There, I said it. If we were playing Family Fortunes (Family Feud to our American cousins) and the host said ‘we asked one hundred people to name a bad consequence of Star Wars (1977) I’d be more than happy to go with Jar Jar. Sure there would be other things to consider, like the rise of the multiplex culture, studios chasing box office (not that they were ever in it for charity), the creative process needing to keep one eye on the merchandising opportunities and so on and forever, but Jar Jar is hated above all things... for me, however, Mr Binks does not represent what Simon Pegg called ‘the rape of our childhood’ but, as an object of hatred, is a symbol of something altogether more insidious in our culture, something that Star Wars helped propagate; the selfish inner child.
I love Star Wars. I love The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I love Return of the Jedi (1983). I hated the prequel trilogy. Walking out of The Phantom Menace (1999) I was stunned by the inanity of it all. What had I just seen? What was Lucas thinking? All around me numerous faces told the same story. This wasn’t Star Wars as we knew it. This was some sort of kid’s film... that bastard Lucas had made a children’s film, a toy advert and what the heck was that vaguely racist frog thing? How dare he! Star Wars was ours and this man had ruined it. Dear god, at least I hadn’t dressed up like some of those poor mugs who now had to walk home knowing that it was all over.
Looking back it all seems rather sad. Lucas hadn’t pissed on our childhood; he’d just made a film for children that we, as adults, didn’t connect to. The problem was that we hadn’t grown up and this is how Star Wars made going to the movies suck. We had confused being sold something with actually owning it and, in the process, cinema got a bit sadder. We felt that films were ours as opposed to the product of either a commercial enterprise or artistic endeavour. Fanboys feel ‘betrayed’ as if they were cheated on by a lover, wish pain on those that get the colour of their favourite character’s boots wrong and make it almost impossible to question received wisdom on the IMDB without being labelled a ‘troll’ or ‘hater’.
Worse still is the fact that this crap bleeds into film itself. The bullshit notion that only a true fan can direct the next big comic book adaptation leads into blind alleys where creativity is stifled whilst ‘pleasing the fans’ makes films about boy magicians horrendously bloated to the uninitiated.
There was a time when these views would have annoyed me. I would curse the writer’s ignorance and mutter that he didn’t understand but since I got over Jar Jar life has gotten better. The prequel trilogy is not a ‘travesty’ but simply films that I don’t like. My young nephew likes them and that is how it should be. He prefers them to the originals and that too is okay.
Star Wars brought the ‘fanboy’ attitude to blockbuster cinema and it is a curse that needs to be lifted because it casts the audience as permanent children whom the studios pacify with sweets rather than something more substantial.