Jar Jar is the key to all of this: Part Three

This research has been fascinating both to conduct and discuss with friends and family. I strove to compose a reasonable case both for and against Lucas, and I wanted to add some final thoughts on the whole matter.

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Jar Jar is the key to all of this: Part Two

In my prior post, I endeavored to establish the case that the Prequels were offensive in their creation of characters who, though strange aliens, represented clear stereotypes of Asians, Jews (or Arabs), and African-Americans. In this post, I will attempt to construct a counter-argument. For simplicity, I will begin once more with the Neimoidians.

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Jar Jar is the key to all of this: Part One

George Lucas once infamously declared, “Jar Jar is the key to all of this.” In a discussion of race in Star Wars, I’m inclined to agree that Jar Jar Binks is key. I’ve spent the past few weeks delving into the complexities of the Star Wars Universe. Some days have been marvelous (watching the original trilogy on VHS stands out) while others have proven grueling (The Phantom Menace twice in two days was no cakewalk). To keep the discussion manageable, I’m limiting my focus to the prequels (Episodes I-III), although I will at times make mention of the original trilogy and other relevant information/fan theory (yes, Darth Jar Jar deserves some attention). The format of my entries will be sequential. I will first argue that the prequels contain racist, historic stereotypes through the presentation of certain alien creatures. Then, I will counter with a defense of Lucas. I will close with a reflection on the project as a whole and some of the broader lessons I found myself learning as I examined the characters of a galaxy far, far away.

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Abstract: Is Star Wars Racist?

In reference to college students today, Jerry Seinfeld said, “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.” Am I and my fellow college students prone to incorrect accusations of racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination? Tension surrounds issues of discrimination in American culture today. Historically, few movie series have had as great an impact on American culture as Star Wars. However, at the release of The Phantom Menace, some critics accused George Lucas of writing a character in Jar-Jar Binks that exhibits historic racial tropes dating back to black minstrelsy. Jar-Jar received the most attention, but smaller characters such as Watto and the Neimoidians also appeared to exhibit various racial stereotypes. My research will examine Star Wars closely and present the arguments both for and against a reading of Star Wars as racially insensitive. Through this, I hope to clarify the reasoning for both sides which can often be informal and implied. In this way, Star Wars will serve as a way into broader consideration of polarization surrounding political correctness in today’s culture.