by Jacob Warn
As I levitated bread to my mouth this morning, it was to my horror that I peered into the dropped-jaw-orifices of my breakfast companions. Porridge dripped off the teeth of one; sausage skin coated another’s; sanguine tomato ketchup slathered around the interior of Peter Gent’s.
I had just professed love for my favourite Star Wars character. A marvellous, fictive creation: Mr Jar Jar Binks.
And all of a sudden, the canned baked beans on their plates and in their mouths metamorphosed into worms before my very eyes.
Thenceforth launching into a defence of those floppy ears and that adolescent squawking voice, with toast-laden hand ferociously gesticulating, I was further astounded – with the sun still weak on Oxford’s spires – when it transpired that my companions’ animosity was a widely shared sentiment, and that Mr Binks is in fact a universally hated entity. The ill-begotten brainchild of George Lucas’ directorial madness.
My morning, however, was only to get worse. Back in my room, and engaged in some preliminary Googling on the topic of Mr Binks, I was left speechless after countless YouTube videos irrefutably proved to me that my beloved Jar Jar Binks was in fact a powerful Sith Lord.
A combination of suspiciously acrobatic jumps, unaccountable instances of foreknowledge, and deceitful rhetorical displays were flaunted as evidence. And who am I to argue with the undeniably more informed, engaged and bothered fans of the Star Wars franchise?
All I know is that Mr Binks had a formative impact on my childhood. And that’s why I want to save him. And just like the weapons the Gunguns wield, I cast this argument in tridentine form.
Its first prong is Mr Binks’ optimism. He may be cowardly, he may be anxious, but his love of goodness – in contrast to the Jedi and other protagonists – is coupled with an overbearing positivity towards life itself. Take the acrobatic jump he performs before swimming to his native city of Otoh Gunga. Is this truly the trick of a highly-skilled Sith fighter? Or is it the authentic performance of his species’ gymnastic abilities, realised here at a moment of overwhelming excitement at his own homecoming?
It is surely the second, for the first falls into the dangerous trap of mapping physiologically human capabilities directly onto other, proudly and fabulously unique species: such anthropocentric thinking deserves to be strongly refuted to the end of championing an equality of species across the Galactic Empire.
The central prong to this apologia is his pacifism. Mr Binks is clearly not an experienced fighter. Arguments to the contrary cite his clumsiness as a ruse to fool his enemies or as a way of employing his natural body weight to remarkable ends. The battle for Naboo, however, between the Gungans and the OOM-9 droids, clearly shows Mr Binks’ military incapability. In need of rescue numerous times, his survival – and indeed unintended military successes along the way – stand as a metaphor of true contemporary relevance for the positive effects of demilitarised nation-states and the non-military responses to which they have recourse.
Although here framed within a militarised semantics, Mr Binks stands in opposition to the tactically trained Gungans, and is all the more successful for it. At a time in our society when we deliberate between military and diplomatic responses to wars, Mr Binks is fictive testimony to the feasibility of Mr Corbyn’s pacifist policies.
Third and finally, we must busy ourselves with saving Mr Binks on the basis of a generic importance. Personally, I have always found that the protagonists in Star Wars take themselves far too seriously. But even if you disagree with me, whichever way you look at it, it is irrefutable that Mr Binks is of the utmost importance in establishing the franchise’s identity. To those who think as I do, he brings laughter and light-heartedness in an otherwise too self-absorbed universe. On the other hand, to answer those who think something to the opposite, I make the claim that it is only in contrast to Jar Jar Binks’ comedic role that the other characters’ attain the gravitas that dedicated fans demand of this expansive, alternative universe.
This last point can rightly be widened to make a larger point concerning the fictive consistency of the Star Wars universe. Fans are free to not like Mr Binks; fans may think he is stupid, unrealistic, or a CGI atrocity, but nevertheless he still exists. And his existence is just as much a reminder that fiction need not conform to reality as it is that reality is not as pretty, as serious, and as congruous as some readers, audiences and fans would like to see it portrayed.