Jar Jar in 'Kenobi' can fix everything wrong with Disney Star Wars
From a certain point of view, the bumbling Gungan is the galaxy's ignorant everyman.
Whoopsies! After a triumphant return in 2015, the Star Wars franchise is suddenly in danger of slipping into the irrelevant side of the Force. And as we all struggle to wrap our minds around the messiness of The Rise of Skywalker, one hero has emerged from the rubble, poised to unite the franchise like no one else can. His name is Binks. Jar Jar Binks.
Last week, a new rumor from Jason Ward at Making Star Wars suggested that a bearded, older Jar Jar Binks would appear in the in-development Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series for Disney+. The rumor suggests that at one point in the series, Old Ben and Jar Jar will sit around and talk about the good old days when they were decidedly more bombad than they are now. If true, the assumption is that Ahmed Best will be back voicing Jar Jar, and probably inside a Jar Jar costume, too.
If you’re permanently cranky and not fun, you’ll think this sounds terrible; the final nail in the coffin of the undead monster known as Star Wars. But, if you’re fun and smart, you’ll realize this is exactly the kind of camp and absurdity Star Wars needs right now. Over the years, discussions about Jar Jar Binks have bizarrely united disparate elements of Star Wars fandom. Few can argue that the idea of Jar Jar made sense, and since 1999, the simple fact that he exists and there’s nothing you can do about it has challenged Star Wars fans to simply accept parts of the franchise that aren’t… great
The overall theme of Star Wars is ultimately one of forgiveness, but the most profound story of redemption isn’t connected to Anakin Skywalker or Ben Solo. It’s the story of how fans have gradually accepted Jar Jar Binks and forgiven him for, well, basically existing. Jar Jar didn’t “ruin” Star Wars anymore than Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles. The narrative problems with Star Wars are much bigger than this goofy side-character who, from personal experience, children genuinely do love.
Whether you subscribe to the complicated “Darth Jar Jar” fan theory, or if you simply recognize that kindergartners think lizard-rabbits stepping in shit are hilarious, there’s many reasons why the character represents the deeper DNA of Star Wars: He’s both a tasteless children’s toy disguised as a character AND an archetypal figure who is kind of peerless throughout the saga.
Jar Jar doesn’t know what is going on, which would be most of us if we actually lived in the Star Wars galaxy. We don’t want to admit Jar Jar is relatable, but he is the guy who tried to do the right thing but accidentally helped create the Empire. In the prequels, this stuff — like stepping in shit or getting farted on by a space horse — isn’t super interesting, but it is realistic in the sense that most people aren’t destined to be the galaxy’s greatest heroes. (Yeah, I just said Jar Jar is a realistic character because his experiences are connected to poop. Deal with it.)
So, what’s the appeal of revisiting the sad clown of the Star Wars saga? The concept of an older, wiser Jar Jar living with his mistakes is actually kind of awesome. He’ll have a kind of wisdom that’s humbler than that of Old Ben. From a certain point of view, Jar Jar is the ignorant everyman of the Star Wars galaxy; perpetually disfranchised and lied to, overly reliant on the Jedi, and yes, constantly stepping in poodoo. Seeing how he lives day-to-day could give Star Wars a glimmer of something that we only half-glimpsed in The Last Jedi.
Jar Jar represents working-class Star Wars, and he doesn’t need to go on a hero’s journey like farmboy Luke or scavenger Rey. He doesn’t have a destiny, he’s just trying to do the right thing and get by. If he does return in the Disney+ series, we’ll finally see a character in Star Wars we recognize: Ourselves.
The Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor remains untitled, and does not yet have a release date, though 2021 seems likely.