The Star Wars universe is filled with villains. The Emperor Palpatine with his ancient secrets and calculating mind. Prince Xixor, a man with wide interests, more money than almost anyone, and the ear of the Emperor. General Grevious, who’s strategic mind was so valued they put him in a droid life support unit to fight a critical war of galactic history.
But none of these compare to the one who ensured the loss of freedom for hundreds of worlds: Jar Jar Binks.
Jar Jar is reviled by both fans and characters alike. Obi-wan is openly hostile to him at first, while most other characters merely tolerate him, and his own people banished him. Fans continue to talk about how little they like him.
He demonstrates incompetence in anything he does. Lack of care around power couplings paralyzes his mouth for hours. He can barely mount a kaadu. He ends up assaulted by both a street vendor and a burly thug at the same time. He’s obviously the slapstick relief of The Phantom Menace. But that’s not where it ends.
Then we find out in Attack of the Clones that he is skilled enough, and smart enough, to be trusted as Padme’s Junior Representative from Naboo. When she must go into hiding due to the machinations of the Separatists, Jar Jar has the authority to vote in her stead. What does he do? Somehow miss the fact that his partner and mentor had been against a war, and initiates a positive vote for giving Chancellor Palpatine the power to create an army. The first real step in the fall of the Republic.
So those are the facts of Jar Jar’s biggest blunder, and mistake or no, how he remained a ‘hero’ after the war is pretty questionable.
So why do I care? Without Jar Jar, we have no Star Wars.
First, you have the invasion of Naboo. His presence made it possible for the Jedi to reach Theed in time. With him, they arrived in time to prevent Amidala and her retinue from being sorted into detainment camps, where they’d be under the constant watch of untiring droid guards.
While he was largely useless during most of the Phantom Menace, it is his suggestion about the Gungan’s army that gives Naboo a fighting chance against their aggressors possibly months before the Senate could decide anything regarding the blockade.
Then you have the critical point from above. Without him, the Clone Wars would not have happened. The senators that were still part of the senate wanted to keep the galaxy together. While some may have approved of the war, none of them wanted to be marked as the one who decided to go to war. Palpatine would have understood this. This is why he suggests it to Jar Jar, and no one else. Jar Jar’s lack of shame makes him an honest politician, if one of dubious decision making.
So the next question comes: Why Jar Jar? Couldn’t his character been separated into two: a bumbling politician and a Gungan warrior?
Yes, his character could be separated, but then you raise more questions: why was there a random Gungan in the swamp to meet the Jedi? Why would the xenophobic Gungan trust the Jedi enough to take them to Otah Gunga? Why would that same warrior stick around after the fact? Remember, Jar Jar was banished for his persistent clumsiness, and no longer had real ties to his people. That clumsiness is also what set up his life debt to Qui-Gon Jinn.
And why would we care about the new politician? We haven’t seen him, haven’t had a chance to try to empathize with him. He’s just a prop to give Palpatine more power. While it’s doable, I doubt anyone would have been more likely to buy it then.
So, that’s it: Jar Jar is there because he makes Star Wars what it is. You may hate him for it, and he kind of deserves it, but you can’t fault his existence.