52

I'm not asking about just an in-universe explanation. I'm talking about from the point of view of a writer or of someone analyzing a film or written story.

I recently re-watched all six Star Wars movies and the only actual act Jar-Jar performed was when he filled in for Padme in the Senate and supported giving emergency powers to Palpatine. This isn't an action that had to come only from Jar-Jar. Any of a number of Senators could have been bribed or blackmailed into doing this.

He does not work effectively as a foil to other characters since he is too extreme and doesn't really contrast directly with anyone. (And if he's a foil for the Jedi, then having Qui-Gon act as his foil by grabbing his tongue really breaks that possibility up.)

I know he's the most reviled character in Star Wars, so I don't want to get into hate speeches or anything. I just want to know: Does the character of Jar-Jar Binks serve any actual purpose in Star Wars?

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    Tie-in merchandizing. – sjl Sep 5 '12 at 13:18
  • @sjl: That's a good point, but it still leaves the question as to whether he serves a purpose within the SW universe. – Tango Sep 5 '12 at 14:25
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    Didn't the Big Bang Theory recently suggest that the character of Indiana Jones served no purpose in the first titular film? – Peter Jan 31 '14 at 12:35
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    He certainly managed to annoy me severely. – Oldcat Dec 5 '14 at 17:49
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    The truth about Jar Jar Binks - he's an extremely accomplished and dastardly Sith lord. (This off-site link deserves to be mentioned on this question, for sure, but as it is off-site, only in a comment. Nevertheless: Read the whole thing, and be convinced!) – davidbak Dec 24 '15 at 4:29
66

Well, yes.. But not one that most adults want.

Lucas addresses this in an interview with Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark:

"There is a group of fans for the films that doesn't like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike.
"The movies are for children but they don't want to admit that. In the first film they absolutely hated R2 and C3-PO. In the second film they didn't like Yoda and in the third one they hated the Ewoks... and now Jar Jar is getting accused of the same thing."

He's a comic side-kick. The problem is, made for kids or not, the movies fanbase is adults, and they don't like stupid & comic in what they perceive as a serious movie. JarJar is meant to be cute/entertaining for the kids who don't have their interest captured by the plot.

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    And of course it is immensely patronizing of Lucas to assume children old enough to watch Star Wars need 'childish' characters to enjoy it. Perhaps he could have dropped the 'tax wars' opening plot of the first movie if he wanted it to be more accessible to children. I'm sure the merchandising opportunities of Ewoks and Jar-Jar had nothing to do with his artistic decisions. – iandotkelly Feb 29 '12 at 19:52
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    @iandotkelly - Oh, no argument.. I'm not agreeing with him, I'm simply presenting his explanation / comment on the subject. – K-H-W Mar 1 '12 at 3:05
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    It’s not only patronising, it’s simply wrong to assume that adults wouldn’t like some comedy in an otherwise serious movie. At least personally I do. Jar-Jar is simply not very funny, at least not in a way that I (or most adults, don’t know about children) can appreciate. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 1 '12 at 10:27
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    Like a well-known satirical review of The Phantom Menace states, for this to be a movie "for kids", there is simply too much talk of "Trade Federations", "taxation routes" and "no confidence votes". Sorry, George Lucas, either you don't believe it's for kids either, or you have a serious consistency problem! – Andres F. Sep 5 '12 at 16:04
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    From anecdotal evidence, I can tell that under-10ers loved the Jar-Jar character as much as over-15ers hated him. – sergut Jul 24 '13 at 20:52
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Not to contest Lucas' reason for inserting Jar Jar into the franchise, he does actually play an important role in Episode 1.

Jar Jar Binks contributes the following plot points:

  1. Leads Obi-wan and Qui-Gon to Otoh Gunga which in turn shows them a passage to Theed without contending with the droid army. Something they expressed a need to avoid.
  2. He exposes (or at the very least reminds) the existence of the Gungan Grand Army to Amidala from which she hatches her plan for an alliance.
  3. On finding Otoh Gunga deserted (which they could have done without Jar Jar since Obi-wan and Qui-Gon had previously visited), Jar Jar leads them to the secret sacred place where the Gungans had congregated.

It's for the above (at least 2 & 3) that he's rewarded with repeal of banishment (presumed) and the title of Bombad General; acknowledging his important role in the alliance.

Unlike #1 (Obi-wan and Qui-Gon may have easily made it to Theed without the Otoh detour) and his role as proxy Senator in Episode 2, his exposition of the Gunga led to the alliance which was instrumental in the victory on Naboo.

