This is the 22nd post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
When “The Phantom Menace” was released in 1999, it was one of the most anticipated movies of the decade, with good reason. This was the first “Star Wars” film in 16 years, and would give us a glimpse into the “Star Wars” universe before Darth Vader.
But many fans hated — haaaaaaaaaaaaated — it. There were several reasons, but the character of Jar Jar Binks bore a lot of the brunt for the movie’s perceived shortcomings. “Jar Jar” became a shorthand for everything wrong with that movie and since then, everything wrong with the trilogy as a whole.
There were several websites created to call for Jar Jar’s death, including The National Association for the Extermination of the Gungan Race, which posted this on its website:
The Gungan race, especially Jar Jar, are like a bunch of mosquitoes—they suck your blood like evil, little black leeches. They pretend to be stupid, yet their annoying “Meesa”s and “How Woods” are just a guise for something evil, something so sinister that we shudder to think what they are doing to the minds of our children. Jar Jar is their leader, a cross between Hitler, Stalin and Donald Duck. They breed like little, evil black rats with beady eyes. They are PHYSICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF PURE EVIL. Like any other problem they must be EXTERMINATED.
THE ONLY GOOD GUNGAN IS A DEAD GUNGAN.
The writer of this might think this is funny, but there’s a lot of disturbing things at play in that quote, and not just because this person compared a movie character to a real-life genocidal hate-monger. This person could hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, but the man behind Jar Jar Binks could not. Actor Ahmed Best has had to weather the brutal criticisms and attacks for almost two decades now. Which is a shame. That’s a horrible thing for any human to deal with, particularly one who seems as chill and sweet as Best.
To see how laid back and personable Best is, just watch this 2014 interview with him from the annual Celebration convention.
That setting was not a hostile one, given that was a convention celebrating all things “Star Wars.” But the backlash to Jar Jar Binks has come up in other interviews. When talking to Vice in 2015, Best said:
To be 100 percent honest, none [of] us, as we were shooting this, had any idea that anything like this was going to happen… At the end of the day, it is the movie business, and if the character doesn’t work for the people who watch the movie then the character doesn’t work. I can’t take that personally.
But that’s not to say that he never took it personally.
On his YouTube series “These Are The Actors You’re Looking For,” Jamie Stangroom interviewed people that have participated in the “Star Wars” franchise. He asked them about their experiences, and while many of them had good memories, Best had lots of pain from his time with the series.
That Best is able to talk about that time with a calmness and sense of humor makes it even harder to consider saying anything bad about Jar Jar Binks ever again. Not to mention his story about Michael Jackson or him saying Liam Neeson’s lines from “Taken” in the voice of Jar Jar.
And his thoughts on Jar Jar being a Sith Lord are just as entertaining:
We are sorry, Ahmed Best. May the Force with you, you delightful man.