’s clear and obvious to those who are! He’s much less an alcoholic, and more of a Jamaican stoner, especially in the accent. The Gungans as a whole weren’t too bad, en masse, though the “Big Boss” didn’t have much of an ability to resist Jedi Mind Control… And, yes, Watto was pretty much a Hassidic Diamond Merchant with wings….