Aug 17, 2021
Jar Jar is not a Sith Lord, and why fan theories are ultimately pointless
Fandom is a strange thing. From fan-fiction to trailer reactions, fans have let their love of a franchise or story overwhelm their good sense and shame. Not all “nerds”, “geeks”, and fans are completely irrational, of course. But love is not a rational thing. It is an emotion. And that’s where things get weird.
Star Wars fans are among some of the most devoted in the world, and that’s allowed some of them to forgive the most ridiculous aspects of the sci-fi juggernaut. Excluding Jar Jar Binks, of course. The ass-clown of the prequel trilogy is easily the most reviled character in genre fiction in the last 25 years, and the most polarizing of the original six-film sequence. If there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, it’s that the one irredeemable aspect of the controversial prequels was Jar Jar.
If you’re reading this right now, you may have heard of the fan theory that Jar Jar Binks is actually a Sith Lord, and was pretending to be a foolish bumpkin the whole time, and it was he who actually masterminded all of the saga’s dark turns. This theory originated on Reddit, and has since been sweeping fandom, as fans are suddenly convinced that the ass-clown who kept stepping in shit in The Phantom Menace is actually the real villain of the prequels. Various YouTube videos breathlessly proclaim the new gospel according to fan theories and rattle off the “evidence” that Jar Jar is Darth Plagueis, and may even show up in the new movies as the ultimate bad guy.
It’s all bullshit. Of course it’s all bullshit. All fan theories are bullshit.
Fan theories are not necessarily terrible; Some can be fascinating. But fan theories are usually pointless exercises in rationalization and conjecture. So, if you’ll oblige me, I’m about to not only debunk the Jar Jar fan theory, but I’m also going to explain why fan theories exist, and why almost all of them are pointless.
First and foremost, go familiarize yourselves with the theory, if you haven’t already. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Good, you’re back. Now, allow me explain why this is all so stupid.
Jar Jar can jump really high because he’s an amphibian, and clearly the evolutionary cousin of a frog. As he’s not mammalian or human in physiology, it seems to follow he would have similar talents to other amphibians.
But the jump from the balcony? Continuity error.
He waves his hands whenever something happens, you say? I move my hands when I talk all the time. If you agree with me, does that make me a Sith master?
Ahmed Best tweeted to confirm it! Yeah, he’s the guy who played the most reviled character in genre fiction. Why wouldn’t he jump on this theory to prove how important he was the whole time? Also, if he knew this secret, why did he sit on it for 16 years until some nobody on Reddit figured it out?
I could go on all day why this is stupid, but I’m going to skip ahead to why fanboys want to believe this ridiculousness.
The prequels sucked, and there’s no getting around it. They were a sharp drop in quality from the original trilogy. So this theory comes along that proves that the prequels were good all along and suddenly, all is right with the world again.
The prequels may have been the biggest pop culture disappointment of the 20th century, and Star Wars fans have been trying to find a way to square themselves with that ever since. This theory offers them a way to do that. Suddenly, the worst character of the saga is the most important, and the annoying jackassery was actually moving the plot along, and George Lucas goes from a well-meaning artist who didn’t know what he was doing and returns to being the creative genius we all thought he was before Phantom Menace came out.
In all honesty, that’s why most fan theories exist. Star Wars fans who subscribe to the Darth Jar Jar theory do like Star Wars, but don’t want to admit Phantom Menace and the prequels were garbage. So they make up and subscribe to a storyline that redeems it. In the end, most fans do this. You can do it with any film. I did it with the original Star Wars trilogy a few times. The difference is the extent.
I had a few ideas about a few things (I thought Tarkin was a veteran of the Clone Wars, that’s why Vader did what he said), but I enjoyed the movies just fine without them. It was just a way to connect the dots. Sometimes good movies leave gaps so viewers can fill them in.
Most other fan theories are meant to explain away a continuity error or some other failure. Another one I subscribe to is the multiple James Bond theory, that James Bond was a real spy once, and every time the man who plays him changes, it’s a different person because MI-6 is using James Bond as a codename. M and Moneypenny and Felix Leiter are also codenames in some versions of this theory.
While the theory does make it possible to say all the movies take place in the same universe (otherwise every recasting since Moore has been a reboot), continuity between the films is largely irrelevant. Calling back to my column about every film being a standalone film, as long as a movie is a good movie, the changing Bond really doesn’t matter. It’s just a way to justify the changing face of Bond and still have the films all take place in the same universe. The Darth Jar Jar theory is an attempt to enjoy something that’s bad without having to call it a guilty pleasure. It’s an almost religious need to have one’s faith justified.
I could spend the entire rest of this column debunking the claims one by one, but I won’t bother. The biggest reason I don’t buy it is because I don’t think George Lucas has it in him to do it. He is, after all, the creative genius behind Greedo shooting first, midichlorians, the stale Anakin/Padme romance, and the infamous Darth Vader “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Seriously, does Lucas seem like a guy capable or even inclined to play a long game like having the bad guy be the comic relief for the kids for two movies before revealing himself as the ultimate evil? He didn’t even handle Palpatine’s long game well; What makes you think he has this up his sleeve?
The behind-the-scenes footage and material of The Phantom Menace show Lucas was really enthusiastic about Jar Jar, because he thought the kids were going to love him. If he would have always intended to have Jar Jar be revealed as the bad guy, it would have destroyed the series’ kid appeal, which doesn’t seem like a George Lucas thing.
If anything, he’s ramped up the “it was always meant for kids” rhetoric ever since. I seriously doubt Lucas had it in him to be that devious. This is the man who refused to kill Han Solo in Return of the Jedi because he said he didn’t think he could sell dead Han Solo toys. You really think he would base the trilogy’s storyline on such a “non-kid-friendly” turn?
Some people have even gone as far as to declare that the new trilogy’s bad guy, Snoke, is actually Jar Jar. I don’t claim to know the exact nature of this villain who hasn’t even been seen on screen (and will be played by Andy Serkis), so I have no way to refute this, so I will say this:
Of course Jar Jar isn’t Snoke. There’s a reason J.J. Abrams makes movies, and fanboys bitch on the internet: Connections.
The other reason is he’s not stupid. Of course he’s not going to feature a Darth Jar Jar. He would have to be a fucking moron to base the future of the franchise on its most hated and polarizing character. So, no, fanboys. Darth Jar Jar will not be canon. Abrams himself has even joked about having Jar Jar’s skeleton in the background in The Force Awakens. Say what you will about his output so far, but the man seems to have his priorities straight.
So, in summary: There is no Darth Jar Jar. He exists only in your mind to help you cope with your affection for a bad movie. And that’s okay. It’s just a movie, and it doesn’t make you inferior to subscribe to some stupid fan theory. Do whatever you have to do to watch the movies you want to watch. Just leave the rest of us out of it, okay? I was more than happy to let this new Star Wars movie erase my memories of Jar Jar forever, and you just had to drag him back into the light in an attempt to justify his existence.
I’ve liked things that I can objectively call bad. I love a few movie series that have their own weak chapters. But I don’t jump through intellectual hoops to include them in my personal canon. I don’t watch any Alien movies beyond the second one. There are Godzilla films I don’t re-watch because they’re just not very good. But these bad chapters don’t taint the new ones in my mind, because I don’t pay attention to them.
Once again, if you like this theory, go right ahead and enjoy it, but just leave the rest of us out of it, okay? I look forward to your inevitable disappointment when Jar Jar is nowhere to be seen in the new trilogy and you have to come up with a new theory to justify why.