Twenty years ago there was a new Star Wars film; the first for 15 years. The Phantom Menace was eagerly anticipated, as you may well imagine and indeed, news programmes at the time focused on how much people were looking forward to it.
In the film was a character completely animated by computer based off the performance of Ahmed Best. Jar Jar Binks was going to be the character to bring in a generation of younger fans, as well as being the main provider of the film’s comic relief. It was at the time an amazing break.
Then the internet kicked in.
In 1999 the internet wasn’t as it was now. It was still in the Wild West phase as it was growing but still somewhat regulated as social media was years away so most people were either blogging, or posting on forums to give the world their opinions. There was also Angelfire sites, but we’ll move on swiftly from those.
The backlash against Jar Jar wasn’t instant from what I remember. It was a slow burn as fans realised that actually, the film was pretty poor and a mess. It was more of a slow rumble as fans turned on Jar Jar, with some turning on Best himself as if it was his responsibility that George Lucas cocked it up. By the end of 99 as we entered a new millennium, Jar Jar, and Best, were figures of fun and mockery of a scale and ferocity all too asimilar to the fan outrages that happen almost daily today. Thing is there’s a real world consequence of this as Best makes clear in the following video.
That’s right, a man nearly killed himself because he acted in a film and fans (A section of them at least) tore him down bit by bit for shits and giggles. There’s a section of fans who could not give a fuck about the human consequences because the backlash became more than just a laugh as it turned into institutionalised bullying.
Fast forward to 2019. This sort of this is happening daily. on a scale that we couldn’t imagine in 1999 and we’re seeing it get worse as Comics/Gamergate types target people in order to destroy their careers, even lives. Words have real world consequences and perhaps in order to create a better, kinder world we should learn the lesson of Ahmed Best and try to make things better than worse?