Jay’s Galactic Espressions
In Honor of National Bullying Prevention Month
Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (1)
Awkward in social situations. Body parts on a seemingly ridiculously large-scale. Clumsy at all the wrong times. Shunned by people you thought were your friends, for a reason you don’t really understand.
Sounds like I’m describing Jar Jar Binks to a tee, right?
Possibly, but that little laundry list of character traits also applied to me when I was in junior high and high school – or what I thought was me, at least. They were the things I hated about myself. The things I thought everyone else was seeing about me, and on which I were being measured on some imaginary “social acceptance yardstick.”
I’m betting many of you can relate to having similar feelings of awkwardness and questionable self-esteem during your teenage years. We’ve all been there, some of us on a larger scale than others. I don’t mean to sound like I was depressed or suicidal. Nothing like that, actually. I was a pretty happy-go-lucky teenage girl who loved her friends, acting goofy at any chance I got; listening to Prince, and buying clothes, makeup and nail polish.
I was also captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, first chair flute/piccolo in band, editor-in-chief of our high school newspaper, president of the French Club, and nominated for both homecoming and prom queen (among many other accomplishments of which I am proud). The reason I mention this is not to toot my own horn, but to make the point that on the outside, no one would have guessed that I was dealing with my own inner demons and struggles. No one would have known I felt exactly like Jar Jar, when I was wishing I could be more like Yoda.
Here’s the ironic thing – the wiser, adult me has decided that Jar Jar is actually A LOT like Yoda. Yep, there it is, folks. I said it. Think about it: Yoda talks “backwards,” but because we know him to be a wise Jedi Master, we call it “Yoda Speak.” We really don’t know much of anything about Yoda’s species, so we have no one against to compare his actions and mannerisms. For all we know, Yoda could have had a speech impediment (which still doesn’t give anyone license to ridicule him, but we all know how people can be). He could have been the most socially awkward guy at the lunch table, and the clumsiest dude in gym class.
Yoda had been around for 900 years, and in that time, he helped form the Jedi Order as we all knew it. No one really questioned his actions or his wisdom. I’ve been saying for years that I believe Yoda had the essence of the Jedi all wrong – after all, why say “only Sith deal in absolutes,” then turn around and use “do, or do not – there is no try” as your signature mantra? Don’t get me wrong – Yoda is amazing, but I’ve come to the realization that he’s definitely not perfect.
I also think about this scene comparison between Jar Jar slinging a booma at the Trade Federation Battle on Naboo, and this Ewok, at the Battle of Endor:
Many fans have also blamed Jar Jar for the fall of the Republic, because it was his motion to enact the Emergency Powers Act in Palpatine’s favor, setting that particular booma in motion. He was only doing exactly what he thought Padmé would have done in that situation. Had Padmé made the motion, she would have been praised and given apologetic solace, because no one at the time could have possibly foreshadowed Palpatine’s true intentions.
Jar Jar performed beautifully and regally in his position as Senator of Naboo. As a junior senator studying under Padmé, he was pretty much thrown into the role, due to the assassination attempts on Padmé’s life. He continued to serve his people after her death, but no one talks about that. They only want to expound upon his shortcomings.
I know what some of you may be thinking: “Lighten up: Jar Jar was meant to be a joke in Star Wars. Comic relief. A gag. We were supposed to make fun of him, right?”
Wrong. Even Ahmed Best, the actor who portrayed the voice and body actions of Jar Jar Binks was dumbfounded by the hatred his character had generated. Best said the backlash was “painful” to experience. He said that one of the reasons he took the role was because it was so challenging, since the whole concept of his character “hadn’t been done before.” As he pointed out, his role predated the computer-generated Gollum from Lord of The Rings and Avatar’s Navi, and he and George Lucas were “so focused on the challenge of it and having so much fun that the post-Star Wars stuff was kind of a surprise” to him – one that he took personally, because he was so “emotionally invested” in the character.
Best did say that he understood why the adults who saw The Phantom Menace at its initial release in 1999 may have been put off by Jar Jar’s character, because they may have felt “a bit condescended to:” they were expecting a more serious character. He also pointed out that he thinks the children who saw TPM at that time and thought Jar Jar to be funny, are now adults, wondering “why everybody had a problem” at the time.
Check out the full video interview with Jamie Stangroom, on his YouTube Channel “These Are the Actors You’re Looking For.”
My point is that we ALL have an inner Jar Jar Binks inside us, and we need to embrace that, not shun it. Yes, Jar Jar was meant to be comical in many ways, but for the purpose of enabling us to laugh at OURSELVES, not each other. I truly believe that the people who full-out hate Jar Jar are those who have never confronted their inner demons – those who still struggle with the negative traits they see reflected in the mirror – like that bully on the playground who has low self-esteem, but tries to make up for it by maliciously targeting someone seemingly weaker than themselves, just to feel better.
Jar Jar was just a fish trying to climb a tree. Aren’t we all, sometimes?
More information on National Bullying Prevention Month.
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Source (1) “Everybody Is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing That It Is Stupid.” Quote Investigator. N.p., 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Photo credits: USAToday.com, Wookieepedia.com, MakeAGIF.comPowered by Sidelines