Oh, and Speaking of Internet Hate…

Day 114. 109 pages, 49,463 words.

I wasn’t expecting to talk about this today (remember how I said I was ramping the blog down to a lean word-count and note system, so I could focus on writing?), but the Internet will surprise you every time.

An old buddy of mine, who posts a lot of articles and links and memes, threw this one onto his news feed this morning and I found myself reading the whole thing. It’s about Ahmed Best – yes, the guy who was Andy Sirkis before it was cool. The man behind the motion-capture suit for the most loathed Star Wars character in the canon: Jar Jar Binks.

I know, I know. Pause for hissing, jeering and catcalls. Place sternly-worded statements about ruined childhoods in the comments section. Actually I doubt any of my single-figures regular readership will have anything particularly vitriolic to say, but you never know.

jar (1)

The internet has said it all already, really. And then some. The credit belongs to Alex Bartlett for this little gem, apparently.

Here’s the thing. That article was really good. I never thought about Best as an actual person, a guy who had loved Star Wars and been so excited to play a role in the next chapter. A person who was almost destroyed by the hatred for the character he was assigned.

The article tells it better. And the article also goes into some really interesting commentary about Jar Jar. Yes, we all know the hilarious “Jar Jar is a Sith Lord” theory. And we all know, on some level, that Jar Jar wasn’t for us. He wasn’t for people who were adult fans when Episode I came out, let alone people who were adult fans in the time of Episode IV, Episode V and Episode VI. He was the obligatory Star Wars clown. And yes, it was a misfire. We all know that too.

jar (2)

I’ll just add a few choice items here.

What’s interesting to me is that Lucas, according to this article, reassured Best when the shitstorm began. He said that the same had happened to the Ewoks, to Chewbacca, to Lando. That, I found interesting … but then I thought about it.

Okay, I’m not sure about Lando. As far as I’m concerned, everyone always thought he was pretty freaking cool. But I don’t know, maybe there was a (has to be said) racial element in ’70s-’80s USA that drove some sort of unpopular sentiment? Well, I’m happy to say that if there was, then in my experience it had passed well and truly by the time I was in a position to enjoy the Star Wars movies.

lando

Although, the Internet being the Internet, I had a wonderful cringey time searching for a Lando meme.

But yeah, Lucas was kinda right.

I guess I’m pretty chill about movies and things. I don’t understand the hate people have, even if it’s a heavily dramatised hate. It just seems stressful. I thought Jar Jar was dumb, but I put him on about the same level as Inspector Clouseau. Meant to be funny, just kind of grating. To me. I know, I know, Peter Sellers was a genius and the Pink Panther movies are classics. I just … nope, I don’t go for it. The character’s just annoying. Clouseau being lauded as a beloved cult favourite while Binks is reviled … meh, never seemed fair to me. I guess it was all in the context. Clouseau was part of a film specifically about his perfectly-comic-timed idiocy. Star Wars was not supposed to be about a bumbling Gungan.

But I digress.

I’m pretty chill about “hated” movie characters. I was always fine with the Ewoks. I was basically fine with Jar Jar. I thought Kid Anakin Skywalker was your typical movie kid, and I thought Moody Tween Anakin Skywalker was just appallingly delivered, but they was both abysmally scripted too. It probably wasn’t the actors’ faults. Probably. Mostly. Anyway, I don’t get worked up about them.

But yeah. A lot of people around my age still dislike the Ewoks, even though they became favourites among the younger fans. And a lot of people a half-generation or so older than me still seem to have this scornful what-was-that-thing-even[1] issue with Chewbacca. It doesn’t necessarily go away, but the generations responsible for it go away. I know this, because I’ve watched Episode I with my daughter (who was 5 or 6 at the time, I think), and she thought Jar Jar was fun. To be fair to the prequel detractors, she also thought the whole Trade Federation thing was boring as shit, but she did dig the Binks.

