If you’re a Star Wars fan like I am, your respect for the franchise ended about nine minutes into Episode I when the Separatist tanks failed to steamroll right over the flappy-eared insult to Jamaica known as Jar Jar Binks. Salt continued to pour into the wound when Qui-Gon Jin and Obi Wan had the option of leaving Binks with the Gungans but took pity upon his fate and cashed in the life debt. Enough vitriol has been spewed towards George Lucas’ shameless merchandising ploy that little more needs to be said about a character even clichés take offense to. (Although I would really love to vent more, since “Meesa going hoooooome!” is now my only memory of the prequels.)
It’s 99% likely that the completely justifiable existence of Jar Jar Binks was unintentional and that Lucas completely lucked into an excuse for an otherwise obvious mercykill. (I promised to reveal Binks’ saving grace, not to end his defamation.) In any case, what Lucas needed was a bridge between Episode I and Episode VI. He wasn’t necessarily bridging Episode III and Episode IV because what really mattered was the final outcome of Star Wars, which was Emperor Palpatine nearly solidifying his grip on the entire galaxy. (As you know, Palpatine originated as a Senator in Episode I and as a close friend of the Republic.)
If you thought Binks was a problem, consider the ramifications of getting Palpatine from the Senate in Episode I to the giant chair by the awesome window in the Death Star without him. The Jedi are the Jedi because they have an extraordinary presence of the Force within them. (Lucas later ruined the movie magic by revealing the force to be microorganisms that dwelt within them.) Through their control and use of the force, the Jedi are allowed to do extraordinary things such as pick up huge objects, wield a lightsaber, but most importantly have an acute sense of premonition regarding the presence of evil and danger.
Time and again, the Jedi make decisions based on their heightened instinct and, in the end, the galaxy is saved from Imperial domination despite the overwhelming odds.
The Force allowed Luke to communicate with Leia while he was clinging for dear life after a free fall that somehow didn’t kill him. It alerted him to his friends being in danger on Bespin while he was marooned on Dagobah. He blew up the Death Star in Episode IV without his targeting system because his instincts were more powerful than technology. The Jedi Council held severe reservations about Anakin Skywalker and, lo and behold, he turned out to be Darth Vader.
So when Palpatine is bound for galactic control by a plot already known to the audience but is so obviously evil that even non-Jedi can see it emanating from him, what’s a director to do? Is Qui Gon Jin supposed to suggest that maybe Palpatine should be given a whole lot of power and, you know, we’ll just see what happens? No, that’s ludicrous. Is Obi Wan Kenobi supposed to tell Anakin, “We want you to report back to us on your meetings with Palpatine because the Council thinks he’s a super great guy and a perfect fit for the position of supreme overlord?” Is Queen Amidala, a queen of supposedly excellent judgment, supposed to give the reins over to her once-friend? Padme? Sebulba? Any character who suggests Palpatine should be given more power is instantly ruined in the Star Wars canon. Lando saved the galaxy but many fans, including myself, can’t get past the fact that he totally sold out his friends to save his own ass. And if it’s a confirmed Jedi who couldn’t smell the wickedness on Palpatine’s breath? Oh boy. That means that the Jedi clearly don’t have the extrasensory powers that placed them in a position of leadership and trust. If only there was…
Jar Jar Motherf–king Binks: a character so brain dead that no thought could possibly be too dumb. A character so one-dimensional and cartoonish that the audience could not possible think any less of him. It makes perfect sense that Binks “voted to give emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine” when you consider he couldn’t detect evil unless it tried to cut his head off. He essentially became the polar opposite of Simon Birch: he had a purpose even if he didn’t know what it was, but instead of saving lives, he almost exterminated the Jedi via Palaptine’s Order 66. And in a weird way, his stupidity salvaged the entire Star Wars franchise, even though the prequels weren’t a treat to watch. Luke wouldn’t have been Red Five without Ben; Luke wouldn’t have sought out Ben unless he saw Leia’s message via R2D2; and Leia never would have sought out Obi Wan Kenobi if it turned out that the whole “Jedi powers” thing was a huge sham. So the next time you see a Jar Jar Binks backpack and you want to make fun of it… e-mail me. I love a good Jar Jar burn.