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Who is Jar Jar Binks? Well, if you're asking this question then you've been spending the past few years in a black hole, safely tucked away from all the hype and hysteria that is the new Star Wars movie. Jar Jar is a character in Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace.

What makes him unique is that he isn't some guy in a costume like Chewbacca, for example, was in the previous Star Wars movies. Nope, Jar Jar is a completely CGI (computer graphics) rendered character, seamlessly integrated into the rest of the live action of The Phantom Menace. Think Roger Rabbit, but a real life realistic one and you'll get the idea.

Or rather don't. Because while it would seem that Roger Rabbit could make us laugh (like Jessica Rabbit once declared), Jar Jar, supposedly the comic relief in Phantom does nothing of the sort it would seem. He is rather an annoying and irritatingly cute and unfunny creature despised by many a Star Wars fan. Think of audiences cheering whenever an Ewok bit the dust in Return of the Jedi's climactic battle and you'll have an idea of what we're talking about.

The warning signs were there from the start: when the first Phantom Menace teaser trailer came out, the few seconds he was on-screen immediately worked on the nerves of older Star Wars fans. By the time he opened his mouth to deliver only one line of dialogue in the full trailer, the newsgroups on the Internet were already abuzz with pure hatred for him.

Even on printed page (i.e., the novelisation by Terry Brooks), he grated on your nerves.

As one dismayed fan complained after reading the book: "I hate Jar Jar. He is there for comic relief and has WAY too much story-time. He is integral to the plot, though, and is in virtually every major scene, and he WON'T SHUT UP! He speaks in a broken English that grates on you after a while just reading it. I can only imagine what it will sound like in the movie for two frigging hours!"

Unbearable it would seem - because soon after the first preview screenings of the film, the Internet was once again abuzz with negative reviews. The chief sentiment was that fans have been waiting 16 long years since Return of the Jedi to see the story of one Jar Jar Binks!

Things turned nastier when the accusations of racism and racial stereotyping began being flung at Phantom Menace - hardly something new for the Star Wars movies. The first Star Wars was after all criticized for not featuring a single Black face. Also, the triumphant medal ceremony at the end seemed to echo similar shots from Nazi propagandist Leni Rieftenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Getting a "token Black" in the guise of Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams) for The Empire Strikes Back did little to waylay further criticism.

After all, as the Black militant in Kevin Smith's screamingly funny Chasing Amy remarked of Return of the Jedi: "Turns out that the baddest Black ass motherf***r in the universe is a whiny old White guy underneath the mask . . ."

Now comes the news that rapper Stormtroopa is laying tracks for a song titled "Jar Jar Binks Must Die"!

Is hatred of this character going too far? As Lucasfilm said in defense of the character: "Nothing in Star Wars was racially motivated. Star Wars is a fantasy movie. I really do think to dissect this movie as if it had a direct reference to the world today is absurd. It's a children's movie. Kids love [Jar Jar]. He's so childish."

That may be so; but still expect several "Jihad Against Jar Jar" and "Jar Jar Must Die" type web sites to spring up soon on the Internet.

After all, it seems that this character is even more hated than that purple dinosaur . . .


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