[1] I’m not sure if I can express this, maybe you’ve experienced it? It’s like a shitty distillation of the “I’m too grown up to enjoy movies about spaceships and laser guns” attitude, compounded with the “characters have to be people, otherwise they’re just guys in gorilla costumes” thing. Say what you like, Star Wars drew the maps on a lot of these cinematic staples, and Jim Henson did the rest. Perhaps as a result, older people seem to consistently fail to identify Chewbacca as a character. They refuse to use his name, they absolutely refuse to say the word “Wookiee”[2]. He’s just “that hairy thing, Han Solo’s friend, what was that thing even?” For some reason, attempting to explain this phenomenon has made me want to punch Bill Maher in the face. I mean, not for real … but is he guilty of this shit? I think he might be. He looks like the sort. I rest my case.

wookie

[2] Why, incidentally, does Microsoft Word spell-ping “Wookiee” and suggest “Wookie” instead? That is the real evil, my friends.

So Lucas was right. Time will tell on the Jar Jar Binks thing. Maybe, like all the rest, he’s going to wind up being popular with the next round of Star Wars kids, who are going to hate Snoke or whoever. I don’t know, maybe Episode VII, Episode VIII and Episode IX are going to play it too safe to have a hated Lucas-character of this kind.

For me, Jar Jar Binks wasn’t just the ground-breaking first example of an all-CGI, motion-capture movie character. Hatred of Jar Jar Binks was also one of the first instances of viral Internet hatred – the first real meme – I really encountered. I was generally not online a lot back in the late ’90s, at least not on those sorts of sites and forums. It was all e-mail, Usenet and an assortment of chat rooms for me. I read a Phantom Menace annotated script from JarJarMustDie.com, but otherwise didn’t have much exposure to it. I guess I found it funny, and now I feel a bit bad about how awful it must have made Best feel.

I’ve gone on way longer than I expected to with this post. That article was great, really worth a look. It’s inspired me not only to go and start looking into what exactly a podcast is (I have never listened to one but Best’s sound like they’re interesting), but also go home this afternoon and watch Episode I again.

Meesa sorry.

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11 Responses to Oh, and Speaking of Internet Hate…

  1. dreameling says:

    I certainly do not hate Jar Jar any more than I hate the Ewoks, and I’ve never wished anything bad on Best, much less hated the poor man, but, yeah, let’s be fair: Jar Jar does not make the Prequels better movies. In any way.

    The Prequels definitely needed some comic relief, but Jar Jar was a miscalculation. Nevermind his target audience of prepubescents (a lame excuse), the Gungan’s simply a poorly conceived and executed distraction of a character that services a demographic (and CGI development) over the narrative. The Prequels basically bend over backwards to make Jar Jar narratively relevant. (Starting with Jar Jar showing up out of nowhere when Qui-Gon Jinn runs into him in Episode I.) And, oh man, is he over-the-top.

    Even Best admits Jar Jar’s “on the nose”.

    Best did not deserve the abuse he got, and he might be a really nice dude in real life, but that doesn’t mean Jar Jar isn’t a crappy character. Because he sooooo is.

    And I realise you pretty much already covered all that with: “And yes, it was a misfire. We all know that too.” But I was also sort of replying to that article you linked to.

    Anyhoo, I guess I still really dislike the character. And I wonder if the then-prepubescents still like him (or at least those who liked him in the first place).

    Yeah, I missed the point of the post. Sorry.

    I don’t get Peter Sellers’s Clouseau either. The Pink Panther movies are so not my cup of anything.

    Man, I thought it was “Wookie”. I can’t even.

    Yeah, yeah, still royally missing the point.

    • stchucky says:

      I find the Ewok hate utterly irrational, but that’s hate for you. Or whatever you feel for them. Dislike? Scorn? Unhappiness that they’re in your movie, spoiling your serious epic? Help me out here.

      But fair enough. That’s absolutely fine, it’s your opinion even if I don’t share it to the same degree. Jar Jar and the Ewoks were problems. I just think we should probably be used to this shit by now. It’s certainly interesting that Disney’s latest efforts have not included anything like this. So blame it on Lucas.

      I was thinking about this, actually, and have to say that K2-SO is hands-down my favourite droid character, my favourite comic relief character, and actually pretty high on my list of favourite characters in Star Wars, full-stop. So, there’s that.

      Nevermind his target audience of prepubescents (a lame excuse),

      Worked, though. So tish and pish to your baseless “lame”.

      Nah but seriously, he proved a far greater drawback to money-paying audiences and those oh-so-important critics (actually, anyone to ever actually say anything about this movie, because who cares what kids think, they’re basically tiny idiots) than any benefit in terms of pre-adolescent draw and merchandising. Far greater. A total misfire. I mean, at least the Ewoks got a cartoon. I can’t even begin to imagine the dark timeline where Jar Jar and the Gungans got a cartoon. And no, the Clone Wars animated show doesn’t count.

