Fans of Star Wars may be familiar with the theory that the blundering buffoon and orange aquatic embodiment of all things irritating, Jar Jar Binks, was in fact an evil Sith lord who masterminded the events of the prequel trilogy behind the scenes – and hence the events of the original trilogy in the years that followed. Almost like… a phantom menace, that no one would ever assume…
I’m not raising the subject as a Star Wars fan, but as a storyteller. Because, if you entertain the evidence for the theory, and more importantly if you want to believe it, it’s so deliciously evil as a sub-plot that it’s bound to worm its way into your fiction writing.
When you consider that Yoda was first introduced as an unassuming little old man living in a swamp who clearly didn’t get out much, and George Lucas’s intention that the prequels ‘rhyme’ with the original trilogy in terms of themes, it’s not quite so much of a stretch to think of Jar Jar in the same way. A master of the Force, and an orchestrator of major events, hidden away in an unassuming guise. Just like Zeus, or Odin, or Gandalf, or Dumbledore; there’s a rich storytelling tradition all around the world of the master hidden away in the unassuming.
The theory goes that Binks’s overblown pantomime gestures, constant pratfalls and ceaseless idiocy are in fact a series of rehearsed, calculated distractions to hide an extremely powerful affinity with the Force. Obi Wan’s famous flick of the hand when he does his Jedi mind trick, and controls people’s thoughts and actions… Jar Jar moves his hands all the time when he’s talking to people.
On closer inspection of The Phantom Menace, by more dedicated and intelligent Star Wars fans than myself, it becomes clear that Jar Jar can jump like a Jedi, mimes the words of characters over their shoulders during important plot points… oh, and follows Palpatine (the dude who becomes the evil emperor) around everywhere. And comes from the same planet as him. And votes him into power. And stands beside him during Qui Gon’s funeral, and smiles, very subtly, during said funeral.
Ok, so I’m enthusiastic about this theory. But I love it as a storytelling device too. If it’s true, then it demonstrates that George Lucas is so passionate, so knowledgeable about the universe he’s created, and what mystical forces run through it, that he’s conjured up a village idiot who can play the entire thing like a harp without ever being discovered by anyone else in that fictional universe.
It’s just a shame that we had no choice but to hate Jar Jar’s aquatic guts so intensely, because he was so frigging annoying, that Lucas never gave us The Big Reveal. But if you can work a bumbling idiot/absolute evil genius into your own storytelling who’s actually bearable, maybe even likeable, then just imagine what kind of evil plot twist you could end up with. Mwuhahahahaaa.