The Fandom Menace


There’s this theory going around the internet – isn’t there always a theory going around the internet? – and it’s been around for a while. Of course, I am just now picking up on it, along with many other people, due to the uptick in a certain fandom based on an upcoming, highly-anticipated, and amazing-looking sequel.

I’m going to talk about it, but only as part of the overall point of this entry. Promise you won’t go away because of the certain name you see below and I swear I’ll make the rest of this article worth your while.

Promise?

Pinky-promise?

Ok.

The big theory is that Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord – the real Phantom Menace titular to Episode I.

Lest you think this is some laughable fan theory made up to grant significance to what is viewed as one of the worst Star Wars characters of all time, I compel you to look at the evidence for yourself.

I’ll wait here while you check it out. You really should before we go any further.

Welcome to mind blow land. I’m not going to present the entire theory here, that’s why I posted the link. Please, seriously, click through and check it out. It’s important to the next few paragraphs but I suppose not the entire article as a whole.

Now, some of you may view this with a skeptic’s eye, as I originally did. Some of you may even say, “Lucas isn’t that smart,” but I would persuade you to think of your qualifier for that. Most of you feel betrayed by Lucas BECAUSE of Jar Jar Binks and his stupidity. But what if – WHAT IF – all of this was true and Jar Jar’s presence was justified by making him the most powerful Sith Lord in the universe? How would George Lucas look to you then? How would you feel knowing that the buyer’s remorse you felt for your midnight Phantom Menace tickets resulted in what could have been the most amazing reveal in all of film history?

None of us would have seen it coming. If I could wax hypothetical on the theory for just another paragraph or three, I would like to posit some quick ways this would have changed everything about the prequels. For the better. Maybe for the amazing.

Count Dooku was the shoehorn replacement for Darth Jar Jar in spots. I think the reveal would have happened at the end of Attack of the Clones. Instead of battling Count Dooku, the Jedi would have had an epic lightsaber battle with Darth Jar Jar who would instantly drop the stupid Gungan accent and suddenly be quite smooth and intellectual. He and Anakin would have some words with “Little Ani’s” heart being broken after realizing his childhood friend was a Sith Lord all along. They fight, Jar Jar gains the upper hand – maybe even says some words to convince Anakin to come to the Dark Side – and he is the one who cuts off Anakin’s arm. Then we get the Yoda vs. Jar Jar fight which would have been an epic achievement in CGI (maybe, probably, maybe not?).

This would be a much clearer influence for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side than Palpatine blah-blahing some old story about Darth Plagueis the Wise and his ability to resurrect and retain life. Hell, Jar Jar himself could have been Darth Plagueis the Wise. My personal theory is that Jar Jar may have even been Jedi Master Saifo-Dias who supposedly ordered the Clone Army from Kamino. I’m probably wrong there, but, if Jar Jar is a missing and high-ranking Force adept on either side of the coin (or both), he could fill many holes that exist in the legends by being that “unseen” character.

Either way, Anakin’s betrayal by Jar Jar at the end of Attack of the Clones would have been brutal but his old, innocent friend seducing him to the Dark Side would have been much more interesting. Jar Jar always approved of the love between Padme and Anakin. He would be very understanding and accepting (and greedy) regarding their prophecy fulfilling children. I couldn’t even imagine the after-effects of the whole ordeal. Would they have killed Jar Jar by the end of Revenge of the Sith or would he have escaped, leaving us to wonder where he was during the events of the Rebellion? We’ll never know.

We will never know. That is the most important takeaway from this theory – we will never and can never know what exactly Lucas had in mind. Even if he confesses – which I would advise him to do immediately – that the Darth Jar Jar theory is real, we will never get to see those movies. We will never get to hear that story. Why? Because we all dropped the ball. Hard.

The reason I made you promise to stay with me at the beginning of the post was that mentioning the name Jar Jar Binks is nearly guaranteed to shut people off immediately. You think of his stupid face, his bumbling, and his meesa-yousa bullshit and you immediately want to change the channel. We ALL hated Jar Jar. We hated him so hard and so publically that articles were written about it. Hate mail was sent to Lucas because of it. The pressure of the fanbase purely hating on this character made Lucas change his plans, as evidenced in tweets and interviews.

We killed Darth Jar Jar with the unbridled hate of the collective internet before Lucas had a chance to perpetrate the end of his scheme. We were tainted by the “Greedo shot first” incident and thought he was completely off his rocker. Jar Jar put us all over the edge and made us lose faith. Lucas became a joke and, ultimately, sold to Disney because he knew that no one would ever trust him to make a good Star Wars movie again. That’s not to say that The Force Awakens doesn’t look amazing, but I digress.