      And I realise you pretty much already covered all that with: “And yes, it was a misfire. We all know that too.” But I was also sort of replying to that article you linked to.

      No no, of course. Fair dos. Carry on.

      And I wonder if the then-prepubescents still like him (or at least those who liked him in the first place).

      Well, I have to say that’s a bit of a weird idea and smacks of digging deep for dismissal of anything positive. I know for a fact that my then-five-or-six-year-old thought he was fun. A friend of mine over in Australia went to see the re-releases in 3D with his nine-year-old and he thought Jar Jar and the Prequels in general were cool.

      As for still liking the things we loved as kids after we grow up … well, that’s an interesting but not really relevant question, isn’t it? It can go lots of different ways. You can remember loving something, then look at it again and find out it was hideously lame. What that does to your reminiscence – do you laugh it off by saying you loved it as a kid but yeah, now it’s lame? Does it tarnish your memories and make you unhappy? – really depends on the sort of person you are.

      Alternatively, you can take the route of “I loved this as a kid so I’m hesitant to ruin that by checking it out again as an adult”. Also depends on what you’re like as a person.

      The same sort of psychology is at play with reboots “ruining” people’s childhoods. It’s a facet of the same thing, taking something that you loved as a young person – something which may or may not have “actually” been lame and stupid – and either giving it a sequel or a remake. And in the process, becoming lame and tarnishing the thing you loved by association. As discussed many, many times here, that shit also depends on the sort of person you are.

      Just not seeing the point of the comment.

      Yeah, I missed the point of the post. Sorry.

      Nah, it’s cool, it was sort of the point of the post. But be fair. I already said (and even Best admitted!) Jar Jar was cringey at best from my perspective, and although I didn’t hate him he was definitely a low point (although still better than the ghastly thing between Anakin and Padmé, there I said it). Total misfire. That doesn’t mean you have to go and pooh-pooh every remotely positive spin someone can put on the issue. Which is really what it seemed like you were doing here, for whatever reason.

      • stchucky says:

        What I mean here is, there’s no harm in acknowledging one minor bright side to a disastrous movie-making decision. It’s not going to lead to widespread Jar Jar acceptance.

        On the other hand, you know what they say about tightening your grasp and star systems slipping through your fingers. So you might want to consider lightening up…

      • dreameling says:

        I find the Ewok hate utterly irrational, but that’s hate for you. Or whatever you feel for them. Dislike? Scorn? Unhappiness that they’re in your movie, spoiling your serious epic? Help me out here.

        Like I said, I don’t hate Ewoks. I vaguely recall being OK with them when I saw Return of the Jedi for the very first time in the mid-80s. (My very first home video rental, for the record.) But, for as long as I can remember, I’ve found them at the very least an unconvincing opponent to the Imperial forces. The Ewoks, as presented in the movie, should’ve been useless against stormtroopers and especially walkers. (Yes, even with their shitty aim.) As I grew older, this discrepancy became more grating to me, and the Ewoks in general started to look more obviously like a toy-sales-driven, child-audience-courting intrusion. In the context of the original trilogy, they stand out as the one excessively childish and cartoony element.

        And before you object with the target audience argument: Somehow Episodes IV and V managed to engage kids without anything like the Ewoks. (No, 3PO and R2 are nothing like the Ewoks.)

        But, again, I don’t hate Ewoks.

        But fair enough. That’s absolutely fine, it’s your opinion even if I don’t share it to the same degree. Jar Jar and the Ewoks were problems. I just think we should probably be used to this shit by now. It’s certainly interesting that Disney’s latest efforts have not included anything like this. So blame it on Lucas.

        Absolutely.

        And I wonder if the then-prepubescents still like him (or at least those who liked him in the first place).

        Well, I have to say that’s a bit of a weird idea and smacks of digging deep for dismissal of anything positive. I know for a fact that my then-five-or-six-year-old thought he was fun. A friend of mine over in Australia went to see the re-releases in 3D with his nine-year-old and he thought Jar Jar and the Prequels in general were cool.