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    Best plot-based answer so far. – EleventhDoctor Apr 21 '15 at 14:21
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    These were exactly the three points that immediately sprang out to me as well. I admit I find this question very odd: Jar Jar is very obviously to me a strategically important figure in-universe. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 21 '15 at 15:35
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Although personally I'm not ... the biggest fan of Jar-Jar, he perfectly fits into the general Star Wars picture. Think about it, Star Wars is about individuals (misfits?) that seem unremarkable at first glance saving the day in the end (the farmer's boy (Luke), the crazy frog in the swamp (Yoda), the fuzzy cute primitive teddies (Ewoks), the young slave that works at a junk yard (Anakin), the clumsy gungan that seems ultra-useless (Jar-Jar)).

All these (and probably I forgot some) characters serve some important key accomplishment that foils the plans of the side the audience is currently supposed to dislike. If you ask why (or doubt that) Jar-Jar is important you can just as easily apply that reasoning for the other characters.

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    Please note that hardcore fans think Lucas jumped the shark back when he added the Ewoks! (Not me: I liked Ewoks when I was a kid) – Andres F. Sep 5 '12 at 16:08
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    However, all of those characters are more helpful than hurtful. Jar Jar is used as a pawn to put forward the legislation that directly leads to the overthrow of the galactic senate and the creation of the Empire. – vastra360 Mar 11 '14 at 2:22
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    But Jar-Jar did not save the day and was actually instrumental in furthering Palpatine's plans. – Oldcat Apr 21 '15 at 23:10
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    @Oldcat: Actually he was. Without meeting him, Booze-Nose ... errr ... I mean Qui-Gon Gin [sic] would never have been able to get to Naboo in time. That was in the first film. Being guilt-tripped into establishing the Empire was in Episode II or III (I can't be bothered to look it up, and it doesn't really matter). – bitmask Apr 21 '15 at 23:20
  • Nah. Even after idiotically landing on the complete opposite side of the planet, Jin and Obi could have just taken whatever surface transport the Army was going to use to get to Naboo. They could kill a droid (no problem) or use the force hypnotism to convince one of the Trade Federation guys to carry them. – Oldcat Apr 22 '15 at 17:22
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In addition to his comic relief, mentioned by K-H-W, Jar-Jar does play an important part in the second film; as Amidala's assistant, he's given authority to act in her stead when she has to go into hiding, and then he's manipulated by Palpatine and his bureaucrats into proposing the very thing Amidala didn't want to have happen; more power in the hands of the Chancellor. This may have been foreseen by Palpatine; by forcing Padme, a senator opposing his efforts, to go to ground to evade the assassination attempts, he can break the deadlock in the Senate in his favor.

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    Read the question carefully. I address that point. That was not a character based action, so almost anyone could have done that. – Tango Feb 29 '12 at 18:43
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    Except that trying to achieve the same goal through bribery or blackmail could backfire. Jar-Jar is quite easily manipulated into doing exactly the wrong thing, believing it's the right thing. While that might have happened without Jar-Jar, had Palpatine targeted another Senator with a less-experienced assistant, Jar-Jar would be a natural choice for both in-universe and out-of-universe reasons. – KeithS Feb 29 '12 at 18:47
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    Palpatine is a Sith Lord. He knows blackmail. The point is, and I made this in the question, that this action could have been made by any Senator that could have been manipulated and wasn't something Jar-Jar had to do. (And you can be sure that Palpatine had a number of other Senators in his pocket who would have made that motion even if Jar-Jar didn't.) – Tango Feb 29 '12 at 18:51
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    @tango - I know blackmail!!! Whoa! </Neo> – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 1 '12 at 11:37
  • True, but the point is that naboo was one of the fiercest critics of centralised power. With jarjar as senator pro tem they do an about face. – Valorum Jan 31 '14 at 7:38
4

I think He was supposed to be a character that the audience could recognize when the "emergency powers" plot point came along but not a character that the audience liked. In this way we could hate him for the whole "emergency powers" bit but not just have him be a super obscure background character a la that Techno Union guy and his one line that is only half understandable.

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    Everyone misses this. Jar Jar is IMMENSELY important to the story of Star Wars. He is the comic foil who is present at enough events to amass enough ethos to get into an important role in politics and is oblivious enough to use that position to give Palpatine his empire. Without Jar Jar, there is no empire. – user2989297 Dec 31 '15 at 19:04
3

The way I see it, Jar Jar really emphasises the kind heartedness of the jedi, because despite being banished, causing problems (though ussually more minor in the first movie) and being anoying, Qui-gon Tolerates him.

