Friday, May 1, 2015

Judge Them Not Equally

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

Describe Gungans here.

"Keep smiling. Maybe they'll take pity."

If you asked someone this question, odds are you’d get a description of Jar Jar Binks, the Gungan we spend the most amount of time with. When talking about appearance, Jar Jar is very much the standard. But something I’ve noticed is that often people will assign personality traits to Gungan culture that is very uniquely Jar Jar. Traits such as clumsiness, obnoxiousness, and stupidity.

Really, “stupidity” doesn’t apply to Jar Jar either – there’s a difference between being unintelligent and being generally oblivious, and while Jar Jar is no MENSA applicant, he’s still possessing of at least average cognitive ability. But I’m not writing here today to defend my precious amphibious avatar for the one-thousand-one-hundred-thirty-eighth time.

No, today I’m here to speak up for the rest of the Gungan population.

"All 95 million of us."

Now, granted, they have their own faults as well – namely their distrust of outsiders, which is understandable given how the Naboo colonists have pretty much taken over the planet. They also don’t bother to learn proper common, but again why should they? It’s not like anyone bothers to learn Gunganese, so why should they have to be the ones to assimilate? Finally, they have banishment upon pain of death, but it doesn’t seem like they throw that around willy-nilly. Jar Jar had to cause untold property damage before he was summarily kicked out (this is also clearly nixes “clumsy” as a cultural trait since it was this exact attribute which made Jar Jar a pariah).

So, what else do we really know about Gungans as a culture? Well, they’re aquatic, they have relatively primitive but nonetheless sophisticated energy shield technology, they’re relatively close to nature, and…umm…

"Jedi got your tongue?"

Okay, so new direction: What other Gungans do we spend time with? Really, there’s only two. First, there’s Boss Nass. What’s he like? Well, he’s boisterous (being voice by BRIAN BLESSED will do that to you), uses a saliva-filled growl to punctuate important decisions, has a relatively weak mind if Qui-Gon’s success with the Jedi Mind Trick is any indication, and he’s so corpulent that he almost looks like a different species (and in some sourcebooks, he actually is). He’s also, when push comes to shove, reasonable and generous, and genuinely wants what’s best for his people.


Second, there’s Captain Tarples. What’s he like? He’s kind of grizzled, for a Gungan. Seems kind of no-nonsense, but he’s a capable and honorable soldier and has no problem fighting alongside a general that days earlier he put in binders. He also graces us with the most epic of facepalms.

"Move over, Picard!"

What do Jar Jar, Nass, and Tarples as a whole tell us about the Gungan race? About as much as Owen Lars, Ezra Bridger, and Count Dooku tell us collectively about the Human race.

And that’s kind of the beautiful thing about Star Wars to me, at least as far as the movies go. As much as some of the books and other materials like to ascribe specific personality traits to all members of a specific race, in the films we explicitly see diverse individuals. Jar Jar isn’t oblivious because he’s a Gungan; he’s oblivious because he’s Jar Jar. Bib Fortuna isn’t a slimy yes-man because he’s a Twi’Lek; he’s a slimy yes-man because he’s Bib Fortuna. Grand Moff Tarkin isn’t a heartless a-hole because he’s a Human; he’s a heartless a-hole because Peter Cushing was probably sick of always having to play Van Helsing and wanted to play a villain for a change.

"Charming to the last."

All joking aside, my point is: don’t blame the other Gungans for the likes of Jar Jar. They’re worth so much more than that.

Oh, and while you’re at it, give Jar Jar a break too for reasons I’ve detailed exhaustively for the last two and a half years.


  1. Just want you to know that as someone who dislikes Jar Jar Binks and the prequels, I really appreciate your passion for your writing and the love you clearly hold for these films. No matter what our preferences, I think we all share that, and not all the people who don't like the prequels are the rude, close-minded individuals that I'm sure you've encountered. I hope we all love The Force Awakens as much as you love the prequels and I love the originals. May the Force be with you, man.

    1. Thank you very much for that. As I've said many times, I have no qualms with people who have a legitimate difference of opinion. These movies just have so much more to offer than their given credit for, and the mainstream misunderstanding of them is criminal (as is the bullying that goes along with). But people will always have their preferences, and I love hearing why people gravitate towards different things.

      I am convinced that TFA will be a well-done movie. What the publicity campaign makes me worry is whether or not it will be true to Star Wars as opposed to some people's mistaken interpretation. In the end, I'll at least be content if it refers positively to all six previous films while being a good original tale in its own right.

    2. I don't know if you've been following the rumors regarding the film, but I definitely think it'll acknowledge the whole saga based on what I've read. It'll be weighted towards the original trilogy for sure, but I think the beauty of the Disney deal is that someday people who grew up with the prequels will make their own Star Wars movies, and we'll all be happy and unified no matter our preferences. I hope you love the movie no matter what its overall atmosphere, but take heart in the fact that the prequel era won't be ignored forever. And I think if the Star Wars franchise becomes a series that spans all these different eras and viewpoints and thoughts on the older films, it'll be truly unique.

    3. I avoid rumors like the plague so I don't spoil myself. All I know is the trailers and some inferences JJ made.