Friday, January 25, 2013
Why I want a book about Jar Jar Binks (!!!)
No, this isn't a joke. April 1st isn't here... yet.
In the Prequel Trilogy, Jar Jar had potential to serve as a unique commentary on the absurdity of politics. In interviews, the actor who played Binks, Ahmed Best, has claimed that the character was supposed to show how he started as a naive politician and ultimately became a victim of the system.* Think Mr. Smith goes to Washington... and is successfully manipulated by Senator Paine.
Unfortunately, when The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, many critics panned both Jar Jar and galactic politics. At times the critics were unfair. After all, the Senate scene in TPM was supposed to be boring - it was necessary to show that democratic institutions were not functioning correctly in order to explain why Padmé resorts to insurgency. The banality . Nonetheless, I can understand why Lucas cut back on Jar Jar's characterization in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
However, some of the criticism about Jar Jar's character was spot on and hindered his characterization. In the dinner scene at Anakin's house, Anakin is telling Qui-Gon, Padmé, and Jar Jar about his life as a slave. This could have been a powerful scene in which Jar Jar, in many ways the ultimate libertarian, expresses his outrage over slavery. We could have seen a real character moment in which Jar Jar goes from "just" being comedic relief to developing an interest in politics (and it would explain his decision to become Senator Padmé's assistant in Attack of the Clones). However, in the movie Jar Jar's only response is to obnoxiously start grabbing food with his tongue. Sadly, a missed opportunity.
I think that with a solid plot a Star Wars political thriller could succeed. James Luceno struck the right balance between political intrigue and action in his recent Darth Plagueis novel. I doubt he'd be interested in writing a full novel-length book about Jar Jar, but maybe he could interweave some plot points with Senator Binks in his next novel or write a short story.
In terms of plot, I think it would be quite interesting to see how Jar Jar copes with his role in authorizing the Military Creation Act and the Clone Wars. Does he dedicate his subsequent political life to remedying his mistakes? Does Jar Jar gain friends or allies in the Senate? Or does he just give up? I've always imagined that Jar Jar might have ended up creating an Underground Railroad for escaped Jedi refugees. It seems like a quiet way he can atone for his mistakes while not straying too far from his character.
Maybe one day, if I have the time (if!), I could write a short story myself.
* Or not. According to the hilarious Robot Chicken skit about Palpatine's demise, Jar Jar is the master manipulator and hidden Sith Lord.
[Photo from http://www.funnyjunk.com. I'd love to see something like it as the cover of a future Star Wars novel!]