Who is that pictured in the image above? Well, besides Qui Gon and young Obi-Wan from the gone by days of the Star Wars prequels, it’s none other than Jar Jar Binks!
A contentious persona in his own right and widely considered the most reviled Star Wars character, I brave risking my rep here on this blog by stating my opinion that Jar Jar wasn’t all that bad. Sure, the pitch of his voice can take a mere half-second to grate on your nerves and he’s not the most graceful. That said, I might further risk my neck here by refuting the notion that Jar Jar is a “racist” character. Often reputed to insult Rastafarian culture (or Black American culture, in general), having read various interviews with Jar Jar’s actor Ahmed Best, I have learned that the character’s pidgin English (Gunganese mixed with Galactic Basic) was inspired by Best’s own Caribbean heritage. Sorry guys, but it strikes me as rather offensive to accuse this actor of being racist toward his own family’s culture-
Which brings me to the point of this article. In the mood of the PitMad pitch fest happening today on social media, I reiterate that drawing on your own culture and experiences is absolutely essential in writing. Likewise, you should also feel free to learn about other cultures you would like to incorporate. The issue many writers face arises when they feel certain themes or characters tackled in their work might stir the pot, as it were. For example, my sci-fi debut “Apex Five” deals with child trafficking, slavery and religious oppression, to name only several heavy themes. Moreover, my main characters are all what the contemporary West would consider people of color. Can someone like me describe the experience of an African-American? Certainly not, which returns us to the fact that, while it remains crucial to research those topics you are writing about but have not personally lived, when examining these themes in a completely created world, mere physical appearance doesn’t necessarily equal “power” or “oppression” based on how that perceived dichotomy exists in the real world.
Bottom line: If you want to (respectfully, avoiding hate speech in the narration) write on topics that could potentially go against contemporary rhetoric, that is completely fine. We are talking about your imagination here, and your creativity need not crumble under the skepticism of discourse edge lords.
On that note, it’s perfectly okay if you enjoyed Jar Jar, too.