From Darth Jar Jar to “Mary Sue” Rey to The Last Jedi, there will always be Star Wars civil wars between factions when canon locks horns with head canon.
Time flies when Jar Jar’s having fun because believe it or not, the “Jar Jar Binks was a trained Force user, knowing Sith collaborator, and will play a central role in The Force Awakens” viral Star Wars Reddit phenomenon is almost about to celebrate its third birthday.
That’s right, Darth Jar Jar has been prowling the fringes of Star Wars lore for nearly three years now, and maybe that ticks you off.
Personally, I liken the instant the theory graced the web to those “where were you?” moments people have for major historical events.
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Where was I? I just happened to be cruising the Star Wars subreddit soaking in more useless knowledge when a user named Lumpawarroo unleashed a ridiculous theory about how the annoying Gungan fromThe Phantom Menace was, in all reality, a Dark Lord of the Sith. Perhaps the Dark Lord of the Sith. This got my attention. I had just bore witness to something that could – and likely would – end up changing Star Wars forever.
The next events play out like a movie montage: I’m on the front lines of the Darth Jar Jar movement. I’m rapidly creating DarthJarJar.com to preserve the theory. Darth Jar Jar is seriously promising to blow up the internet like two proton torpedoes into its reactor core. The theory is an unstoppable crazed Rancor. People need to talk (and argue) about the evil genius Gungan so I create the Darth Jar Jar subreddit. The theory exits the Reddit atmosphere and goes galaxy wide.
It wasn’t long before the moderators of other Star Wars subreddits got tired of the constant Jar Jar overflow posts and outbound links to stories all across the web. Quite frankly, with all the international love this theory received from online entertainment outlets such as Slate, Wired and Business Insider, everything else Star Wars” was put on the backburner in forums and the hate for anything Darth Jar Jar ramped up.
It was like a rite of passage for saga newbies and “I saw the original movie in the theater” folk to bash the theory, some without even bothering to read or attempt to comprehend it.
Even the theorist, Lumpawarroo, was getting hatred and quickly became a Reddit recluse like an old hermit Yoda, only popping his head in to respond on occasion before returning to the swamps of Dagobah.
It got nuts. The actor who played Jar Jar, Ahmed Best, who had expressed his appreciation for the theory, got renewed flack for his portrayal of the Gungan in the prequels because the settled dust got kicked up again when the theory skyrocketed. It was reminiscent of Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen getting hammered for their portrayals of Anakin Skywalker back in the day, but worse.
By this time the Darth Jar Jar subreddit ran on all cylinders, the website was getting thousands of hits per day and the juggernaut theory could not be contained. That theory gave birth to new ones and alternate theories of itself. It even sparked fan fiction.
All the while people were ready, willing and able to take a stance for or against it, and stand by their opinions. A clear division of the fans happened over a theory that was just meant for fun (in the beginning.)
As it happens, the opposition was more vocal and the hate flowed so freely it got to a point where any post about Jar Jar Binks, unless it outright verbally assaulted the Gungan, was downvoted into oblivion on the main Star Wars subreddit and other similar forums. Even the Darth Jar Jar subreddit, which was initially a Dark Side Gungan-loving safe place, turned into a battlefield of its own with people attacking any and all Jar Jar Binks theories.
This civil war between Star Wars fans over the Darth Jar Jar theory may have never hit your radar. You may not even know about the heated debates and cutting arguments that ensued for months on end. Maybe it was our little micro-war tucked into a corner of wild space that slipped passed your sensors. However, it was a division. It caused a schism in the fandom. Just more rumbling thunderclouds warning of the coming storm.
Photo Credit: [Star Wars: The Last Jedi] LucasfilmThis leads to what is truly the greatest (or worst) of all Star Wars fandom civil wars that happened when The Last Jedi hit theaters. And this wasn’t an online squabble between groups of keyboard tough guys either. This division of the fan base jumped off the screen and hit the streets with real life implications across the board.
Fans and casual moviegoers on both sides of the fence pretty much gotten over Luke Skywalker’s utter lack of screen time and the “Mary Sue” argument of Rey’s character in Episode VII: The Force Awakens. They were riding high on of Rogue One’s gritty, back-to-Star-Wars basics when the initial hype train geared up for The Last Jedi, but rumor mills and industry insiders began to rock the boat with news of disgruntled actors and questionable story elements.
Then the movie came out and people went to extremes. Either you were boycotting the series forever and wanted the director, Rian Johnson, to be ousted from Hollywood (and possibly Earth), or you thought the movie was cinema gold.
It got so bad that it’s speculated Solo: A Star Wars Story suffered collateral damage in the box office when it premiered five months later and some still worry if the Star Wars franchise will ever fully recover. Countless people claim they have sworn off Star Wars for good, but of course it didn’t help production (see: director Rian Johnson) kept firing back at disgruntled fans on social platforms like Twitter. They may not have wanted the civil war, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors by stoking the flames in attempts to save face.
It wasn’t just the fans having issues with The Last Jedi either. There were reported problems between talent and crew with Mark Hamill’s open disgust for the way the character of Luke Skywalker was portrayed. Dissension in the ranks caused waves in the fandom that are still rippling across the waters today.
"“I said to Rian [Johnson], ‘Jedis don’t give up’. Even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup… Luke was so optimistic and so hopeful, cheerful, here he’s in a very, very dark place, one that I didn’t expect… So I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s ‘Jake Skywalker,’ he’s not my Luke Skywalker.” – Mark Hamill"
Of course, you can’t please everyone and storytellers shouldn’t compromise their artistic expressions just to please certain groups of people, but that inevitably leads to divisions and sides taken.
The Darth Jar Jar theory caused plenty of strife for believers, but it was never a real issue that affected the saga. It was simply wondrous head canon sprinkled with a dash of hope down the line.
On the other hand, The Last Jedi is set in stone. It happened. It can’t be taken back. With its choices, whether good or bad, the movie caused a crippling, confusing and contemptuous blow to the franchise as a whole, pitting fan against fan and even worse, pitting Lucasfilm against fan – and that may have been the straw that broke the Tauntaun’s back.
But wait! If Mark Hamill and Lucasfilm can do spin control on any damage he did to the franchise, maybe there’s hope for a reconciliation with the fans, too. In the end, it’s a battle between canon and head canon, and the former will never be as good as the latter. It’s also an endless cycle of Star Wars civil wars between armchair directors and actual directors. Perhaps we should just grab some popcorn and be happy we’re getting new movies every year.