Star Wars Celebration And The Emotional, Tear-Jerking Redemption Of Jar Jar Binks

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Honestly, the jokes are the hardest part to get used to.

There’s something unique about attending a convention based entirely around one specific intellectual property. When attending, say, San Diego Comic-Con, it’s still a mish-mash of, really, almost anything a human being might like to watch or read in their free time. (Except porn, I guess.) It’s still more like a heightened, much more whimsical version of real life. Most people still like different things.

This is all thrown out the window when you attend something like Star Wars Celebration. Everyone is on the same dork page. And since everyone is on that same page, it’s like the whole English language becomes different. Songs you think you recognize turn out to be Star Wars parodies and everyone seems to know them. (And I’m not talking about the two Weird Al songs; I’m talking about weird versions of “My Sharona” remixed as “Maz Kanata.”) And normal turns of phrases are casually replaced with parallel versions from the Star Wars universe. For instance, if you ask someone, “Oh, is that my bag?,” instead of the reply being, “No, yours is over there,” the response is, instead, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” as someone waves his or her hand in your face. And the strangest part is, everyone just accepts all this as perfectly normal – to the point I just got used to it. After five days of this, it just became “my life.”

And, yes, it’s the ‘Star Wars humor” that’s the most jarring. Before every major panel there are a series of affable pre-show hosts who are there to warm up the crowd. And, yes, this is completely normal, but the only difference is every punchline lands like, “And you call that a Kessel run?,” or whatever, and everyone laughs. Again, it’s like a whole other language that I can certainly understand, but don’t really feel comfortable speaking.

Skepticism is something I just can’t shake. “What is this person’s angle and what’s in it for them?,” is pretty much how I live my life every day. And, yes, it’s kind of miserable! But it’s also a big reason why I feel uncomfortable at these sort of conventions. Look, I love Star Wars. My favorite movie of all time is The Empire Strikes Back. But I get pretty jaded at the nonstop, relentless marketing at these things. I just want to scream, “You’re all being duped!” Duped into what? Well, maybe duped into going to the official store and buying a set of the replica medals that were given to Han and Luke at the end of the first Star Wars, only in coaster form? Who would buy such a thing?

But, look, these panels are extensively choreographed even though the audience is made to believe what’s happening is spontaneous. There’s nothing wrong with this. That’s how most everything works these days. But when the audience goes nuts for a seemingly spontaneous moment that’s obviously scripted, that’s what makes me, personally, let’s say, a little uncomfortable. And, for most of the weekend, that’s how it mostly went. Until…

In 1997, Ahmed Best was a 24-year-old New York City actor performing in Stomp when he was offered a job in the first Star Wars movie in 16 years, which would eventually be titled The Phantom Menace. Best was assured by George Lucas that the role of Jar Jar Binks would be a fan favorite, the funniest character in the history of the franchise to that point, and Lucas’ own personal favorite character (still is, apparently). Think about all that for a second. This was Best’s first major film role and he’s being told by George Lucas that he’d be a part of Star Wars history forever in what, arguably, is still the most anticipated film of all time. Jar Jar Binks would be iconic. (What kind of pressure does a person put on oneself after hearing something like that?) And, Jar Jar Binks did become part of history, but not in the way Best hoped or imagined.