Fandom banded together and pressured a creator so hard that he ditched an entire master plan for fear that people would boycott any movie which would assign an important role to a character as conceivably ridiculous as Jar Jar. I remember before Attack of the Clones came out, there were rumors that Jar Jar would become a Jedi or something like that and I remember pounding my fist on a bar and cursing Lucas’ name if he made it true. Little did I know that almost fifteen years later I would be sitting here looking back at that me as part of the problem.

The same sort of thing happened to J.K. Rowling when info leaked that, after the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort, Harry would become a squib due to the loss of his connection to the Dark Lord. Fans and forums went apeshit and caused J.K. to bow to pressure and “fix” the ending.

That’s really where all this talk was going.

Fandom has a huge influence on the way modern creators craft a story. This is a pure and important fact and, perhaps, a peril of being a storyteller in the internet era. The power of internet fandom can topple dynasties in hours if they disagree with something happening on a given show or in a movie or in a book series. Fandom can become militant. Fandom can tear down worlds. Fandom can hold stories for ransom.

As a storyteller and a universe builder, my question is this – Is this the right thing to do? Should an author/filmmaker/showrunner bow immediately to the pressure of the fans? How does this compromise story elements? How much should this change the overall plot or goal?

I am not speaking out about fandom in general as I am part of it. I have written (in my head if not in word files hidden deep within my vault) the way I thought Lost and Harry Potter should have ended. I am vocal about how I think things should progress in shows (which ultimately don’t materialize). I have my own ideas of how things should go if I would write them. I am deep in the fandom of certain things but I have learned in my old age to trust in the writers for the most part. Not that they are always right, but as fandom, we should respect that it is their story to tell.

There have been moments during reading/watching where I have angrily shaken my fist or been outwardly vocal or even cried due to a plot turn or a character death or a stupidly implausible whatever. There have been characters in things that I really wanted to die who make it all the way to the end and vice versa. That is part of the emotion of the narrative.

Nothing can ever satisfy everyone within a fandom. There will always be some hate for certain characters/events/situations/places but in the end, the creator of that story should stand firm and not bow to the demands of the fandom. The fandom should respect the source material, even if it’s not created yet.

On the other side, some fan service is ok, but never at the expense of the narrative. Bowing to fan pressure to the narrative is the reason Jango Fett was the source of the Clone Army – because people just couldn’t get enough of Boba that there just HAD to be a way to shoe-horn in someone in Mandelorian armor flying Slave I and generally being an overall badass. I know I keep going with the Star Wars references but the way the fandom influenced the prequels is, in my opinion, why they were so awful. Lucas put out the Phantom Menace and we all (myself included) hated it. We railed so hard against it that he took all of our suggestions into account when proceeding to Episodes II and III and those turned out to be garbage to the point of being completely disavowed by sections of general nerdity.

If you need a more contemporary example, think about the phrase “if Daryl dies, we riot,” and tell me that doesn’t influence a certain group of showrunners.

As an author, I have to tell you – trust us. We have a plan. Even if you don’t think we do, we totally do. We have this stuff lined up. We know the direction things need to go. We have already decided who lives and who dies and we’re very sorry if that somehow puts out your favorite character but that is the story we are telling. Sometimes these things are unavoidable. By all means, if a character is killed off, you can always push for a prequel. Or an alternate universe. But, let that character stay dead if the author says they’re dead. There are enough Jean Greys out there.

And, if you don’t like the way things are going, be cool and wait it out. Let things unfold without the backlash. If we had, we would have Darth Jar Jar. And it would have been amazing.

Have an opinion on this topic? Feel free to voice it in the comments. I’m interested in fandom’s opinion on this. Also, if you’re interested in joining the Unlucky Seven fandom, let me know. I want one so bad.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

4 thoughts on “The Fandom Menace

  1. I think it’s a great theory, and Lucas is a master storyteller (even though Joseph Campbell did all the work.) My only point of contention is that it works too well. The Gungans had very little contact with the other inhabitants of their own planet, let alone the galaxy. It would have to have been an extremely odd set of circumstances that led up to him being in the right place at the right time to even get saved by Qui Gon, and even then, why? Youd also have to believe the Sith had much more clairvoyance into the prophecy than the Jedi did, otherwise it was all quite random.

    That said, I’m totally fine with just going with it.

  2. I never heard that about Harry Potter, so I’ll have to look into it. I don’t think under ‘normal’ circumstances a writer should now to fandom, that’s the definition of selling out.

    P.s. I will never forgive Stephen King for the copout that was the end of the Dark Tower.

  3. P.p.s. I always liked Jar Jar and loved The Phantom Meanace. I saw it e times in the theater and at least 10 on vsh. Jar Jar was a character for the kids. 15 or whatever years earlier people were bitching about the Ewoks.

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