Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Gungan Contribution

You thought I said not to pick it because you thought I hate Star Wars. You were wrong.

I like Star Wars—both original trilogy and the prequels. (Second gen fan, speaking!) I’ve dabbled reading the books and nothing more, but the movies are still good. Today I thought I’d talk about a character I hold near and dear to my heart.

via The Independent
Jar Jar Binks. I find him one of the best characters in the series.

I mean, firstly, he’s hilarious. That’s my sense of humor. He made me smile, and that’s what I liked about him.

He’s also Gungan. Not a Jedi, not a Sith, not anything more than what he is. Gungan. One of the lovely things about the prequels is that they really broaden the culture and depth of the galaxy the originals introduced. Episodes IV–VI only really develop Tatooine and Endor’s planetary cultures, because, true to its name, the rest is a war in the stars—rebel alliances, imperial missions, blaster battles, and asteroid fields.

(Yes, Hoth and Dagobah are portrayed, but more as wild places than developed societies, y’know?)

Though we have the Lars family and Ewoks to anchor us on Tatooine and Endor, we meet Jar Jar on a more intimate level on Naboo. He has significant screentime to present the artful bubble homes, values, systems, and speech of a non-human species present in the society. We get to observe his personal interactions and his reactions outside of his own element. Though individually clumsy, he’s culturally bred to handle things in certain ways, and teaches us about Gungans as a whole.

You think I’m wrong? Think about it. He displays a strong respect for the authority of Qui-Gon Jinn and the Force, just as he’s taught to respect his king’s authority (which is, after all, why he stays in exile). Excepting his clumsy moments, he displays caution, and even panics outright in the Gooberfish scene—that fear later motivates his entire colony to hide from the droid army. Despite his reservations, Jar Jar fulfills his duty to Qui-Gon under the terms of his life debt, and despite Gungan reservations they fulfill their agreement and fight alongside the Naboo against the Federation.

And, of course, Jar Jar is a fairly happy, pacifistic character. By the end of the movie, we also find that his culture values celebration and peace.

He’s a normal Gungan, as far as I can see.

In fact, he’s one of the only normal people who isn’t genetically predestined for adventures of epic proportions or raised amongst embroilments between alliances and federations and rebellions and empires. Admittedly, Jar Jar later represents Naboo with Padme on the Senate, but it’s a job he never expected to have. That might be exactly why he does have it. He’s just a guy. A normal dude with normal fears and normal desires who was raised to have a normal life.

Star Wars often portrays extraordinary events in the lives of extraordinary people. It’s romantic, and we enjoy it. Still, sometimes we forget Jar Jar was one among billions of average citizens living normal lives in that galaxy. So intent is our focus on average adventures of extraordinary people, we forget the extraordinary sacrifices ordinary people made for things to be that way.

After all, when it comes down to it, Jar Jar’s efforts extend to support and defend one thing we all hold dear:

Home.

Do you think it’s important to show normal people in the midst of extraordinary circumstances? What are some other examples you can think of?

13 comments :

  1. As much as I love reading about the extraordinary characters, I think it's the contrast of the ordinary ones who help give the story (and the extraordinary characters) life and vibrancy. I think one of my favorite examples is in The Two Towers, where the two kids from the Westfold are being sent to the Golden Hall while their mother stays behind. It's a small thread in a huge story, but it gives the audience a chance to see what's at stake for the average people in Middle-earth, and why it's so important for the heroes to win.

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    1. That's an excellent way of putting it—it's only in comparison to others that we really understand what those extraordinary characters are up against. That's an excellent example! We do need to see those children in the Westfold to see that it isn't just the nine heroes who are affected, but others, as well. Thanks for your thoughts, Jameson!

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  2. You're right, I expected a negative post. Either way, I would've been happy. This was a really lovely post, I quite liked Jar Jar in the prequels and I loved that scene when he took over for Padme because he was so comically different from the other stern-faced senators that had previously spoken. He's a completely normal dude who finds himself in positions of power, somehow, but he's still normal. It's a fresh breath of air from all the fighting we see between the Jedis and the Siths. :)

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    1. Really? Negative posts can end up being a downer, for me. That's a good scene, and I think his most important contribution to The Clone Wars. He's not someone born into his role or anyone other than his true identity—and it's nice to have that plotline away from the Jedi and the Sith, like you said.

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  3. I've seen some of the Star Wars films, and I couldn't really get into them. I'm a bad nerd xD

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    1. XD That's okay, I'm sure there are many nerds who don't like Star Wars.

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  4. Ohhhhh I forgot to comment on this. I swear I meant to. So basically I don't really regret asking for this post because I enjoyed the debate even though I am still firmly anti-Jar Jar. I do like the idea of ordinary people and basically everything you mentioned here, but I would also like to point out Chewie is also fairly ordinary compared to other OT characters -- sure he ripped off C3PO's arm, but he doesn't use his super strength to a huge extent to affect the plot. And the life debt thing is basically the same.

    You know which Star Wars characters I really like? Imperials. From a certain point of view, some Imperials are also defending their homes, and basically all the EU books (Legends now, I suppose) sold me on Imperials.

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    1. ALSO I FORGOT THIS. A substantial reason I dislike Jar Jar is that he basically enabled Palpatine's emergency powers thing. Like, NO.

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    2. That's okay. XD And that's okay, you're totally entitled to your opinion. That is true about Chewie though; I guess I kind of included him as a part of my organized crime schpiel as a non-normal person because most people aren't smugglers, I guess. But still, fair enough.

      Imperials are defending their homes—I guess it's kind of the way that the victors determine the history that gets told in the story books... or the Star Wars movies.

      Although, to be fair, Jar Jar was only doing what Padme asked him to and she would have been the one giving the emperor those emergency powers. And none of the Jedi had any kind of sense to figure out that their friend from Naboo was a Sith. So the blame falls on many shoulders, I guess. But yes, Jar Jar has that direct fault, I'm afraid.

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  5. I always liked Jar Jar because he was awkward and funny and he just made me laugh, but I never thought about him quite this way. You're totally right, though: Jar Jar's awesome because he's ordinary in a world of extraordinarys. And I think that that's exactly what the trilogy needed.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. He is funny, right? It's still my primary reason for loving him. I'm glad you like him, too! :) Thanks for reading, Alexa!

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  6. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes Jar Jar the best. He's just so loveable, and you're right, it's great that he's just an ordinary guy who gets afraid and fights for his home and all that. But the main reason I love him is that the first time I watched The Phantom Menace, he made me laugh so hard I cried, which doesn't happen that often. I also think the humor he brought was helpful on a deeper level. Both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith get progressively darker, so it's nice to have him around as a reminder of lighter times, like when Anakin was little and harmless. (And I think we all know what went wrong with Anakin. I mean, you can only call a man Annie so many times before he snaps. Am I right?)

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    1. Yay! *hives* I did find him loveable, too, but you're right—he made me laugh more than anyone! I didn't use a lot of Jar Jar humor because that's one of the biggest arguments against him and people don't really make Jar Jar GIFs, I guess, but still, now I wish they did, because suddenly you've added a symbolic dimension to it all. (And yeah, a grown man continually called Annie might wear down on his patience. XD)

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