Jar Jar Binks has a story arc that is so accurate a statement on humanity that people rejected it, backlashing against artist, actor and character but he can teach us a lot about how even the most worthless looking person may just need to be chosen and accepted to make a difference.
His journey begins as an outcast whose clumsiness is so annoyingly costly that his own people don’t want him and arrest him just for fleeing invasion and leading people to look for aid. But even at the start we get a clue he is more than this.
Jar Jar Believes in His People even though THEY don’t believe in HIM.
“No No Mesa Stay, Mesa Yousa Humble Servant….Tis demanded by da gods it is.”
Jar Jar believed in his people’s culture and wasn’t just making up an excuse to stick to the guy that seemed to know how to deal with this major invasion, or Boss Nass wouldn’t have directly asked “Do yousa have a life play with dissun” but ‘whats a life play?!’
Our outcast gungan honors it. And Qui-Gon must’ve seen some potential in him (however faint) to agree to get him out of punishment. (After all they DID ask him to take them there, at risk to himself.)
Chosen for Being an Outcast
Sure enough its Jar Jar, not some trained Naboo official security guard or ‘handmaiden’ that Qui-Gon chooses to take into Mos Espa. Jar Jar fits in not to the climate but the clientele at least in that many were outcasts and exiles. He continues to prove himself out of his element here (accidentally activating a pit droid and making a mess of Watto’s shop, triggering a dangerous dug pod racer, having no manners at the dinner table and getting his tongue stuck in energy binders.) But he also proves he is a caring guy – others are cheering for a wreck at that podrace but Jar Jar can barely bring himself to watch!
On Coruscant, out of his element with nothing to do, it is Jar Jar who alters the Queen’s hopeless thinking. He had no way of knowing the girl Padmé was the Queen. Jar Jar saw she was sad, worried, and said
‘Gungans not going down witout a fight. Wesa got a grand army. That’s why yousa no liken us mesa thinks’.
Until now, the Queen hadn’t thought of the Gungans. Yes they were there, as was Jar Jar. But so far as she knew, they hadn’t been threatened and weren’t her responsibility. But it suddenly made her realize they probably were not only in danger too, but also had a means to fight back the Naboo lacked. Together they might beat this invader even though alone neither could!
Jar Jar the Chosen
Jar Jar was like the kid no-one wanted for the sports team or class project. No one expected him to be chosen, it was just as big a shock, if not more, to him as everyone else. But only he could do this.
Remember last time he went to the city he was arrested. It took Qui-Gon to get him out of punishment. Now he risks going in alone and no one is there! Taking the Naboo who were biased against Gungans to their sacred place! If the Queen doesn’t win Boss Nass he will surely be blamed for leading them to their hideout! Amidala did pull it off..The unprepared and unqualified gungan outcast is now a general. He doesn’t panic and run (until the retreat is sounded).
At the end, Jar Jar grieves at Qui-Gon’s funeral, is welcomed into the city for the Peace parade and will move on to new things like becoming a Senator.
Jar Jar Binks, the Educated Senator
Jar Jar was entrusted with the Naboo Senatorial situation when Padmé went into hiding. Perhaps Palpatine wanted not this because Jar Jar was not a fool or a secret Sith but because both had learned something from Naboo’s victory.
Consider what Jar Jar learned in his brief moment in Attack of the Clones, listening to Obi-Wan’s report from Geonosis:
- The Trade Federation and it’s Separatist Allies have a new Droid army to attack the Republic and last time they had one it invaded Naboo.
- Nute Gunray was still in charge AND behind the assassination of Amidala’s bodyguard and attempts on her.
- An army already existed to oppose them (the clones) as did people to at least lead it tactically (the Jedi) if only it could be put in play.
- It was already hostile in that it attacked Obi-Wan (his friend) for reporting on them.
When Padmé was in this situation years ago during the Naboo invasion she had faced:
- Trade Federation Army invasion
- Nute Gunray in control.
- A realization that an Army she could borrow existed (the gungans)
So now was Jar Jar’s moment of choice: should he not do the same as she? The stakes before were a planet, now they are the whole Republic! Clearly the Trade Federation threatens Naboo once more! Binks had no reason to distrust Naboo’s own former Senator, Palpatine. The Supreme Chancellor’s deep dark secret was hidden even from the Jedi who worked with him and reported to him, let alone Jar Jar. Did he ever discover how he’d been used? It’s not hard to picture that Palpatine would’ve thought it appropriate turnabout: he may have got what he wanted out of the earlier Naboo invasion. But Darth Sidious hadn’t expected the invasion to be foiled by a clumsy gungan telling the Queen his people had a convenient army! Best to subvert the gungan’s innocent goal of protecting his own people to his own ends just as he more drastically did to Anakin.
Ultimately though Jar Jar’s story is a message that many do not wish to accept: the clumsy, the annoying have potential that just needs the right moment and right person to choose and bring out the best in them. Jar Jar isn’t made to be a super hero…he is the small, everyday hero. People don’t choose to be clumsy and not often do they intentionally annoy. But to be brave, to help strangers and defend one’s own people when they didn’t want you? Now that is a choice. That is the choice Jar Jar made.
Jar Jar Binks sadly got little in the way of the Expanded Universe, although he did have some Star Wars Tales ‘infinity’ adventures, and had a good role in the Episode 1 Queen Amidala comic. According to George Lucas, he did originally have Jar Jar Binks learn to talk standard basic for the Senate, but this would’ve required explanation that the movies had no time for.