Friday, 18 March 2011

110: B is for Best

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The A-to-Z of the GFFA.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ahmed Best.

Ahmed is the actor that personifies Jar-Jar Binks in the same way that Anthony Daniels has made C-3PO his own.

Now as you're probably aware (since it's been stated relentlessly since 1999), Jar-Jar doesn't sit well with a lot of adult Star Wars fans. The main complaint is that he's a goofy, silly addition to the GFFA, carries no substance as a character and gets in the way of the dark, brooding action that the fanboys wanted. Jar-Jar, it's claimed, is for kids...

*NEWSFLASH* Jar-Jar Binks is there for the kids. He's there to show the kids that it's okay to be clumsy, and to be different from those around you. Jar-Jar's there to show that it's often good enough just to have a good heart. You don't always need The Force to be a hero, and you don't need to be bustin' moves like Bruce Lee. You just need to be you. Is that really such a bad message to be sending to the kids in this day and age?

It's remarkably simple: be yourself and do the best you can. In terms of a moral outlook, isn't this the best advice you can give to anyone?

And yes, Jar-Jar is childish and 'funny' and says things like "Icky icky poo!". The kids love that, that's why he's there. My nephew was five in 1999 when he saw tPM, and he loved Mr Binks. Like many others of his generation, he thinks of Star Wars as being primarily the prequel trilogy. The OT is still there, but it's not his star Wars. As a result, Jar-Jar is just part of the journey. He's one of the lighter aspects of the film(s), just as my generation had R2-D2 and C-3PO bickering all the time, and The Ewoks. The thing to try and remember is, Star Wars has always been about appealing to kids. It's essentially a series of children's films. Arguably the most expensive and influential ones of all time, but children's films nonetheless. It's part of why I love them so much: they take me back to my childhood. Even/especially the new installments - it's about being in that familiar galaxy. Kind of like a soap-opera, but with better weapons.

Click to go through to Kathy's Fast Food Toys.

Although the Original Trilogy had multi-generational appeal, it was the kids that were driving it. That's why the Kenner/Palitoy line was (and still is with Hasbro) the front-runner in merchandising. Each new 'generation' of Star Wars (The OT in 1977, the PT in 1999, the Clone Wars series in 2008) is designed to bring in a new generation of fans, which keeps Star Wars alive. Otherwise, we'd all be banging on about a film that came out in 1977, and there'd be no new merchandise, no new releases, and just no movement behind the whole thing (example: E.T. - A great film, occasional re-releases on new formats, and a legacy approach to merchandising. Fine as it is, but there's nowhere to go with it).

If Star Wars is to continue (and it will, whether you or I like it or not), it has to draw new blood into its circle. That new blood doesn't come from the novels, comics or video games. As great as they are, they're for existing fans who are looking for more stories from the GFFA. It comes from parents taking their kids to the movies that they loved when they were younger.

So, as you've probably gathered, I've got no real problem with Jar-Jar Binks' inclusion in the Star Wars canon. Despite what I've said above, I never really gushed over him that much, he just was what he was. That is, until 2009 when it became apparent what Ahmed Best brings to the character.

When animated The Clone Wars series began on Cartoon Network (or SkyMovies in the UK), there was word that several actors from the films would be voicing their characters. For the movie that opened before the series, Sam Jackson returned to play Mace Windu and Christopher Lee reprised his Count Dooku. These were the big ones. We learned that Anthony Daniels would be returning as C-3PO, but with the best will in the world, that's expected now. C-3PO is his character, and he cares about how he's portrayed. When it was announced that Ahmed was voicing Jar-Jar, the usual fanboy grumbling commenced (more about his inclusion at all, rather than the casting choice), and not much was thought about it. Binks is, after all, an essentially animated character to begin with. Ahmed provided the core-movement and space-reference on the set of the movies, but the visuals themselves were mostly CGI.

Episode 8 of Season 1 rolled around, Bombad Jedi, with Jar-Jar and C-3PO having a mini-adventure of their own. Two 'comedy characters', both voiced by their original actors, in what was largely a farce/slapstick storyline. But it worked. With no dark, brooding action to detract from, their animated antics were very entertaining to watch.

Then something odd happened. Best, for whatever reason, didn't record the voice of Jar-Jar for episode 13, The Gungan General. The credited voice-actor was a Mr B.J. Hughes. No-one's sure exactly who B.J. Hughes is (series director Dave Filoni is keeping schtum on the matter), but one thing's for sure: he's bloody awful.

Over on the TFN Boards, even the SW fans who were traditionally Anti-Jar-Jar were basically saying "Look, I don't like Binks, but I at least want him to SOUND like the thing I don't like. What the hell is this?" It looked for a while like Best had left The Clone Wars, although he didn't reveal 'why'.

Then, just as it looked we'd been bequeathed a disliked character with a second-rate voice, Supply Lines aired in Season 3, with Ahmed voicing him. It was at this stage that I realised just how much I love Jar-Jar Binks. He'll never be a favourite character as such, but he's like a member of the family: irreplaceable.


• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• Photos and videos appearing in this blog post are for informational and reference purposes only, and no ownership of copyright is claimed or implied by me. The intellectual and physical copyright of such material belongs to its creators and owners.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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