George Lucas says the Jar Jar Binks backlash was just like when he first introduced C-3PO, but it was a different time, and Jar Jar got more heat simply because the Internet amplified the hate. The Phantom Menace introduced Mr. Binks, who was played by Ahmed Best, to the prequel trilogy and Star Wars fans were not very happy about his arrival. Throughout the rest of the trilogy, his role diminished, but the scar remained. Best was suicidal over the way fans reacted to the character he played on the big screen. However, as the years have gone on, the prequel trilogy has been looked at in a more positive light.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, George Lucas took part in a new interview looking back at the first movie in the prequel trilogy. While the backlash for Jar Jar Binks has gone down in recent years, Star Wars fans have found other things to complain about, like 2017's The Last Jedi. But, Lucas remembers a time when C-3PO was the original Jar Jar Binks. He explains.
"The main thing they obviously got upset about was Jar Jar. But they got upset at Jar Jar because he was there for the kids. When I did A New Hope, everybody felt the same way about Threepio. They hated him. They thought he was too childish and the jokes were bad. They said the same thing. It's just that the initial wave of Star Wars sort of overwhelmed the criticism of Threepio. We even played on that in Empire, making fun of him and acknowledging the fact that he was annoying. And then in the third one we did the same thing with Ewoks. People just went berserk. They said it was horrible, it ruined the movie, and how can you watch this, and all that kind of stuff."
C-3PO came about during a time when fans actually had to get out a piece of paper, a pen, an envelope, and a stamp to mail a complaint. Jar Jar Binks came around right as the internet started to explode and online forums connected fans in a brand-new way. Sadly, it was too much for poor Jar Jar to take. George Lucas had this to say.
"So I was used to that sort of thing, but for some reason, the criticism through the internet became more alive. And the news media began to listen to the fans. Obviously, when a fan, or a group, or a blog says something terrible, they take it seriously, and suddenly that became the reality. It was very hard to turn back from that."
When it comes down to it, the Star Wars franchise was made for children, which is something else George Lucas talks about. But, the franchise has taken on a life of its own over the decades and created a deeply dedicated fan base of children and adults. While some fans aren't into what Disney has been doing, it's impossible to please everybody. Lucas had this to say about the original intent of the addition of Jar Jar Binks.
"The fact is that Phantom Menace is actually about some different kinds of things, and the story is a little more complex. I knew it would mean a lot to kids. I kept defending it by saying, this is for 12-year-olds and kids are going to love Jar Jar."
Star Wars fans were also not very happy about The Empire Strikes Back when it was released. However, if you ask a lot people now, it's their favorite installment. Things change over time and new fans are born every day, getting into the franchise at different points of the timeline. George Lucas, Lucasfilm, and Disney have been doing something right for all of these years to keep getting people to come back, even if it's to give them money and complain. You can read the rest of the interview with George Lucas over at Star Wars.