        I’m not trying to dismiss something positive so much as simply not allowing an unfair real-life thing (nice dude Ahmed Best getting shitty treatment from fans and media) to excuse a negative in-story thing (Jar Jar Binks). Jar Jar is not all bad, but he’s still mostly bad. Overemphasizing a few tiny bits of good in a character because the actor is a nice guy and got a raw deal (meaning you feel for him) is just disingenuous. It’s a normal human response, sure, but it’s still disingenuous, as it runs the risk of reinterpreting some past thing in a false light. Empathy and sympathy are precious and critical, but they shouldn’t cloud one’s judgement, retroactively or otherwise.

        The same sort of psychology is at play with reboots “ruining” people’s childhoods. It’s a facet of the same thing, taking something that you loved as a young person – something which may or may not have “actually” been lame and stupid – and either giving it a sequel or a remake. And in the process, becoming lame and tarnishing the thing you loved by association. As discussed many, many times here, that shit also depends on the sort of person you are.

        Just not seeing the point of the comment.

        My childhood is safe and secure. No reboots or continuations have ruined it, or can ruin it. I don’t really get this “ruined my childhood” response.

        Nah, it’s cool, it was sort of the point of the post. But be fair. I already said (and even Best admitted!) Jar Jar was cringey at best from my perspective, and although I didn’t hate him he was definitely a low point (although still better than the ghastly thing between Anakin and Padmé, there I said it). Total misfire. That doesn’t mean you have to go and pooh-pooh every remotely positive spin someone can put on the issue. Which is really what it seemed like you were doing here, for whatever reason.

        Like I said, I don’t believe in positive spins that overcompensate for honestly negative things. I’m willing to acknowledge the positive, but I’m also not going to stop acknowledging the negative. Honesty and integrity. The whole truth. Give people leave to celebrate some tiny nugget of gold in a pile of shit, and to conveniently forget the shit, and pretty soon the pile’s gonna look like pure gold. Because that’s how our primitive brains roll.

        What I mean here is, there’s no harm in acknowledging one minor bright side to a disastrous movie-making decision. It’s not going to lead to widespread Jar Jar acceptance.

        If it becomes the new narrative, it might.

      • stchucky says:

        [Ewok explanation]
        But, again, I don’t hate Ewoks.

        And I repeat, fair enough. That’s absolutely fine, it’s your opinion even if I don’t share it to the same degree.

        I’m not trying to dismiss something positive so much as simply not allowing an unfair real-life thing (nice dude Ahmed Best getting shitty treatment from fans and media) to excuse a negative in-story thing (Jar Jar Binks).

        Yeah I know, that’s not –

        Overemphasizing a few tiny bits of good in a character because the actor is a nice guy and got a raw deal (meaning you feel for him) is just disingenuous.

        That isn’t what’s –

        It’s a normal human response, sure, but it’s still disingenuous, as it runs the risk of reinterpreting some past thing in a false light. Empathy and sympathy are precious and critical, but they shouldn’t cloud one’s judgement, retroactively or otherwise.

        That’s not –

        Like I said, I don’t believe in positive spins that overcompensate for honestly negative things.

        Overcompensate? This, no –

        Give people leave to celebrate some tiny nugget of gold in a pile of shit, and to conveniently forget the shit, and pretty soon the pile’s gonna look like pure gold. Because that’s how our primitive brains roll.

        Literally none of this single-thing-said-the-same-way-six-times is happening here.

        It’s not going to lead to widespread Jar Jar acceptance.

        If it becomes the new narrative, it might.

        Only it’s not.

        I’m willing to acknowledge the positive

        Sure doesn’t look like it, chief.

      • dreameling says:

        I’m still partly addressing that article, and I’m clearly misreading you (or misreading you misreading me misreading you), so… Call it a day?

        But how about them Porgs?

        http://www.starwars.com/news/introducing-porgs-the-cute-new-creatures-from-star-wars-the-last-jedi

      • stchucky says:

        They’re adorable, but not half as adorable as just about everything in Valerian, which makes Star Wars look like crap even though I’ve only seen about 45 seconds of trailer footage. I’m calling it.

      • dreameling says:

        I’m so gonna not-hate them.

        Get off my scifi lawn, Adorable!

    • stchucky says:

      In conclusion, shall we just save time and agree that Jar Jar Binks was the best character ever created for the big screen, and by extension the small screen, and possibly in the entire sphere of human fiction?

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