Jar Jar Binks on the cover of Rolling Stone?

The magazine turns out to be the only institution in the world that thinks Jar Jar is hip.


Bill Wyman
June 9, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

There's nothing more pathetic than a pop-culture mag that's out of whack
with the times. Case in point: Rolling Stone. In 1991 the magazine buried a
so-so review of an album called "Nevermind" in its record section. In 1995
it fired one of its music editors for daring to say that Hootie and the
Blowfish were lame. And today the magazine is so desperate to stroke the
Lucasfilm juggernaut that it just put the cinematic equivalent of John Tesh
on its cover -- and is plainly quite pleased with itself.

The magazine's cover story this issue is about Jar Jar Binks, the searchingly
unfunny sidekick to the terminally boring Jedi knight Qui-Gon Jinn, played
by Liam Neeson, in "The Phantom Menace." Jar Jar is the lamest kids'
character pop culture has seen since Barney, but with one huge difference:
Even tots don't like Jar Jar. They don't like his floppy ears, they don't
like his ludicrous walk and they particularly don't like his language --
which is akin to that of an overweening Jamaican drag queen. Jar Jar Binks
has been the subject of a remarkable collective barf from "Star Wars" fans,
much of this taking the form of myriad Web sites calling for the
rebarbative creature's death.

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The "Jar Jar Binks must die!" phenomenon is largely symptomatic of the fact that there's little else in "The Phantom Menace" in the way of plot,
character and dialogue that is of interest at all. Yet here is Rolling
Stone, once an interesting journalistic institution, acting as if Jar Jar
Binks is popular, even hip. Writer Jancee Dunn is as wound up as if she were writing about the Spice Girls:

1) She marvels that Jar Jar has his "own language ('How wude!')." Uh, Jancee -- that's Babawawa-ese, which must have its own grammar by now.

2) Jar Jar, she writes, "bumbles away with every scene he's in." Again, with
Neeson acting as if his wig's going to fall off any second, this is not a difficult feat.

3) Sales of the action toy are brisk, she reports breathlessly. We doubt this is true, unless kids are feeding them to their Furbies.

4) "He's the first digital breakout star." Jancee, please meet Lara Croft. Or Mario the plumber. Or that stupid dancing baby on "Ally McBeal."

5) Finally, she quotes Time magazine (Time magazine!) and USA Today (USA
Today!) as evidence of Jar Jar's coolness. Time said that Jar Jar's drawl will be
"every kid's secret language this summer." Time wrote this, we suspect,
before the movie was actually released; any kid today who went around
speaking like Jar Jar would be dead meat in the schoolyard.

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In the story, Ahmed Best, the actor who was a place-marker for Jar Jar during
filming, says he asked "Menace" producer Rick McCallum for the dorky rubber head he had to wear. McCallum told him he couldn't have it -- the costume might
be in the Smithsonian some day.

Sure it will. Right next to Howard the Duck.

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Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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