Jar Jar Binks became one of the most polarizing figures in cinematic history when he made his debut in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 1999. He was even named "the most annoying movie character of all time" by Complex Magazine. After the release, Ahmed Best, the man who played Jar Jar, was hit with the full force of the backlash — and it nearly destroyed him. The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks is a six-part journey through the early internet to understand how one of the first-ever online hate campaigns began, and to right what we got so wrong about Jar Jar the first time around.
Episode 1: The Internet’s First Main Character?
It’s 1999, and sixteen years after its original release, a new Star Wars is finally coming. Fans have been camping out in front of theaters across the country just to be the first to see it. The beloved intergalactic saga is set to debut a slew of brand new characters, one of whom is a revolutionary CGI creation named Jar Jar Binks. Whispers begin to spread about big changes coming to the galaxy far, far away – and not everyone’s happy about it. Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
Episode 2: Becoming Jar Jar
Meet the real man behind the iconic role. Before fan forums, prequels, and motion capture catsuits, Ahmed Best was just a young Star Wars superfan growing up in the South Bronx. But after traveling to his top-secret audition at the Skywalker Ranch, Ahmed's life changed forever. Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
Episode 3: A Web of Hate
The reviews for The Phantom Menace are in. And they’re… not great. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning. Taking on a life of its own, the anti-Jar Jar backlash bounces from the acid pen of film critics, to the pixelated grain of early websites, to the black-and-white pages of traditional media, and heads straight for Ahmed. Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
Episode 4: The Hardest Part
While Ahmed faces Jar Jar hate websites and death threats, an even more thorny and challenging set of criticisms hits close to home, pushing Ahmed to a breaking point. Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
Episode 5: The Most Loving Story
In the wake of the anti-Jar Jar backlash, Ahmed begins to rebuild his life. In the meantime, we try to make sense of internet hate by talking to one of the original Jar Jar haters: the person who created The Jar Jar Hate Page. Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
Episode 6: Redemption
Two decades after The Phantom Menace premiered, the world is finally reconsidering how it treated Ahmed Best and the character he brought to life. But back in our galaxy, are we doomed to stay on the dark side of internet culture? Or is it not too late to redeem ourselves and stop making the same online mistakes over and over again? Transcripts for The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks are available at go.ted.com/jarjar
The beauty of compassion.
Thank you for sharing the story of Ahmed Best. I am so moved by the loving way you treated everyone you interviewed for this podcast. I want to see this as a play on Broadway. You are on to something here. Kindness and thoughtfulness can be propagated and taught as much as any hate and vitriol spewed across the Internet. Your podcast has given me hope that there is a way forward past the negativity. It is a document of our growing up in many ways.
Thank again and best wishes to all involved!
Spectacular detail to a near-tragic story
Learning more about Ahmed Best and what he was forced to endure in the wake of the Jar Jar Binks early internet vitriol is beautifully told. I really enjoyed the podcast, and the humanity it gave to the people involved. The only complaint I have is the refusal on the part of the host to admit that the Jar Jar character is indeed pretty bad, and from a cinematic perspective truly does lower the movie to worse than camp levels. But to hold Mr Best responsible and the attacks he endured because of this role is difficult to listen to. To hear how he has come through the gauntlet with this person and sense of humor intact is wonderful.
This show is really really good
It contains multitudes. They go into so many more subjects and talk to do many more people than I expected. It really really touched me and helped me see a huge piece of my cultural past with new and thoughtful light.
Thank you. I am sorry and thank you.