Wednesday, July 23, 2014

101 Star Wars Variations 32: Jarful

As best as I could reconstruct from what he told me, since Jar Jar Binks was notoriously difficult to understand even among Gungans, this is his story.  It's sad, because historians have always considered him, well, an idiot, easy to dismiss.  Those you don't understand, right?  Or worse, those you think you understand.  But the truth is, Jar Jar is the hero of all heroes.

When he was younger, he was an outcast.  All Gungans are clumsy on land.  They're naturally amphibious, so they're best in the water.  When they surface, they must adapt to an environment that benefits from none of their strengths.  They are not graceful.  They function.

Now, because he was an outcast, Jar Jar was often isolated.  Gungans are inherently social, and so even isolated individuals are not left completely behind, but as far as he was, Jar Jar had to adapt his personality the same way he had to adapt his slippery limbs to traveling by land.  Most of what he said ended up being almost a private language.  It made sense to him, and for such an individual, that was as much as needed to be accomplished.

He once explained the reason he ended up exiled from his people as being the result of his clumsiness.  This was a view he'd adopted from what others had said of him.  Being curious, being forced to discover so much of the world for himself, Jar Jar often didn't know what he was doing.  This doesn't mean he wasn't capable.  He was competent.  In fact, he was more than competent.  You don't survive on your own if you're not.  And that's what he had to do.  

In the surface world, Jar Jar ended up being saved from the Trade Federation's droid army by a Jedi named Qui-Gon Jinn.  From that point they became inseparable, thanks to what the Gungans understood to be a life debt Jar Jar owed the Jedi.

Except it's really that Jar Jar found his purpose.  All his life he'd been a fish out of water, so to speak, and now he'd discovered where he fit in.  Soon he was accepted as a general in the Gungan army.  He was elected as Senator of Naboo to the Republic.

And he made the call to give Palpatine the powers that ultimately allowed him to transform the Republic into the Empire.  End of story, right?  

Seems natural to assume that Jar Jar bungled his way to the worst evil the galaxy ever knew.  Except that's not really how it ends.  We all know it.  The Jedi return, the Emperor is defeated, peace and justice is restored.  Jar Jar seems nowhere to be found.

Except that pesky friendship with Qui-Gon Jinn.  Not so long after they met, Jinn was killed in a fight with Darth Maul, the demonic Sith apprentice who helped Palpatine rise to power.  History remembers that Jinn's own apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, learned to commune with the dead and as such found a way to appear to his own apprentice, Luke Skywalker, which enabled the happy ending to unfold.  But Jinn didn't appear only to Kenobi.  He in fact came first to Jar Jar Binks.

Jinn was the Jedi who knew what was happening all along.  He was the one who believed in the prophecy that identified the young Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, as the one who would bring balance to the Force.  Jinn's visit to Naboo began the chain of events that finally ended the Sith threat once and for all.  Also there at the beginning?  Jar Jar Binks.

No bumbling coincidence.  Jinn frequently turned chance encounters into fateful developments.  He didn't believe in accidents.  He never treated Jar Jar like an outcast.  He challenged Jar Jar to prove he was intelligent, and that's exactly what the Gungan did.  It was Jinn who realized Jar Jar's potential.  He was the one who suggested Jar Jar could be useful in the Gungan army, could even serve a useful political role.  

They had discussed the future of Palpatine together.  Jinn knew what would happen.  He knew what would become of Anakin.  He knew certain relationships would have to be put in place.  Obi-Wan and Anakin.  Anakin and Palpatine.  Anakin and Queen Amidala.  Anakin and Jar Jar.

Only Jar Jar embraced Anakin for the boy he was.  A kindred spirit.  Does that begin to tell you anything?  No, Jar Jar didn't have darkness within him.  What he had was potential.  Jinn saw that in everyone.  Jar Jar's potential was to act as a catalyst.  After his death, Jinn came back to Jar Jar and told him that he would have to be brave again.  Jar Jar didn't want to do it.  He didn't want to give Palpatine everything he wanted.  Jar Jar's greatest fear was of the worst happening.  It made him jittery.  All his life bad things had happened around him.  He seemed easy to blame.  But Jinn told him the wisest thing any Gungan ever heard: Bad things do happen.  But that's not the end of the story.

Jar Jar knew what he was doing.  For the first time in his life he had the courage to act deliberately.  Not testing himself.  Acting, with conviction.  Standing practically still.  No more nerves.  No more doubts.  Things would get worse.  But they would get better.  It would be Palpatine who could no longer hide.  Jar Jar knew all about that.  He knew those who can't hide seem to expose their worst selves.  Everyone who had always assumed the worst about Jar Jar had helped him realize that, and Jinn that it's not what others say that defines you, but what you believe about yourself.  And for the first time, Jar Jar Binks believed in himself.  Could Palpatine say the same?  Jinn argued he couldn't.  The Jedi said that the Sith Lord's greatest failing was his ego.  Jar Jar lacked such a thing.  Only opposites can ever really cancel each other out.

You haven't heard this about Jar Jar Binks because his is a story of sacrifice.  He was a noble soul.  A hero.  Perhaps the greatest ever.

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