I could say that it is a similar case with Anakin: he was a Jedi who loved and was loved by Amidala before he became the Sith Lord Darth Vader. I think most would agree that Darth Vader would not tolerate any of that, really emphasizing the difference of before and after.

1

This answer is largely conjecture on my part, and doubtless others have different viewpoints. I do agree with the answer given that he is a character added for the enjoyment of children, and people hate him for the same reasons they hated the other kids characters.

But here are my thoughts.

Jar-Jar is a fool. A buffoon. He is a clumsy, stupid coward, and worse, he is from a race of soldiers and warriors. No wonder they banished him. He's lucky they let him live. His only saving grace is that he is not malicious in any way. You could be buddies with him. Though, granted, he is that buddy you keep away from anything breakable or sharp.

During Episode 1, the gungans have very little power on Naboo. They keep to their underwater cities and secret hideouts. But at the end, a new friendship is forged between humans and gungans. By the time we reach episode 2, we can see that they have quite a bit more political clout. Naboo has two senators. One human, one gungan. Why Jar-jar, then? Why not Boss Nass? He's certainly a powerful and popular leader among the gungans. My guess is, Padme pushed for him. She is not a stupid woman, and is a pretty clever politician. She knew that Jar-Jar had become popular after being made a General at the Battle of Naboo. She also knew him for the fool he was. He had no knowledge of galactic politics, and was pathetically eager to please. With him as senator, Padme would effectively have two votes. This sounds a bit manipulative for Padme as we know her, but she was Queen and later Senator. Her goals were always noble, but she knew how to play the political game. (According to Wookiepedia, it was Palpatine who made him Senator, but I don't see Padme objecting. It was from a comic, anyway. Very Extended Universe.) By the time we get to the clone wars, Palpatine uses Jar-Jar to make a speech asking to give Palpatine emergency powers. Look at Jar-Jar in that speech. He has no idea what he is doing. He's parroting a speech Palpatine doubtless wrote, then when the Senate erupts in applause, he stands there with a big dumb happy smile, as if thinking, "Theysa likes me! Mesa big bombad Senator! Mesa getting applause!"

His role is to be a fool. A harmless fool,at first . A lucky fool. And finally a fool that is used by more intelligent men to help bring down the government.

Just my thoughts.

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange's Science Fiction and Fantasy site! You might want to take a look at the help page. The purpose is not to have discussions or to express opinions, but to focus on providing answers that are as factual or verifiable as possible. (Also, since you're using the word "fool," you may want to look up how that term is used archetypically, since, by that definition, Jar Jar could be seen quite differently and Luke also falls under the archetypical definition of a fool, which is often an innocent who later learns.) – Tango Apr 22 '15 at 18:25
  • Well, the original post asked for the point of view of someone analyzing a story. The closest thing to a verifiable fact is George Lucas's comment about how he was created as a children's character. As for Jar-Jar being a fool, that is mostly a semantic argument. Yes, Luke was a "fool" by a classic definition, but I think I was clear in context how I was defining the term. The post asked for not just in-universe explanations, but a certain degree of critical analysis, which pretty much requires some personal opinions to be put into the mix. – BillionSix Apr 22 '15 at 23:52
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    Well, you can spend time defending yourself and insisting you know what is going on, or you can listen to someone that, if you check, has a good reputation score in the community and is the person that asked the question and learn a little about a really cool community and what that community is about and what is expected from an answer on this site. (Notice this answer still as no votes, and if the community considered it a good answer, it would by now.) As for verifiable facts, note the answer I selected does include support for what is said with a direct quotation from Lucas. – Tango Apr 24 '15 at 0:27
  • @BillionSix if the original question solicited opinion, then it's a bad question and should be closed, not answered... – KutuluMike Apr 24 '15 at 11:26
1

As the clone wars are canon, his activities there are canon as well. He was directly responsible for the capture of Viceroy Gunray. This, of course, was quite silly.

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Simply, my opinion is that Jar-Jar was an attempt to bring back a character type that Chewbacca fit in the originals. Jar-Jar just never caught on like Chewie.

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    Jar-Jar is like Chewie? Nowhere close. Chewbacca is highly successful smuggler and pilot. Jar-Jar is remarkably incapable of basically everything except swimming. Besides, Chewbacca does have an appearance in Episode III. Jar-Jar much better fits the character type of 3PO. – bitmask Sep 5 '12 at 0:51
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    @bitmask: Don't be silly; Threepio has a purpose. Jar Jar does not. – James Sheridan Mar 23 '14 at 7:18

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